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Sunday, August 03, 2014

DallasNews: Time and Money (4-part series on youth select sports)

The Industry, first in a four part series

At the final tournament of the season, with the finish line in sight, the couple counted up how many games their sons had played — and they had attended — since the seasons started in the spring. The total: 167, five games more than a major league team’s calendar.

More doesn’t necessarily mean better, though. With the increased intensity comes a price — often in time and money, or in some cases, the child’s interest in the sport or even their physical well being.

According to a 2013 National Association of Sports Commissions study, the travel industry built around youth sports brings in an estimated $7 billion. Nonprofit, tax-exempt youth sports groups also pull in revenue in the billions. In 2010, the Columbus Dispatch uncovered that youth sports-related nonprofits took in at least $5 billion in revenue, according to figures reported to the IRS.

Tucked in at the end of a cul-de-sac at Waterchase Golf Course in Fort Worth is one of the most exclusive examples of high-end training for kids in the D-FW area. From the video capture bays, to an onsite trainer, a sports psychologist, and a chef, everything about the three-story Jim McLean Junior Golf Performance Academy points to a future beyond the youth ranks.

And Justin Poynter, the director of instruction at the Academy, doesn’t shy away from that goal.

“We don’t want to be a training coach,” Poynter said. “We’re trying to win gold medals.”

While 300 to 400 youth golfers receive some level of instruction throughout the year, only 24 spots in the Academy are open each year, keeping student-teacher ratios low, with at least three hours of custom one-on-one instruction per week.

And with such exclusivity comes a cost: The Academy’s fees run from $39,875 for commuters to $58,875 for residents. Nearly a third of the players at the Academy last year lived in two homes in the gated community, rented by the program.

Poynter didn’t shy away from the idea that his program was focused or intense.

“The question is, ‘Do you like winning? Do you want to be successful?’ ” he said.

On Deck
Monday: The Burnout
Tuesday: The Cost
Wednesday: The Future

Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: August 03, 2014 at 02:19 PM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball, money, youth sports

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   1. DL from MN Posted: August 03, 2014 at 04:15 PM (#4763504)
I'm waiting for teams to start charging for a roster slot on an NCAA Division I team. If parents are willing to spend this much money to have their kids play amateur sports at the top level then surely they're willing to pay full tuition for a spot on a top college team.
   2. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: August 03, 2014 at 07:04 PM (#4763563)
167 games among three kids does not sound that outrageous to me. The kids I coach will have played about 50-55 games from April to August which winds up being about 3-4 days a week of baseball for five months. Yeah it's a lot but it is hardly ridiculous in my opinion and there are some good lessons to be learned (being part of a team, how to work with a "boss" i.e. your coach, overcoming disappointment, dealing with success).

I don't know how the parents do it. I used to coach a kid who had 2 brothers and a sister. The parents kept the kids VERY active, every kid did a sport, played an instrument or sang and was involved with their church. We used to joke that they'd get to practice, slow down, open the door and say "Ryan, tuck and roll!" as they shoved him out of the moving van. The funny part is they were the only family I've ever had that never, not once, forgot their kid. They were the most organized people I've ever met.
   3. cardsfanboy Posted: August 03, 2014 at 07:34 PM (#4763576)
167 games among three kids does not sound that outrageous to me. The kids I coach will have played about 50-55 games from April to August which winds up being about 3-4 days a week of baseball for five months


Man, I would have loved to have grown up in an era where I would have gotten 50+ games of organized ball a year. I was always one of the two best players on any team I played on, and it would have been nice to play more than the 12 or so games a year we got in standard little league(although my family never would have paid for it, heck the $30 or so annual fee for little league was a stress)

Yes we played 6+ hours a day in the summer of pick up ball, but it would have been nice to have 1. umpires 2. fast pitch 3. more than 5 players per team 4. a baseball(instead of tennis ball) 5. an infield that looked like an infield 6. bases(instead of gloves or a tree stump) 7. uniforms instead of jeans/shorts. etc.
   4. morineko Posted: August 04, 2014 at 12:21 AM (#4763666)
167 games among three kids does not sound that outrageous to me.


Not to me either. That kind of scheduling isn't really specific to team sports either. Kids really do have some sort of thing going on every night of the week. My niece doesn't do team sports but during the school year she has swimming classes, group fitness classes, art, and some sort of kid engineering thing 4 days a week and then she is in her church's Scouting-type thingie on Saturdays. She's 7. (She's spent this summer getting dragged along to her cousin's national dance tournaments. If you want to talk about an extremely expensive activity nobody thinks about, competitive dance and cheerleading teams need to be discussed.)
   5. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 04, 2014 at 08:34 AM (#4763723)

Man, I would have loved to have grown up in an era where I would have gotten 50+ games of organized ball a year. I was always one of the two best players on any team I played on, and it would have been nice to play more than the 12 or so games a year we got in standard little league(although my family never would have paid for it, heck the $30 or so annual fee for little league was a stress)


When I was 12, I played 16 games and maybe if you were lucky a team would ask you to play with them for a tournament or two. I would have loved to have played way more. In high school, we did have summer leagues that played 60 or so games and I absolutely loved it, even though I was one of the worst players on the team by then.

I'm sure it burns out some kids that maybe don't like baseball that much or whose parents are dicks about it, but playing 60 games a summer would have been a dream to me.

Now, anything younger than 12, and I think I would have gotten burned out.

If you want to talk about an extremely expensive activity nobody thinks about, competitive dance and cheerleading teams need to be discussed.)


Amen. My best friend had a daughter involved in this and good lord it is a huge involvement of time and money, and she's 7.
   6. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 04, 2014 at 08:52 AM (#4763727)
My 11-year-old played about 40 games this summer, primarily because his travelish team was kind of crappy (we didn't advance in our weekend tournaments very often). Much to my delight, he still wanted to play the Fall Ball season offered by the local Little League (which will push his total up near that 50 mark).

As a parent who's been critical of the time and money demands of the Industrial Youth Sports Complex, I didn't find this particular team's requirements too onerous. We played one game on Wednesdays in a four-team league, with the rest of our games piled up during weekend tournaments. And while it was a travel team, all but one of the tournaments was held within an hour's drive of our home, and thus we didn't have to spend weekends living out of hotels, which would have been a dealbreaker for me.

   7. DL from MN Posted: August 04, 2014 at 09:20 AM (#4763742)
there are some good lessons to be learned


How many games does it take to learn those lessons? Do they need to be learned when you're 8 or can they wait until you're 15?

I still think kids should try everything until they hit their teenage years and then start to specialize. Playing organized sports that many days a week limits opportunities to do other things where you learn equally good lessons.
   8. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 04, 2014 at 10:11 AM (#4763772)

I still think kids should try everything until they hit their teenage years and then start to specialize. Playing organized sports that many days a week limits opportunities to do other things where you learn equally good lessons.


I think you can specialize before that. 10 or 11 seems like a good age. That's when I became rabidly interested in the things I liked, and disinterested in the things I didn't like. I knew by then I loved baseball, hated soccer. That's also the age where the good players really start separating from the bad.

There is something to be said about continuing in a sport you're not great at too. I played basketball in a rec league, I was terrible at it, but I still enjoyed playing.
   9. Jeltzandini Posted: August 04, 2014 at 10:24 AM (#4763781)
If you want to talk about an extremely expensive activity nobody thinks about, competitive dance and cheerleading teams need to be discussed.


Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.
   10. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 04, 2014 at 10:30 AM (#4763787)
I still think kids should try everything until they hit their teenage years and then start to specialize. Playing organized sports that many days a week limits opportunities to do other things where you learn equally good lessons.


FWIW, in terms of the calendar, my son's baseball commitment wasn't much longer than the conventional little league schedule (he started a little earlier, indoors) but after basketball season. And it was done at the end of July. They just pack so many more games into the time frame, due largely to the busy weekend tournament schedule.

The Fall Ball season will run concurrent with his soccer schedule. And if there's a conflict, he'll play soccer rather than the informal Fall Ball.
   11. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 04, 2014 at 10:33 AM (#4763790)
If you want to talk about an extremely expensive activity nobody thinks about, competitive dance and cheerleading teams need to be discussed.


But this year's team Qualified for Nationals.


* The definition of Qualified for Nationals being willing to spend a couple thousand dollars on hotel rooms and assorted costs in Orlando.

   12. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 04, 2014 at 10:57 AM (#4763811)

If you want to talk about an extremely expensive activity nobody thinks about, competitive dance and cheerleading teams need to be discussed.


But what are you supposed to do if someone brings it on? Or if you get served? Cause then its on.
   13. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: August 04, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4763865)
school year she has swimming classes, group fitness classes, art, and some sort of kid engineering thing 4 days a week and then she is in her church's Scouting-type thingie on Saturdays. She's 7.


Why does an active 7 yo need group fitness classes?
   14. DL from MN Posted: August 04, 2014 at 12:24 PM (#4763880)
* The definition of Qualified for Nationals being willing to spend a couple thousand dollars on hotel rooms and assorted costs in Orlando.



I agree that "Nationals" isn't what it seems to be for traveling sports. For fastpitch nationals it's just another tournament but with 5x the expense. It was cheaper to sign everyone up for fall ball so our team decided to do that instead.
   15. DL from MN Posted: August 04, 2014 at 12:33 PM (#4763893)
My daughter played 39 games this summer (so far) but a "game" is an hour max and typically 3-4 innings. Weekdays were doubleheaders and the weekend tournaments were usually 3-4 games a day. We never traveled more than a 75 minute drive away, even for state.
   16. jdennis Posted: August 05, 2014 at 02:15 AM (#4764493)
I'll offer testimony on my little league in town.

I was born in 1986. When I played Little League, at Keystone Little League in Omaha, there were about 25 games a year for ages 7-13 before a round robin tournament. The complex is 9 fields. They would typically clean up the fields in late February, which is when I would start caring about baseball each year. I believe the first games were in late April and they were done by late June. July and August were reserved for the all-star teams.

My parents thought the $60 fee per kid outrageous. These college tuition-level numbers for select teams are scary, and the fact that parents are willing to go to those lengths to try to game the HS Varsity system is equally scary. It reminds me of the idiot investment interns who OD on coke or something while trying to stay up for a week straight because they think that somehow that will get them the job when they are unqualified. Have some perspective, people.

My little league was considered the best in the state. Honestly, all the other ones I've seen in NE are crap, they like don't even have lots or fences and stands and stuff and are usually just a city park, mine had all that stuff plus announcer booths, scoreboards and a central concessions building, but not showy - it felt natural and earned, it's hard to describe without a picture, it did not look fancy. The all-star teams were dominant regionally although I think they were the wrong affiliation or something for the LLWS. I am pretty sure it has gone downhill since then, it looks like crap when I drive by and there are never people there. It's a place where the house values were 100-150k in the nineties so probably 150 now. So not a super yuppy place. They've done that projects in the suburbs stuff around there, there might have been white flight and the money's gone. I'd be very surprised if there were as many games each season.

So anyway that is my LL experience. It sounds much better than this select nightmare.
   17. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 05, 2014 at 09:48 AM (#4764533)
My little league was considered the best in the state. Honestly, all the other ones I've seen in NE are crap, they like don't even have lots or fences and stands and stuff and are usually just a city park, mine had all that stuff plus announcer booths, scoreboards and a central concessions building, but not showy - it felt natural and earned, it's hard to describe without a picture, it did not look fancy.


Looking back, I'm astonished to note that my very small, very poor hometown had a pretty decent little field when I was playing back in the late '60s & early '70s, about 3 blocks from my house. It even had an announcer booth above the little concession stand, as well as a scoreboard. Pretty comparable, really, to the junior high field (site of a scene from Big Fish, I'm obligated to mention) behind my house here in Montgomery.

How it's fared since, especially considering that the town -- never in the greatest shape to begin with, as noted above -- has plunged precipitously downhill over the past decade or so, I have no idea. When I've driven by during my December visits back home, it seems solid enough. Only change I've really noticed was a few years ago when I saw a sign identifying the league as part of, IIRC, Dixie Youth Baseball. No affiliation whatsoever was in place when I was coming up.

Anyway, needless to say, given the diminutive size of the area -- we had only 3 teams, 2 in my town & 1 the county seat 5 miles away -- we didn't play that many games. Maybe a dozen, tops, plus the postseason, though with an odd & tiny number of teams, I'm not sure how that worked. We did have uniforms.

Memory tells me the league desegregated in probably my 44th year (out of 5), so circa 1971. Sounds about right, since the school systems did so starting with the '70-'71 academic year. Girls must've been allowed to play maybe 5 years after that.

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