How Youth Sports Became a $38 Billion Play | Power Players

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How Youth Sports Became a $38 Billion Play | Power Players

The Ripken Experience

  • Cal Ripken, Jr. and his brother Bill have built a massive youth baseball complex called the Ripken Experience in Aberdeen, Maryland.
  • The complex features 15 batting cages, 16 bullpens, and nine ballparks designed to mimic Major League stadiums.
  • The Ripkens also offer week-long baseball camps and tournaments, which cost between $450 and $3,000 per participant.
  • The Ripkens' goal is to provide a major league experience for young ball players and to keep them coming back by deepening their love of baseball.
  • The Ripkens also have a foundation that builds youth development parks in underserved communities.

Growth of Youth Baseball

  • Ripken Baseball has been expanding rapidly in recent years through partnerships and acquisitions.
  • The growth of youth baseball is being driven by parents who are willing to pay more than ever before for their children to play the sport.
  • The youth sports industry is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States, with parents spending an estimated $30 to $40 billion annually.
  • Public funding for parks and recreational facilities has declined, leading to a decrease in the number of fields and programs available to children.
  • Private entities have stepped in to fill the gap, offering more competitive and development-focused programs, often at a higher cost.
  • Some parents are spending upwards of $12,000 per child per year on highly competitive club teams, catching the attention of private equity companies.
  • Private equity firms are investing in youth sports, seeing an opportunity to monetize the industry and expand their portfolios.
  • The Ripken Baseball brand was recently acquired by a private equity firm, with plans to expand the business and grow its portfolio of youth sports properties.

Concerns about Youth Sports

  • While competitive youth sports can provide quality instruction and facilities, there is concern about the pressure and stress placed on young athletes, potentially leading to burnout and injuries.
  • Over 50% of parents encourage their children to specialize in a single sport, increasing the risk of burnout and injury.
  • Studies show that young athletes who specialize early are less likely to participate in sports later in life.
  • Common injuries in youth sports include wrist and elbow injuries in gymnasts, hip injuries in hockey players, and shoulder and elbow injuries in baseball players, including Tommy John surgeries for teenagers.
  • Approximately 44% of kids who play sports get injured each year, with significant injuries such as knee ligament tears and concussions occurring at alarming rates.
  • There is concern about the long-term effects of these injuries, including arthritis in 50% of kids who undergo ACL surgery within 10 years.
  • Cal Ripken Jr. discusses the current state of youth sports and the pressure to specialize in one sport.
  • He believes that kids should diversify their athletic experiences to build overall athleticism and avoid burnout.
  • Ripken Baseball is expanding into other sports, such as flag football and lacrosse, to provide more opportunities for kids.

The Future of Youth Sports

  • Ripken stresses the need to protect and build the Ripken brand authentically over time, rather than artificially.
  • He expresses optimism about the future of baseball and the timeless appeal of the game.
  • Ripken Baseball's success is measured by the growth in participation and the positive experiences of kids playing the game.

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