I don’t think it was a coincidence that the same week of the Project Play Summit (see my summary here), there was a Time magazine cover story on youth sports. Sean Gregory does a nice job of covering a wide range of issues relating to “How your child’s rec league turned into a $15 billion industry”.
The boy pictured on the cover is 10-year old Joey Erace. Joey’s family has a $15,000 batting cage in his family’s New Jersey backyard. Joey plays for nationally ranked teams in Texas and California. $15,000 batting cage…for a 10-year old!? National rankings for 10-year old baseball teams?!?! Seriously? Gregory admits that Erace is an “extreme example” of the youth-sports economy that resembles the pros. I hope so.
There are several statistics included in colorful graphics including: the odds of playing sports competitively after high school (e.g. it is 1 in 47 boys will play Division I baseball); the costs to play in terms of equipment, team fees, travel, and training; and a telling graphic indicating how the rising costs associated with many youth sports are shutting out lower income families.
Overall, the article doesn’t introduce anything about youth sports that people who follow youth sports closely don’t already understand – although I guess I naively thought that there was no such thing as youth sports rankings for 4-year old baseball players! The issues of access to sports – whether in terms of geography or income level, sports specialization, and the commercialization of youth sports have been written and talked about before. Indeed, they were prominently discussed at the Project Play Summit and are concerns the Project Play 2020 initiative is seeking to address. Gregory does a service to those of us who advocate for positive youth sports experiences for our kids by bringing the issues to a mainstream audience.