Bear with me as I flesh this out.
One observation I have made over the past few years as a “sports parent” is that a child’s level of participation and focus to a team is generally tied to the level of financial commitment to the sport they are engaged in. This is one of those no-brainer, “no shit sherlock” observations – but noteworthy, nonetheless.
For example, the kids on my son’s travel hockey team can pretty much run their own practices with very little guidance. They are punctual (ice time around Nashville runs about $175 an hour for a rink, so if you miss your slot – tough), attentive, and motivated. Compared to my son’s soccer teams, which is very much the epitome of herding cats, the hockey practices are efficient and economical in movement and time management.
The financial investment as a hockey player in equipment is steep when compared with other youth sports. Worse if you happen to be the parent of a goalie (which my youngest son is sadly showing an aptitude for, being the human backstop for my 8 year old). So, if you have a son or daughter playing house league, at a minimum you’re looking at between $500 and $750 in fees and equipment for a season; double that if you also play on a travel team, plus associated travel costs, hotels, food, etc. In short, before too long one can begin to spend real money to watch a bunch of eight year olds skate.
Soccer – a pair of shorts, shirt, shin guards, and cleats – has a relatively low barrier of entry allowing participation to the most casual of participants. This is not a knock of soccer, BTW. In fact, it is surprising that soccer has not advanced more in the US above the high school level given its accessibility and affordability, though travel soccer is just as time and resource consuming as other travel team sports. But my GENERAL observation is that, because of the low barrier of entry, focus and attention to the tasks at hand is extremely lacking. Pretty much anyone who can kick a ball can coach a soccer team. Again, not a knock, a plus in gaining participations across a wide swath of the community.
But this low barrier to entry, relative de-emphasis of skills, and poor coaching talent pool has kept the sport back in the country… while youth ice hockey is beginning to gain momentum in non-traditional sports markets, and is sustaining this level into the minors and college level play. As a prime example, the Nashville Predators (my local NHL team) just drafted its first player “locally grown” last year.
The difference in how poorly soccer has done in capturing the attention of the US sports market – compared to the world, and compared to sports like youth ice – and inline – hockey, is that the level of financial and time commitment to the sport in order to achieve a high level of play.
If one is serious about becoming a better hockey player, you’re probably also taking additional skating lessons outside of regular hockey practices. Lessons usually run around a dollar minute for a good power skating coach, and usually a good session runs 20-30 minutes in length. My eight year old skates a couple of lessons a week outside of hockey practice, and usually cuts this down to a single maintenance skate session per week in the “off season.”
In all, my eight year old son is on the ice about 7-8 hours a week during regular game weeks. Minimum. He has been skating since he was four. My 2 1/2 year old just started lessons this past month.
Am I writing these things to be on that show on Bravo about Uber-Stage parents?
No – I’m writing this to show that in order to achieve a high level of participation in any endeavor (sports, business, personal relationships) it takes sacrifice of self, time, and prolonged focus.
Low barrier to entry only means that more people can participate, not that the quality of play will improve because of the law of large numbers.
In relation to social networking, the low barrier to entry to writing Facebook applications has led to an explosion of some 17,000 or so Facebook applications. Most of them, including some of mine, are less than shall we say noteworthy. Why? Because the level of financial investment in order to be a player is so low that participation is “throw away”, and the consequences of walking away are negligible. There is no real commitment needed to play.
I believe that in order to sustain a viable business social networking environment, a higher bar of entry will be needed to insure focus, commitment, and high quality of engagement. If we are forced to sacrifice and have a little pain in order to participate, I believe we will find our attention to detail will improve, our commitment to reliable uptime will improve, and the level of overall quality of service will improve.
Or, we can continue to find anyone who can write a PHP script as our social media “expert” for the day. That, or find someone who can kick a ball.