Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Nov. 10, 2016 — The (possible) effects of a Trump election on field hockey and women’s lacrosse

The day before yesterday, the nation went out and voted for President.

Donald Trump, a businessman, is the President-elect. And with it, there are going to be some ramifications on the economy and various structures that support and sponsor sports in the United States.

A lot of the arguments supporting the Trump campaign surround the premise that the U.S. government should be run like a business and not run deficits which currently run around $441 billion.

Question is, will it? There are so many fixed costs, such as for veterans’ health care and pensions, Social Security, care and maintenance of U.S. government buildings and installations, and a military which is located in outposts from Germany to Korea to Cuba.

Where might budget cuts comes from, and what might happen as a result?

Let’s take this sector by sector.

National Federation: American high school sports are in their own bubble. Public-school sports are paid for out of budgets which, depending on the state, come from either state grants or from local property taxes. Participation in high school athletics has been on a remarkably steady growth curve across eras spanning wars and recessions over the last 80 years.

I think under a Trump administration, however, there is going to be change to the funding formula for school education, meaning that more and more school districts will institute pay-to-play policies in addition to mandatory fundraising on the part of sports parents.

I don’t see the Trump administration making any sizable changes to No Child Left Behind, meaning that you will keep seeing school students moving across district lines to better-performing schools, which could upset the athletic balance in certain given areas of the country. Might it get as bad as the school district in the District of Columbia, in which most sports have exactly one dominant power and the rest all fight for second place? It’s possible.

College: The U.S. government does fund some universities for certain things, including scientific and agricultural research. But that kind of funding doesn’t translate into athletic programs.

Instead, billions of dollars from TV contracts, sponsorships, and ticket sales flow into state schools which compete in football and men’s basketball and have sponsorships by shoe companies that defray most of the costs. Despite all this, fewer than a half-dozen seem to make any money. Those that don’t come out ahead are also in a class with most Division II and III universities, which operate very much as have-nots.

Aside from Theodore Roosevelt — who started the NCAA in the first place — American presidents have been loath to interfere with college sports. However, I am seeing the first erosion of college sporting activities which are being taken over by the private sector. Division I college athletics do not have junior varsity programs in any sport with the exception of rowing. Those former JV programs are now club teams, which participants often must pay money in order to play.

Too, you’re beginning to see college teams in sanctioned amateur leagues around the country, following on Brigham Young’s men’s soccer team opting to play in the United Soccer League’s PDL. One thing to look for: I have had one marketing person tell me in the last year that it is expected that the NCAA could hand off the control and marketing of national championship tournaments up to the Division I level within six to 10 years. That is, U.S. Lacrosse, U.S. Soccer, USA Field Hockey, or even a private marketing firm may be running your non-revenue national championships very soon.

National Governing Bodies: The nine-month reign of Norm Blake as United States Olympic Committee CEO ended in 2000 with a golden parachute. Which, of course, is something to be expected from a corporate turnaround artist who tried to run the USOC like a business.

But he ushered in a funding model that continues to this day, one which puts the majority of its money into individual sports like skiing, boxing, and wrestling that yield a lot of medals, gold or otherwise. And the medal-mining is likely to continue, especially seeing how much money is spent on some team sports playing for a single medal.

I would not be surprised if government support of the USOC is actually increased, in a further attempt to run it like a business. However, I don’t think the lot of the average Olympic hopeful will improve. I also think the punitive funding cuts from the USOC will continue for sports which do not win medals at the Olympics.

U.S. Lacrosse, despite its excellence on the world scene (or, perhaps, because of it) is unlikely to see a success in being included in the Olympic program. I think the game is in good hands with its new campus in Sparks, Md., but I don’t think a change of presidential administrations will change the sport’s outlook very much.

The overall sports economy: I think a Trump administration could help manufacturing jobs being brought back to the United States, if he follows through on his lavish promises.

When you think about it, a big reason that Spooky Nook Sports is the home of USA Field Hockey is that Armstrong World Industries abandoned a distribution warehouse in Manheim Township, Pa. That former industrial site has been refurbished into an enormous recreational complex including everything from a hotel to a pro shop to basketball courts to the training facility for the national field hockey high-performance effort.

Now, there is still a lot of sports equipment — shoes, balls, and sticks — being made overseas in places from China to England to India. Whole turf fields are made in China, not here. Those are jobs which could very well be stationed here, employing American workers making a fair wage.

As political documentarian Michael Moore said in a speech five years ago:

[B]ack when I was in school, every student had to take one semester of economics in order to graduate. And here’s what I learned: Money doesn’t grow on trees. It grows when we make things. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages that we use to buy the things we need and thus create more jobs.

Wise advice.


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