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How Good Sports Is Working With Partners to Make Youth Sports More Accessible

Through partnerships with companies like Keurig Dr. Pepper and Empower Retirement, Good Sports is working to lower the cost barrier for youth sports.

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As families around the country prepare to send their kids back to school, many start thinking ahead to the fall sports season. What used to involve signing kids up for after-school sports and gym class is no longer that simple, and many children are inhibited by from participating in athletics due to rising costs.

Earlier this year, Hope Solo raised concerns about the expenses involved in youth soccer, arguing that rising costs hindered the sport’s accessibility to every athlete. This problem is not limited to soccer, it extends across youth sports, transforming what was once a pivotal part of childhood development into something that is accessible only to the privileged.

When lifelong athlete Melissa Harper reflects back on her days playing youth sports, the only question was whether or not you wanted to participate; cost had nothing to do with it. Today, unfortunately, that is no longer the case.

This led her and Christy Keswick to found Good Sports, a nonprofit designed to connect Fortune 500 companies and the sports industry directly to underserved communities in an effort to save youth sports.

“[Youth sports] has become a pay-to-play industry,” explained Harper, now the CEO of the organization. “So there are very few programs at any level that you can sign the child up for without some sort of participation fee.”

On top of that, kids are often expected to show up with their own gear – another added cost for families. So while a participation fee may cover things like insurance and coaches and uniforms, it may not cover bats or gloves in baseball. Both the participation and equipment fees can add up, especially in some of the more expensive sports, barring entry for many youth athletes.

“Cost is a huge factor in whether or not kids can participate in sports and all of us who were involved in founding Good Sports have gained great things from sports and feel like that’s something that should be available to all children, not just those who have the benefit of being raised in a more athletic environment,” explained Harper.

Aside from physical benefits, youth sports have proven long-term emotional, physical and intellectual benefits as well that many kids are being robbed of due to inaccessibility.

To combat the issue, Good Sports established a number of partnerships with both sporting goods and corporate companies. Working with some of the leading sporting goods companies, Good Sports has created a way to deal with excess products that many of these organizations produce.

Working directly with 37 of the top sporting goods companies, Good Sports has found a way to facilitate the distribution of the excess product that they aren’t planning to sell.

“If there is excess apparel, footwear, access inflatables or hard goods in an equipment company’s warehouse, we can get that into the hands of kids who need it most,” explained Harper.

Companies like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour rely on Good Sports to help manage the overflow of inventory. With so many organizations in need, ranging from public schools to parks and recreation programs, Good Sports can help prioritize the neediest organizations and manage the distribution in the most efficient and beneficial way possible.

Additionally, Good Sports supports many of these companies in their proactive philanthropic efforts, assisting in the execution of employee engagement programs and planned large-scale equipment donations.

“It’s both the proactive part of [the sporting goods companies’] community engagement programs as well as an operational solution for basic ebbs and flows of inventory.”

While distributing the excess of product helps many youth sports programs, it doesn’t meet every program’s need exactly. Given that Good Sports supports athletic programs from kids ranging from age three to 18, there is a large breadth of equipment needed to meet specific age group and sports’ need. With that, an excess in product doesn’t usually match perfectly with what a specific community needs. There may, for example, be an excess of soccer balls, but a community needs baseball gloves. When a gap like that occurs, corporate partners come into play.

Good Sports’ corporate partners include organizations like Keurig Dr. Pepper (Formerly Dr. Pepper Snapple Group), Empower Retirement, ESPN, and Target.

“We use their dollars to essentially fill the gaps and source equipment that will meet the needs that we don’t currently have an inventory for,” explained Harper.

While the portfolio of partners is diverse, all share a common value of encouraging active play for youth.

Keurig Dr. Pepper, for example, originally partnered with Good Sports through a pilot program started in 2009.

“We teamed up because we really have the same goal to give more kids across the country a chance to get out and play,” explained Shawna Jackson, a philanthropy analyst at Keurig Dr. Pepper. “We know kids want to get involved in organized sports, whether it be schools or their communities, but sometimes there’s an issue of lack of budget and it can be cost prohibitive.”

Later, in 2014, the company launched its Let’s Play initiative, with the goal of helping kids and families make active play a daily priority. It leveraged its partnership with Good Sports to execute the initiative, so far investing nearly $7 million into the non-profit as a part of Let’s Play.

Empower Retirement is another organization that values health and wellness and partners with Good Sports to see its corporate social responsibility plan through. Years ago, as the company built out its plan, it immediately identified youth as an area it wanted to serve due to a very active and passionate employee base. Originally working with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs’ foundation to get involved in youth sports, Empower Retirement was introduced to Good Sports as it looked to deepen its commitment in the area.

Philanthropy is a core component of Empower Retirement’s culture. Each employee receives 16 hours of paid volunteer time per year and has the freedom to nominate organizations that are near to their hearts, like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club, to receive the equipment that Good Sports allocates through the company’s funding.

The company’s partnerships with professional sports teams, in addition to Good Sports, help provide more ways for their employees to get involved in giving back. Tapping into the relationships with teams, Empower Retirement looked to make the employee volunteer experience even more hands-on and exciting, using stadiums and bringing in alumni players for equipment packing events.

“It has been such an incredible opportunity for our employees and these agencies and the teams too because we’re able to all bring them together in a really unique meaningful way,” explained Christina Frantz, the AVP, corporate social responsibility, talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion at Empower Retirement.

To date, the company has had about 110 employees participate in the volunteer program and sent more than 13,665 pieces of sporting equipment to more than 114,000 children.

For corporate partners, such as Keurig Dr. Pepper and Empower Retirement, whose core businesses objectives are often unrelated to sports, Good Sports helps ease the burden of their CSR teams in supporting philanthropic endeavors. Before the organizations, there was a financial and administrative hassle for many corporations, particularly smaller ones, to accomplish their philanthropic goals.

“[Good Sports] is a really strong community partner with a ton of relationships across the United States and they are efficient and effective,” explained Frantz.

“They also just do a really good job of maximizing our impact and both the financial and human capital that we invest in. We can really make an investment in them and then they can grow that investment in the community because of their relationships. For me to go out and find those partners would be less efficient than partnering with Good Sports. Then having them translate that relationship, that’s really a big win.”

Good Sports emphasizes the importance of mutually beneficial relationships when working with all of their partners, because, at the end of the day, all have the end goal of making improving access to youth sports.

“Our approach to partners, whether they’re equipment or financial partners is to basically take the core of what we do, which is giving kids in need equipment to have access to play and layer on what those partners are trying to accomplish,” said Harper.

The model Harper and Keswick have created has been successful and the work they are doing is making a difference.

Since 2003, Good Sports has donated over $26 million in new sports equipment, footwear, and apparel to nearly five million children in all 50 states. After donations, the organization consistently sees an average of 55-65 more minutes of play each week per kid.

Youth sports programs that have received support from Good Sports have proven the impact of the organization’s donations. Over the last five years, 89 percent noted an enhanced overall experience which helped retain youth in the program, 62 percent of donations enabled organizations to expand their existing programming and 60 percent reported they were able to decrease program costs for youth and their families. Almost half of the organizations that received a donation from Good Sports were able to add an additional team or age group, thus boosting the opportunity for more kids to play.

While the organization is working hard to change the real challenge that athletics brings to families nowadays, Harper believes the thinking around youth sports needs to change.

“It’s important for people to realize that this isn’t a nice to have. Moving every day is core to what children should have access to at all levels in all communities, not just for those who can afford it. Play should be a right, not a privilege,” she explained.

As a new school year approaches and youth sports become top of mind again, Harper and Good Sports will continue to tackle the barrier that keeps kids from getting in the game.

Lucy is a contributing writer for Front Office Sports. A storyteller and brand strategist, she has worked in the sports industry for organizations including the United States Olympic Committee, IMG/WME and the Miami Open, the University of Miami Athletic Department, Florida Panthers, and Minnesota Twins. She spent 2016 living in Colombia where she accomplished a life-long goal of becoming fluent in Spanish while working for the Ministerio de Educación Nacional. Lucy is a graduate of the University of Miami. She can be reached at lucy@frntofficesport.com.

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Baron Davis and POINT 3 Want to Disrupt Basketball Apparel With Towel-Like Technology

With Baron Davis on board, POINT 3 hopes to grow its DRYV Moisture Control Technology, which is like a towel on your shorts or jersey.

Jeff Eisenband

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Photo credit: Baron Davis

Walking around Charlotte in 1999, the locals saw an unfamiliar sight: Baron Davis and former North Carolina State Senator Marshall Rauch.

“I remember being a 20-year-old rookie and him sitting me down and asking me, ‘What do you know about finances?’” Davis says. “I told him I didn’t know a lot, but I knew enough and he taught me a lot. People would see an 80-year-old Jewish man and a young black dude with a durag on his head, sitting, having breakfast or lunch in Charlotte at one of these uppity, uptown places. It was just like, ‘How do those two know each other?’”

Davis was drafted by the Hornets in 1999 after two years at UCLA. He’d grown up in Los Angeles, and Charlotte was his first excursion outside of Hollywood. Davis was introduced to Rauch by Michael Holton, a UCLA assistant and friend of Rauch. Holton played for the Hornets from 1988-1990.

Fast-forward to 2019. It’s Friday of NBA All-Star Weekend and Davis is back in Charlotte. This time, he is hanging with Michael Luscher and Mikko Simon, CEO and COO, respectively, of Atlanta-based POINT 3 Basketball.

READ MORE: Overtime Brings Billboard and Investment News to NBA All-Star Weekend

Davis has recently committed an investment with POINT 3, finalized at the end of Q3 in 2018. He will also serve as creative director. Founded by Luscher in 2010, POINT 3 specializes in basketball attire and is best known for its DRYV Moisture Control Technology. DRYV is a towel-like material that can be incorporated into performance apparel such as basketball jerseys and shorts.

“I’d be in this hot gym in the summer of ‘09 in Atlanta and I would sweat so much, dripping down my arms and saturating my hands with moisture,” Luscher says of POINT 3’s origin. “I’d have trouble controlling the ball, so I would steal my wife’s kitchen towel and hang it over my waistband, like a quarterback does, so I could dry my hands off without leaving the court.”

Luscher also has a valuable asset to this material he can bring to investors. In 2014, POINT 3 was given a patent for its “moisture control garment.”

“I think the protectable IP was a big part of it,” Luscher says on Davis’ decision to partner with the brand. Luscher and Davis did not disclose the amount, but Luscher calls it “significant.”

Investing with Baron Davis is about more than him writing a check. When Davis got to Charlotte, he was not wired like most 20-year-old rookies. He interned at a law firm while in college, and in his first few years in the NBA, he would spend summers working for his agent. Just a few seasons into his career, Davis started his own sports agency, negotiating marketing deals and investing in brands.

Davis’ mentor, Rauch, was also once displaced in North Carolina. Rauch was born and raised in New York City before going to Duke in 1940 to play basketball. He never left, serving in the state senate from 1967-1990. Outside of politics, the World War II veteran was a successful businessman running Rauch Industries Inc., a national Christmas ornament manufacturer from 1954-1998. Rauch is considered to have been the “largest Christmas ornament maker in the world” at one point.

“He was an entrepreneur, he was self-made and he just showed me how to take care of myself, how to take care of my family and the future,” Davis explains. “He taught me what money means, what possessions mean, what things mean in life. It’s really about the opportunities that I get from taking advantage of them and about building a community of people that you can be in business with and where you have great relationships with.”

POINT 3 is far from Davis’ first investment and it will be far from his last. But it is a rare Davis investment into the basketball industry.

Davis has been in hundreds, if not thousands of pitches. At this point, he knows roughly what he is looking for.

“What are they doing? What is their mission? What does the brand look like?” Davis says about analyzing a company. “It’s the law of attraction. After that, it’s about, what do the operations look like? What is the vision of the entrepreneur? Where does this sell? What does the trajectory look like? And then for me, once I start to see that, I start to see where I could help and assist. Me, being a creative person and a visionary, are our visions aligned? Or, maybe they have the vision and I can jump in and support and accelerate it.”

Like any good relationship, potential investors with Davis need to play the long game. It was a process getting pen to paper between POINT 3 and Davis. Luscher and Davis were originally introduced by Josh Gotthelf, co-founder of Dime Magazine and former general manager of Baron Davis Enterprises. Gotthelf, an advisor and investor to POINT 3, connected Luscher and Davis. After all, Davis was constantly coming in to Atlanta for his work with Turner Sports, and he could use a friend.

Davis and Luscher would meet for meals or drinks. As they bounced ideas off each other, the meetings became more frequent.

“He found something that we could connect to,” Davis says. “Not just through basketball, it was more so fashion. I think over lunch, another lunch, we just kept building and talking about all forms of fashion, athleisure, sports performance, things like that. It took us a while to get to the deal, but when we looked up, we had built a friendship. And so it made the deal easy to get done because we were both wanting to make it happen. Sometimes things happen like that through building a relationship and having commonalities and likenesses.

“And then I thought, here’s a basketball brand that can be disruptive. They’re not trying to compete with the big boys, but there’s an understanding of where they are and understanding the community and the audience that they can serve.”

Disruption is a big word. And it means big-time. Shaking up an industry dominated by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour would send shockwaves through the basketball world.

“I think first and foremost was Baron’s desire to not accept the current paradigm and try and disrupt the industry,” Luscher says.

“His creative vision, his contacts, his ideas. That’s when the more we met and started talking about it, I was like, ‘This guy can really be a difference maker to our business.’”

According to Luscher, Davis’ partnership helped “leverage our reach in the team space to supercharge our direct-to-consumer growth strategy” in Q4 of last year. He says the brand saw a 300-percent year-over-year growth in direct-to-consumer online business during that time.

READ MORE: Bojangles’ Channels Its Inner LeBron James for NBA All-Star Weekend

Davis plans to work with POINT 3 to connect with AAU coaches and friends from the NBA world to help grow the brand, while also incorporating current brands he partners with. Under the Baron Davis Enterprises umbrella are four companies he founded: Sports and Lifestyle in Culture, The Black Santa Company, BIG and No Label. Davis was also recently announced as part of Overtime’s $23 million Series B round of funding.

“It’s been maybe decades since anybody made a meaningful innovation to basketball apparel,” Gotthelf says. “And this sweat-drying technology, being able to dry your hands on your basketball shorts, is the first true game-changer in the basketball apparel space in maybe 20 years. And the fact that it’s a protected patent, I know is a big part of what brings value to that investment.”

For Marshall Rauch, it was about ornaments. For Michael Luscher, it’s about towel material.

But above all for Baron Davis, it’s about connections. On Sunday before the All-Star Game, he hosted his “BIG Brunch & Convo” event. Luscher and Rauch (who is 96) were both in the room.

Maybe they can brainstorm a crossover ornament-DRYV idea.

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How Debbie Spander Embraced Change and Followed Her Dreams

Behind some of the top talent working in sports broadcasting today, you’ll notice a commonality: Many of them are represented by Debbie Spander.

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Photo credit: Wasserman

Behind some of the top talent working in sports broadcasting today, you’ll notice a commonality: Many of them are represented by Debbie Spander, senior vice president of broadcasting and coaching at Wasserman.

The daughter of a longtime sports columnist in the Bay Area, Spander had an early introduction to the media world. After college, Spander took the next step in her career by earning a law degree from UCLA.

After law school, Spander rose through the ranks of the sports law and agent world, including stints as a vice president at FOX Sports Net and MTV Entertainment. In 2012, she joined Wasserman as the vice president of broadcasting before being promoted to her SVP role in 2016.

Spander felt drawn to working with broadcasting talent after noticing a trend of people in the profession being treated unfairly by leagues and networks in the early 2000s.

READ MORE: Bleacher Report Is Focused on the Second Generation of Social Media

“I decided that at some point I wanted to work directly with talent because after September 11 and the recession, it seemed that the talent was always getting squeezed by the networks. So, I saw that happening and I wanted to help at that point. I had a couple friends who played in the NFL and at UCLA who were retiring, and I helped them get some small deals broadcasting and I thought, ‘I think I can do this.’”

Spander found clients almost immediately and was soon asked by Wasserman to launch its broadcast division. Her client base quickly multiplied significantly as she began representing coaches and athletes transitioning into broadcasting like Brian Scalabrine and Aaron Boone.

After all the changes that broadcasting has undergone in the last decade, Spander prides herself on embracing change and encouraging clients to achieve their dreams.

“There’s a number of sports broadcasting agencies out there and everyone does a good job in their own way. I think the thing that Wasserman does is we have very personalized service and we’re available 16 to 17 hours a day for a lot of former players who are used to being able to call or text their agents at all hours. If our clients need us, we do all we can.”

LISTEN: Timbers’ Kayla Knapp on Building a Social Voice from the Ground Up

For Wasserman clients, Spander and the group’s other agents often help professional athletes find broadcasting opportunities during their playing careers. In addition to being somewhat of a trailblazer herself as a woman in a male-dominated subsect of sport, Spander represents clients like Candace Parker and Meghan McPeak who are breaking down walls within broadcasting themselves. Parker recently became one of the first women to call both NBA and NCAA men’s basketball games while still playing in the WNBA.

“I didn’t specifically seek them out to have them break barriers, but we’re like-minded and we all embrace the opportunities that are there for them. This was a really exciting fall between what Candace and Meghan were able to accomplish.”

With all that she has accomplished in her career, Spander advises young women to be active networkers in order to get their careers in sport off of the ground.

“Get out there and meet as many people as you can. Get internships while you’re in college and law school and just start working in the industry. Don’t look at your gender as a barrier and follow your dreams.”

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TranSports Group Shows That Sports Business Can Happen Anywhere

This past weekend in Atlanta, the TranSports Group had a nearly 100-car fleet shuttling sports industry professionals from one place to the next.

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Photo credit: TranSports Group

The world of business is all about disruptions and, often, all it takes is a little luck and ingenuity.

This past weekend in Atlanta, the TranSports Group had a nearly 100-car fleet in the area shuttling sports industry professionals from one place to the next. The three-year old company worked tirelessly with eight NFL sponsors and several prominent brands on the ground in Atlanta.

A decade ago, Ryan Peck lamented to a colleague in the agency world why there wasn’t a one-stop shop for transportation at major sports and entertainment events across the country. Researching the best companies and ways to get VIPs from point A to point B on the ground at major events can take up a lot of time.

“You’re asked to do 100 things and you have time for 50, and this is one of the easiest things to outsource,” said Peck, the managing partner of TranSports. “For many events, transportation is 10 percent of a program, but takes up 40 percent of the time.”

He knew there was a better way.

Obsessed with finding a solution, Peck sought to become an industry innovator, with a commitment to customers and customer service, and a network of support. Tapping into his prior agency days, he and his team understand the needs of his agency, brand, and property clients.

READ MORE: Former NFL Player Andrew Hawkins Is Building a New Career Playbook

By creating a true one-stop solution for clients, TranSports provides peace of mind with complete program coordination, execution, and real-time tracking technology. TranSports connects all the chauffeurs for a client on the back end and gets them where they need to go via the most efficient vehicle, ranging from a luxury sedan to luxury coach bus. Client program managers are given a vehicle-tracking application customized to their program so they can see where their VIPs are at any given moment. The app provides critical information about their vehicles, chauffeurs, and timing that eliminates inefficient communications with dispatchers and vehicle operations managers.

Peck has always been an entrepreneur at heart. He hails from an Iowa farm and is driven beyond the corporate structure. Despite this, he worked at agencies for the first part of his career, before stumbling on this chauffeur solution.

Peck isn’t from the transportation industry. He had experience with a pain point and knew he could solve the problem. He partnered with George Jacobs and Tim Crockett, highly respected limousine and bus industry executives with more than a combined 60 years of experience, to create solutions for every size of need both domestically and internationally.

The success has in part been because Peck said he speaks the language of the users of the service, but also the delivery of an upscale product that hits when it’s needed.

“We do what we say we’re going to do,” Peck said. “We work hard on the customer service side. Price is price, we don’t compete on price. We compete on service, relationships, and being relentless in pursuing better ways of doing things.”

There are plenty of legacy chauffeur companies across the nation in major cities, but there’s no centralized system. Transportation ridesharing disruptors like Lyft and Uber haven’t broken into the VIP transportation world, but some companies have emerged focusing on the business community — leaving sports and entertainment relatively unserviced.

Unlike Ubers and Lyfts, chauffeurs must know the routes without maps, be sensitive to high-touch clientele, and leave the customer feeling like they had a true luxury service. This means getting to a city — like Atlanta — days in advance to work out detours and familiarize themselves with the traffic.

“The niche is a strength,” Peck said. “People pay for superior quality and service, so let’s be great in this space and let things fall where they will.”

READ MORE: Inside the Event Management Playbook for College Football Bowl Games

Timing was in Peck’s favor. Hard work and brains can only do so much, he said. As TranSports launched, it had the luxury of a nearby Super Bowl in Minnesota. With the large fleet in an area Peck knew well, his initial major event launch was a success.

“If that Super Bowl is in L.A., and it’s my first year, we’re probably not at this same point,” he said.

The company has continued to grow with work at events in the U.S., such as the Super Bowl, NHL Winter Classic, the Masters, Final Four, and Sundance Film Festival. The group has recently made inroads into the PGA Tour too. The international business for TranSports has continued to grow, and it has recently done work at the Olympics in Brazil and Russian World Cup.

“We’re very fortunate. We continue to talk to more and more international events for opportunities,” Peck said. “The tracking technology is intriguing to clients and we are looking to employ it with the largest properties. It’s simple, scalable, and provides a unique value to our clients by adding much-needed transparency and accountability in our industry.”

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