CINCINNATI - It’s a scene familiar to most parents. Kid brings home flier for sports team tryout. Flier gets tossed on kitchen table. Flier gets buried amidst homework, junk mail and other fliers. A month passes, two months pass. Flier is long gone. Kid misses tryout date.
It’s a scene Youthletic.com wants to help local parents avoid.
Youthletic, a website launched by the E.W. Scripps Co. (WCPO's parent company) in May, is a clearinghouse of information on 1,500 youth sports organizations in the Tri-State; from tryout dates and times to ratings and reviews of certain programs.
Parents can search based on sport, location, cost and age. They can even sign up for personalized content based on their neighborhood and sports preference, which – yes – includes tryout reminders so a flier gone missing on the kitchen table no longer causes so much trouble.
“We saw this as a real opportunity to help out the parents,” said Bo Schuerman, director of business development and digital solutions for Scripps Media and business manager for Youthletic. Cincinnati is the pilot market for Youthletic, which Scripps hopes will catch on nationwide.
“That’s what this whole thing started around.”
Marissa Bowers (pictured below with her kids) was excited to see her daughter’s passion for basketball. Hope, 11, played shooting guard for the Lebanon Youth Basketball sixth-grade team and had such a good winter season she wanted to continue playing in spring and summer leagues.
Like any mother, Bowers wanted to help. The only problem: Which league? What organization would be a good fit for Hope?
“I had to do my own search,” Bowers said.
The Lebanon mother of three did Google searches for Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) programs and scanned the Internet for message boards. And she’s excited to know that the Youthletic site will make future searches much easier.
“I really like the idea of going to one place and finding everything the kids can do in the area,” Bowers said. “It’s good to know what your options are, especially coming up with summer camps. You don’t really know what’s out there unless you go looking, unless you go digging.”
This is what Schuerman terms the "discovery piece" of Youthletic. The site seeks to help families wade through the sea teams and leagues.
“People have been really excited about the concept,” Schuerman said. “We think it really does solve a problem parents have in figuring out what options are out there. The whole area of youth sports can be challenging.”
How it works
Users can search the site by sport, neighborhood, zip code or age of children. Schuerman said this last criteria helps the “mom with a three-year-old who doesn’t know where to start or the mom whose full-time job is her kid’s football program.”
Either way, the goal is to provide more complete information in order to allow for better choices.
“They have a lot of options on there,” said Cindy Tomaszewki, executive director for programs and leadership development with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati . “My kid likes baseball and we live in West Chester – what are my options? “I think that’s helpful to any parent, whether it’s a YMCA program, Girls and Boys Club or AAU program.”
Youthletic’s other focus is boosting how kids feel about themselves through sports, Schuerman said.
First, the parents need to know what athletic options are available for their child. The next step is making those parents feel confident about selecting the most appropriate option.
Youthletic features a ratings-and-reviews section so that parents can research the different programs and teams, as well as a variety of articles about best practices parents should apply when getting their children involved in sports. Schuerman also is hopeful Youthletic, as it grows, will build an online community of parents and coaches who can share their personal stories about different organizations.
“Obviously, I love the site,” Tomaszewski said. “It has a lot of advice for parents, what they should be looking for in programs.”
When looking for a good fit, criteria can include everything from skill level to playing time to the coach’s personality. But Tomaszewski thinks the research Youthletic provides on teams could be potentially even more important.
“I feel like when you want to look at a program, safety has to be your number one priority," Tomaszewski said. “Are the coaches background-checked? Are they doing child-protection training? Are they doing concussion training? There are a lot of things involved when you have adults working with children.”
Bowers said Youthletic helps her gather information about parts of town with which she isn’t familiar. Her daughter, Hope, might be ready to extend her basketball boundaries beyond the family’s hometown of Lebanon.
Youthletic provides the tools to make an educated decision about her next team.
“A lot of that stuff is hard to find except maybe word of mouth,” she said. “And if you’re going outside of your immediate area you can’t really talk to the so-and-so who played on that coach’s team last year. A lot of parents say they don’t have the time to do that, and then they forego doing it all.”
A tool for teams, leagues
While Youthletic aims to help parents and families navigate the youth sports landscape, it’s not limited to such a role. The website can also serve youth sports organizations.
The site features a “for organizations” tab at the top, providing groups the chance to advertise, integrate tryouts and signups, and even include team pages with rosters, stats and photos – all through Youthletic.
“These organizations don’t have a real efficient way to promote themselves,” Schuerman said. “Flier, maybe word of mouth. The whole (Youthletic) concept really helps them as a marketing and advertising tool. We want to help the organizations resolve their inefficiencies.”
The Youthletic project has been a year in the making, from the initial idea to business research to focus groups with local moms to the launch. Schuerman and his team gathered as much data on youth sports organizations as possible, researching websites, calling coaches, sending out emails.
“It’s a platform for the entire youth sports ecosystem, parents and organizations both,” he said “Youthletic is about educating and informing the parents, but also helping the small businesses and organizations better get out there in their communities.”
Schuerman is aiming to get as many parents and coaches in the community signed up as possible.
Users can register for free and personalize their content based on certain preferences. As part of the initial membership push, users who sign up through the end of June are eligible for one of three randomly drawn $500 prizes.
“Parents want to get good value for their money, and they want to know what their options are,” Tomaszewski said. “I think Youthletic’s a good resource for that. They’re in the beginning stages, and they’re off to a great start.”
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