Primary Focus of Sports

I went to lunch with a friend the other day whose daughter recently accepted a scholarship to play lacrosse at a big time ACC school. We talked about the hours and money his family has spent traveling to different tournaments and showcases. Not to mention the day to day costs for equipment and coaches. We did the quick math and it turns out that the money dished out over the course of her playing days actually exceeded the scholarship money. And so his conclusion, which he heard from another friend, was that we would all likely be better off replacing these youth sports hours and money with reading. It could have resulted in a slew of possibilities- higher grades, academic scholarship, less money,- the list could go on and on. But there is a flaw in my friend’s thinking. Consider the comradery, sportsmanship, teamwork, character development, and powerful energy that we would lose if we didn’t engage in sports. The problem isn’t the amount of time we play sports or really even the money, it’s that we are not harnessing the energy and power we get from sports into the most beneficial channels.

I want to throw out a few stats in an effort to clarify this point-

  • Youth sports is a $18-20b/year market. This rivals the NFL. It is expected to increase to around $78b by 2026. (globenewswire.com)
  • According to Project Play and Utah State, families spend about $30b/year on youth sports
  • Teamgenius says that an average family spends between $700-$1000/month on sports
  • There are roughly 8 million high school athletes. 495,000 of them play at the NCAA level. That’s 6%.
  • 2% of student athletes receive scholarships (USNews.com)
  • The average scholarship is $18k (USNews.com)

When we take all of this into account, it seems unwarranted that there would be so much focus on specialization and so much pressure to get better and better every time you step on the court. So, the question is, why can’t we compete, play hard, focus on improving, and at the same time, use those skills for something bigger than ourselves? Imagine a world where we took a market roughly the size of the NFL and leveraged that into doing good in the local, national, and global communities. Not only would it be an unstoppable movement, but it would benefit the individual athletes as well. Volunteering opens our eyes to new experiences which can lead to the identification of passions, new relationships, character development, and more.

To be clear, earning an athletic scholarship is an amazing accomplishment and should truly be celebrated. In the same breath, specialization is not necessarily a bad thing. However, neither should be the primary focus of any athlete or coach. We all hear the cliché that sports develops character. Let’s create a movement where we can actually do this. Let’s focus on an idea, a person, a community that transcends sports. Let’s use our athletic talent and gifts to volunteer and make a difference.