This has been an unprecedented year for many businesses and youth sports have been no different. I was curious about how youth sports were impacted by COVID-19 so I invited James Oppenheimer to join me to discuss the business side of youth sports. James is the Director of Operations at the Dakota Alliance Soccer Club, the largest youth sports organization in South Dakota. He joins me to discuss the changes that have come about, what’s next in youth sports, and how conservative fiscal management saved the organization when COVID hit.
You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in…
- Youth sports [5:12]
- The changes that have been made in youth sports [9:19]
- What sanctioning means and how it impacts soccer [11:47]
- Discovering what to expect from team sports this fall [14:35]
- Preparing for a rainy day [17:09]
- The effects of COVID on travel sports [21:43]
What changed in youth sports as a result of the pandemic?
Although many games and even whole seasons were canceled, the quarantine forced coaches to get creative. Coaches learned how to hold Zoom workout sessions and kids went from having games every weekend to learning to dribble in the living room.
Now that this precedent has been set there will no longer be canceled practices due to inclement weather. Coaches can just turn to Zoom to hold practice sessions.
Another positive change that came about was that the social distancing measures allowed coaches to focus on teaching the technical side of the game. Without much else to focus on these workouts have enabled the coaches to help kids build their technical skills.
What measures have been put in place to ensure a safe return to youth sports?
Organizations were hesitant to return to in-person practice. Nobody wanted to be the first one. Before any sports teams could return to play they had to have specific plans in place to present to the city. These specifications included small group practices with no contact and sanitized soccer balls and cones.
The well laid out guidelines allowed the soccer organization to prepare for the inevitable. When a player was eventually diagnosed with COVID-19 the team knew just what to do since the guidelines were well laid out.
What to expect moving forward in youth sports
It’s hard to know exactly what is in store for youth sports in the future but you will continue to see social distancing measures in place. Slowly measures will be scaled back to allow for more contact, games, and eventually, travel. Sports will limit the number of spectators allowed to games. Games will probably begin recreationally at a very local level. Since many families are still uncomfortable with travel, out of town games will be limited.
How has the slow down of youth sports impacted your life? Would you like to see a return to games or would you rather ease into things slowly?
How did conservative money management help the organization?
No business can prepare for a complete shutdown, but it certainly helps to be prepared for a rainy day. James remarks that the Dakota Alliance is still afloat thanks to conservative fiscal measures. The organization had a nest egg to rely upon when things got tough. They were also helped by donations. Many parents chose to donate their season’s fees rather than being reimbursed for the canceled season.
Was your business set up to handle tough times? How has it weathered COVID-19?
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