Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Dec. 10, 2015 — An object lesson on two levels

This story was written three and a half years ago on ESPNW. 

While, for the most part, the angle of the story surrounds the racial dynamics of youth sports in the United States and how it has not yielded national teams that do not reflect the country, the story has received new currency in the last few weeks.

ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, one of the most outspoken critics of how the world’s game has dealt with head injuries and concussions, has turned his focus to the “pay-to-play” culture of youth soccer. His Twitter feed (@TaylorTwellman) has a number of back-and-forth conversations about how youth soccer in America has become a moneymaker for a few people while putting a financial barrier in front of talented players who can’t afford to have their players in a showcase tournament.

Of course, the comparison given is with the youth soccer model in the rest of the world, where kids are housed, clothed, fed, and trained in youth academies run by professional soccer teams and their sponsors. It would be as if there was a Portland Timbers soccer academy in Oregon who had their own school, and their training grounds for youth teams in every age group, and even a U-21 or U-23 side to play against other youth academies. And the investment by the soccer clubs and their sponsors would yield (eventually) professional players. But in North America, a number of teams charge tuition.

Now, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether free access to academy programs in any sport will increase diversity within it. As I’ve said about men’s field hockey in the past, it is one thing to expose a kid to a new activity, but quite another to get him to commit to it, both financially and in terms of time investment.

But what I find interesting (and there’ll be more on this in The State of Hockey tomorrow), is that while there is increasing grumbling about the increases in fees and travel and time to get field hockey players to participate in tournaments and showcase events, the number of these events is now multiplying.

Kind of the reverse of Moore’s Law, no?


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