At all levels, the way sports are played, watched, and administered is changing fast. What does all of this change mean for the volunteers that are managing youth leagues and teams? And what can be expected 10 years from now?
Today we've got our crystal ball out with a few predictions. Plus, David on our team has his third child under the age of 4 on the way, and Nick is a soon to be dad. We thought it would be important to prepare this list so they know what to expect when their kids start playing in a few years.
1. The "rogue volunteer" will be almost non-existent. Phew.
Search "youth sports" on Google News on a given day, and you're likely to find a few horror stories of a coach gone crazy or a board member keeping a few bucks from the weekend concession sales. As youth sports have become more competitive and more expensive, the instances of coaching and volunteer misconduct has risen.
But no need to worry, we've already started to notice a shift that will reduce the amount of destructive volunteers. Organizations like the Positive Coaching Alliance and the National Alliance for Youth Sports are working hard to make sure coaching candidates are qualified and have the right goals in mind. And the steady adoption of online payments reduces the risk of shady bookeeping that can happen when board members handle tens of thousands of dollars in cash and checks each year. In ten years, coaches and administrators be held more accountable, and we'll be reading fewer sad youth sports stories in the news.
2. Overall participation will steadily increase
As participation rates declined among players over the age of 10, programs that have existed for decades could be threatened to lose participants in the coming years. Long time volunteers and supporters of youth sports are worried that indoor activies (and even eSports) will continue to chip away at participation rates.
There are certainly concerns that youth sports programs need to be aware of, including rising costs and sports specialization. But a variety of studies point to new parents being more concerned about activity and nutrition than their predecessors. What does that mean for youth sports? Likely, parents continuing (or returning) to use sports as a simple way to keep their kids active, regardless of whether or not their child aspires to be the next college or pro superstar. As community programs find creative ways to become more affordable for parents, and as the next generation of parents prioritizes exercise and fitness, we can expect a steady growth in overall participation.
3. Safety measures will take big steps forward
The hottest topic in youth sports over the last several years has been safety. In fact, 87% of parents report being worried about the risks of injury. Clearly a lot needs to be done to improve safety training and injury prevention.
But we're off to a good start. Rule changes have begun to take effect to keep pitchers in baseball from arm fatigue, and to reduce contact and teach proper technique in football. Most states now have passed laws to keep kids safer during the season, particularly concussion prevention. Many governing bodies are also making big investments in youth sports safety, notably Heads Up Football from USA Football and SafeSport from USA Hockey.
Expect continued advancements - from equipment improvements, to facility upgrades, to rule changes - that will make youth sports the safest they've ever been.
4. Equipment and Apparel will no longer be a headache for volunteers and parents
Do any volunteers consider uniform and equipment management to be their favorite part of the job? Managing orders, maintaining inventory, and collecting fees cause a lot of anxiety for volunteers across all different sports. And parents have a difficult time knowing what exactly is needed for each sport, and how to purchase items that will last for more than one season.
Over time, the admistrative and labor work that goes along with equipment and apparel is going to decrease significantly. Simple improvements like managing payments and information online, to more drastic (maybe creepy) changes like drone delivery are bound to reduce the day-to-day work for volunteers. Several companies have already made apparel orders a breeze for sports organizations at all levels (Rokkitwear, SquadLocker, and MyLocker are a few). Expect more improvements in the coming years to make life easier for volunteers and parents, from uniforms to fan apparel to gently used equipment.
Your Youth Medium baseball jersey is on its way.
What else can we expect?
Fewer crazy volunteer and coaching stories, a steady increase in overall participation, improved safety, and advances with equipment and apparel management are a few advancement we can expect over the next 10 years.
Do you have any other predictions that we left out? Let us know if you have any ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message in the Comments section below.