As we all try to forecast (likely incorrectly!) how our post-pandemic world will look, I find myself trying to think about the things that may be better post-Covid than they were before. One area of hope: youth sports. Namely, a return to community based, affordable offerings for the majority of our kids, rather than the increasingly expensive, elite-focused model that has come to dominate in recent years, with prices going up and broad-based participation going down.
I guess there are two perspectives that might lead to this revival. The optimistic position: the pandemic has forced to us look inward and evaluate what truly matters. As we spend more time at home with our kids, do we really miss spending half of our weekends driving to and from games that resemble micro-professional sports offerings? The pessimistic or cynical position: many high-priced offerings won’t survive the economic downturn, while families will have to tighten up on the discretionary spending that fuels youth sports. Perhaps we’ll see a combination of both factors.
To be clear, I’m not happy to potentially celebrate the very real economic challenges that families will face. Nor do I celebrate well-intentioned organizations going out of business. (On the other hand, I wont’ shed many tears for the youth sports grifters that have exploited this market: I’m looking at you, private coaches who prey on parents’ fears that 7-year old Jamie isn’t doing enough footwork drills or drinking enough kale shakes) But maybe, just maybe, when this is done, we’ll remember what makes youth sports great: camaraderie, community, and above all, fun for the kids and parents alike. Fingers crossed.