Recapping NextUp: Return to Play – Day 2
As we navigate returning to play after months of a forced pause on youth and local sports, LeagueApps is here to help you come up with your own return to play plan. We hosted NextUp: Return to Play, a three-day virtual conference featuring speakers on parent communications, virtual training, the relation between youth and pro leagues, and more.
Read on for a full rundown of Day 2 of NextUp: Return to Play—if you’d like to read the recap of Day 2, you can do so here. If you’d like to watch any of the sessions, please click here for the recordings.
While cities and states open back up, parents will be the true arbiters of return to play as they make decisions based on their comfort levels. Ultimately success for youth sports organizations moving forward will come down to the quality of partnerships they cultivate with parents.
Resetting Relationships with Parents: A Conversation with NBA Legend David Robinson
As a former player and youth sports parent, David Robinson has a unique perspective on what it takes for youth organizers and coaches to develop meaningful and healthy relationships with their parents. Before reading further, be sure to check out LeagueApps newest industry report “Returning to Play: How Youth & Local Sports Will Transform in the Wake of COVID-19” by downloading it here.
David Robinson’s experience in the NBA and raising three boys who played competitive youth sports made him an ideal featured guest to discuss this topic. Playing for the San Antonio Spurs and NBA coaching legend Gregg Popovich, Robinson learned the value of being intentional and focused on and off the court. That attention to detail fostered one of the best cultures in all of sports and he took those lessons with him to the sidelines as a youth sports parent. Establishing a mission, detailed team goals, and boundaries for parents is a great first step. Once parents understand the bigger picture and how they can play a positive role, not only for their child but for other players, you’re already fostering a healthy environment.
Robinson understands that in a competitive landscape like youth sports, personalities can clash and parents can sometimes overstep their bounds or present themselves as a poor cultural fit. He would stress patience and communication, because in his experience if you have a solid foundation and make it clear what you expect of everyone involved in an organization, even a rocky start with a parent can be smoothed out over time. Being tactical with every parent, even sitting them down with them before the season and explaining your list of goals, can set the proper tone.
Deep Dive: Strategies for Managing Critical Conversations
Jason Sacks, the EVP of Business Development and Philanthropy at Positive Coaching Alliance moderated the second portion of this session, which also featured Dr. Kensa Gunter, a clinical sports psychologist and Charlie Hauck, the Founder of Growth Dynamics. Dr. Gunter provided organizers and coaches with valuable advice, given the present landscape. “It’s important to acknowledge the reality of the situation – both the COVID-19 Pandemic and racism facing our country. Naming what is going on, allowing space for kids to react and have a conversation about how they are feeling about it is a healthy way to engage with your youth athletes.” Whatever programming or resources you create should be informed, at least in part, by what the kids are saying and what they’re feeling. Validating their needs in the moment, can be a gamechanger. This is an incredible challenging time for everyone, and our children are feeling that stress and anxiety. You don’t need to be perfect in your response, but you need to be inclusive and rely on the entire community to succeed.
Charlie Hauck believes that there has never been a more delicate time as it relates to communicating with parents. The stakes are high, and if you promise something or set a deadline and fail to deliver that sets the wrong tone. This is the time to bring in outside resources and allies to help, and parents will appreciate that effort. Giving them a platform to discuss what is going on is vital as well, because it’s not a one-way street, you need dynamic conversations that validate how people are feeling.
As Dr. Gunter pointed out, there’s an innate desire for adults to “fix” things for the children under their care, but in this case there isn’t a simple solution for COVID-19 or the racial strife our country is currently enduring. Instead of a quick fix, pivoting to an open dialogue can be helpful. This extends to parents who are looking for answers…where there may not be any. Hauck’s technique with parents is to have them share their expectations for the upcoming season with him. Once he understands their perspective, he then clearly lays out his expectations of their children and the guidelines for how the parents can participate. This has taken on an elevated importance with so many new variables in play. In the world of athletics, parents and coaches make incorrect assumptions of what the other party wants all the time. By collaborating, you cut through that negative energy and begin working as a team. By establishing strong lines of communication, you’re one step closer to producing a positive and winning culture.
In the wake of COVID-19, professional leagues are not only focusing on their own return to play, but also deepening their engagement in youth and local sports. We assembled a group of top pro league executives across the sporting world to inform your return to play strategies.
Leaders in Conversation: Return to Play and Youth Sports
Lacrosse legend and Co-founder of the Premier Lacrosse League Paul Rabil sat down (virtually) with the Commissioner of Major League Soccer, Don Garber, to discuss how the MLS will return to the pitch. Much like youth organizers who have scrambled to understand CDC, WHO and other safety regulations, the MLS has invested a lot of time understanding the risks and what effective safety protocols to incorporate as their league gets back to work. The MLS will be allocating millions of dollars towards testing, safety initiatives, innovative technology to enable live broadcasts with minimal human interaction and additional trained medical personnel to ensure their return to play is successful. But the MLS serves as an example that sports leagues of any size are unable to predict the future and need to remain flexible. The news cycle as it relates to COVID-19 continues to run at ultra speed, meaning that federal and state mandates are changing every week and new information is being passed onto the public. Being agile enough to adapt, and thoughtful enough to plan for a multitude of possibilities remains the name of the game.
Garber goes into further detail about the operational challenges of producing live sports with limited personnel on the field, how the MLS has made an unprecedented investment in youth soccer on the national level and his advice for how youth soccer organizers can be more impactful.
A Pro Approach: Responding to a Changed Youth Sports Landscape
Our second to last conversation welcomed David James (VP of Baseball & Softball Development at the MLB), Kim Davis (Senior Executive VP of the NHL), and David Krichavsky (Senior VP and Head of Youth Basketball Development at the NBA). James has spearheaded MLB’s youth outreach, most notably its grassroots program “Play Ball,” which impacts nearly 200,000 children across the country. James is concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic will limit options for children interested in playing baseball over the next calendar year and that youth organizations who were badly hurt financially by the crisis will be forced to raise registration fees in the coming months. Major League Baseball remains committed to providing resources to communities, and will look to expand its club-run youth academies to bridge the accessibility gap. Kim Davis and the NHL are facing similar facility issues, and as a result will be emphasizing street hockey in urban and rural areas to keep kids playing. Cities like San Jose and Pittsburgh are in the process of creating “deck facilities” to provide places to play. The NHL is also committed to social justice and believes they have a generation of players who are ready to lead. “Our players have given us a great road map,” remarked Davis.
Basketball has always lent itself to solo workouts, which is why it should come as no surprise that the NBA has been a leader in the virtual workout/training market. David Krichavsky announced the launch of an interactive content series delivered by NBA/WNBA players and coaches to Jr. NBA members back in mid-March. The series has been a great success and incorporates feedback from users, which helped them optimize the overall length of instructional videos. A final note from Krichavsky for any sports organization is that you need to lead with the kids. When they’re involved in generating content, you see a spike in viewership and retention rates.
Championing Cooperation Over Competition: The Story of the PLAY Sports Coalition
We closed out our NextUp: Return to Play event with a special guest from the U.S. House of Representatives. Jeremy Goldberg was joined by Rep. Max Rose for a discussion on the government’s role in preserving youth sports. Jeremy explains what the PLAY Sports Coalition is and why LeagueApps is playing a leading role and Rep. Rose details the COVID-19 Youth Sports and Working Families Relief Act. For more on the Coalition or the role LeagueApps has played, you can refer to this in depth blog post.