Big Money in Youth Sports

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

It is billed as “the premier sports vacation destination, catering to the travel sports family lifestyle”. Is this a lifestyle? As someone who had four kids play travel sports, who substituted typical family vacations for out-of-state youth sports tournaments, I guess I have to admit it is. But looking at this place I wonder how far we’ll go.

It could be anywhere in the country and if you view the website’s slow-motion fly over of the baseball diamonds, stadiums really, four joined in a perfect north, south, east, west axis, you can’t help but be impressed. Maybe even a little intimidated. Fields for softball, soccer, football are nearby. The facility is home to several restaurants, hotels, gymnasium and aquatic facilities. And more.

The site offers corporate naming rights opportunities. And advertises itself as the place where the best amateur baseball, softball and soccer in the country are played. ‘Scouts and recruiters will be able to view each field from one of our state-of-the-art scouting towers, located at the center of each quad. The scouting towers feature live video feeds from every field so pro and college scouts will not miss a single minute. With pro and college scouts at every major tournament, next-level dreams are realized here. Our tournaments and showcases attract the top talent in America.’

Clearly, there is a market for this kind of high-profile, high-intensity tournament play. And I’m sure all of my kids would have thought it a dream-come-true to compete in a facility like this one. For many, it will probably be a positive, once-in-a-lifetime experience – something they’ll never forget.

And if the venue itself leads to more kids playing a sport outdoors, there is no downside. But I wonder if even more hype and more money equals more pressure. And are some kids backing away from sports because of too much pressure? Do some parents and coaches want this type of environment more than the kids do?

In today’s world, high school basketball and football games are being telecast nationwide. Eighth graders are committing to major universities in those sports and not long after in others. None of this would have been imaginable twenty-five years ago. What else is in store in the next quarter-century?

As parents and coaches it is important we provide the equilibrium for our children. We must be sure we aren’t pushing youngsters into situations they’re not ready for, and are continuing to emphasize things like fun, skill improvement, teamwork and camaraderie.

There are certainly players who, even at a young age, thrive on pressure and intense competition. They dream of playing at the highest level and can’t get enough travel, tournaments and big games. To them, that is what’s most fun. And there are other kids who would rather play in a rec youth league game and then hang out with friends after. While our culture seems to be evolving to cater to athletes in the first group, here’s hoping there will still always still be room for kids in the other one.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at He can be reached at