TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Aug. 3, 2022 — Who has the real pulse on scholastic sport in the U.S.?

I wrote yesterday about how USA Today, a national newspaper which is now supported by a network of local papers in the Gannett chain, handed out the awards for the finest high-school athletes in numerous athletic pursuits for the 2021-22 academic year.

You might think that, with 100 affiliates in the daily ranks and 1,000 weekly newspapers, that it would have the kind of necessary reach to pick the best scholastic athletes.

But does that reach actually reach everybody? We wrote a year ago about Fran Frieri, who had just broken the record for the most goals scored in a girls’ lacrosse season. She had mentioned that the local newsgathering organization covering Lockport, Ill. had shuttered during the pandemic.

And I have a feeling Lockport is not alone.

I have seen a number of journalistic organizations come and go over the years. I’ve seen the debut and denouement of numerous high-school sports shows, whether on ESPN and on local TV sponsored by newspapers like The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post.

And regrettably, I have seen more than one field hockey-centric sports website come and go over the last quarter-century.

I’ve been very lucky to be able to put my pulse on both field hockey and lacrosse nationwide over the last 24 years, and to be able to see people who carried the torch for their respective activity either as a player or in the coaching box.

One thing I’m also seeing in the last year or so, however, are players who are literally making themselves into a brand. We’ve seen female athletes making more than a million dollars from telecommunications companies by making content extolling the virtues of mobile technology.

We’ve also seen “influencers” who, by virtue of the number of followers on their social media sites, can not only make money from the companies with which they partner, but can also create worldwide markets for those companies through a well-targeted video or picture.

And you know something? It’s being allowed through the rules of not only the NCAA, but by state governing bodies of sport.

Want some context? Have a look at this map, generated by OpenDorse.com:

In this map, wide swaths of football country from Arizona to Florida up to Ohio do not allow high-school students to make money off their name, likeness, and image. There are, however, some states such as California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, which do allow NLI rights.

It’s led to some interesting developments. One saw a top football prospect from Texas deciding to forego his senior year at his local school to sign an NLI deal worth more than $1 million.

We also saw Ashley Sessa, the talismanic forward who has been playing in the U.S. system to the point where she has 11 national-team caps, sign a deal with STX, wearing socks with that logo along with her Newtown Square Episcopal Academy (Pa.) uniform last fall.

I have a feeling this is going to be the next big thing in scholastic sport.

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