"Sports Privilege" and the Future of Youth Sports: A FUTRSPRT Podcast Series
Last week, our three-part series with sportscaster Bram Weinstein on the FUTRSPRT podcast went live. FUTRSPRT covers the modernization of the sports experience from branding, team building, and connectivity to fans and content creation. On the show, Weinstein interviews sports and tech industry leaders to keep a pulse on where the industry is and where it’s going.
This three-part LeagueApps-FUTRSPRT podcast focuses on the state of youth sports after a year of shutdowns due to COVID-19. Guests, which include our very own President, Jeremy Goldberg, and Head of Community and Impact, Benita Fitzgeral-Mosley, discuss issues of access and equity worsened by the pandemic and brainstorm solutions for creating a more equitable future in youth sports.
For four major takeaways from the event, continue reading. You can find all episodes of the podcast here:
1. Sports privilege has become a crisis in youth development.
Youth sports have always reflected the inequities that exist in our society. While kids from affluent backgrounds can afford access to pay to play programs and all the benefits that come along with them (professional coaching, top notch facilities, safe and reliable transportation), young athletes from low income backgrounds often lack the basic resources essential to play competitively.
In the first episode of this FUTRSPORT podcast series, president of LeagueApps, Jeremy Goldberg, discusses how this divide has worsened over the course of COVID-19 and challenges listeners to consider how youth sports not only mirrors systemic racism but also contributes to it. He calls it sport privilege: the ways in which unequal access to sports resources at a young age impacts outcomes later in life.
Many low income athletes and athletes of color are not only lacking quality field space or access to safe transportation, but also lacking quality coaching and programming which means they aren’t getting the mentorship they need or learning the social skills necessary to thrive in school, gain access to scholarship opportunities, or be successful in the workforce.
2. We need to change the narrative.
In order to tackle sports privilege head on, Goldberg proposes three long-term solutions for the industry. First, he’d like to see professionalization of youth sports coaching so that all youth athletes have access to positive mentors that can help them succeed on and off the field. Second, he encourages expanded collaboration in the youth sports industry. For example, at LeagueApps we work with pro leagues and teams, government, other tech platforms, and more to even the playing field. Finally, he urges the industry to embrace technology— calling out that data can help youth sports organizations figure out where they can make the most impact.
In addition to these three solutions, Renata Simril, President and CEO of LA84 and the other speaker on episode one of the podcast, calls for a change in how messaging around youth sports in order to close the sports privilege gap. Sports and structured play, according to Simril, can teach youth the following social skills when done right:
- Affiliation: organized play fosters a sense of belonging and positive identity
- Self – Advocacy: coaches and other positive role models can teach kids to advocate for themselves in group settings
- Agency: sports foster the connection between effort and success
These are the outcomes that help youth advance in academic, professional, and social environments. Simril implores the industry to use COVID-19 as a moment to pause and pivot on its messaging to ensure youth sports are given the time and resources they deserve. She wants to make it clear to government and other stakeholders: sports are not a nice to have, but a need to have in order to solve systemic inequality.
3. Youth sports can be a platform for access.
Despite the ways in which youth sports contribute to systemic inequality, all guests on episode two of our three part series on FUTRSPRT agree that sports can be a platform for access if done right. LeagueApps Head of Community and Impact, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley opens episode two by describing the gold medal she won in track and field at the 1984 Olympics as “the gift that keeps on giving” for the ways in which sports opened up doors for her both athletically and professionally.
Shawna Burtscher, Head of Experiential marketing at Audi, and Sana Shaib, VP of Partnership Marketing at MLS, dive into other metaphorical “gold medals” in youth sports. Like Benita’s gold medal, they are looking for ways to leverage sports to open up doors for at risk youth both athletically and professionally.
In episode two, they explore collaborative models like the corporate partnership between Audi and the MLS Club Youth Academy called “Audi Goals Drive Progress.” This program seeks to progress the sport of soccer in North America but also equip academy players with resources they need to be successful off the field with safe transportation, education, and more.
“It’s about progressing the sport of soccer in North America, but it’s also about creating the complete person,” Burtscher shares. The group also put government advocacy and technology on the table as ways to drive systemic change in the youth sports context.
4. Youth sports will look different after the pandemic— and that’s ok.
In the final episode of this three part podcast series, host Bram Weinstein challenges guest speakers (Bethany Henderson, America SCORES President/DC SCORES CEO; John Guzman, Director of Strategy and Logistics DC Public Schools; CJ Beatty, former professional baseball player) to imagine a new youth sports environment after the pandemic.
Bethany Henderson of America SCORES, a unique non-profit that combines soccer, poetry, and service-learning to combat illiteracy and obesity in our nation’s at risk youth, describes the efforts her organization has made to ensure SCORES athletes feel safe, supported, connected, and hopeful through the pandemic. This includes making sure athletes have access to virtual programming— a component of youth sports she believes is here to stay— through devices and internet connectivity.
In addition to closing the digital divide in youth sports, Henderson also calls for the same kind of professionalization that Goldberg presents in episode one of the series. After the pandemic she hopes to see a “rethinking of the purpose and value of youth sports coaches because they’re the ones on the ground who will help these kids process the collective trauma [of the pandemic].”
Whether it’s through technology or professional coaching, consensus among youth sports stakeholders is clear: youth sports will look totally different after the pandemic— and it’s for the best. This new youth sports environment will be more intentional, more inclusive, and more equitable. It will be about pairing sports participation with youth development to make all youth feel safe, supported, connected, and hopeful regardless of their race, gender, income, or ability.
To see how LeagueApps is using technology to even the playing field, check out our FundPlay program here.