Kay Ainsley, Managing Director, MSA Worldwide
Tapping into the $5 billion youth sports industry
The focus on the 2014 World Championship Little League playoffs highlighted not only the participants’ athletic ability, but also the poise and maturity of the players. Whether they won or lost, those young players interviewed displayed a profound understanding of sportsmanship and respect for their opponents.
Parents, eager to give their children a head start, are enrolling them in sports programs at a very young age and contributing to what has become a five billion dollar a year industry. There are many benefits to exposing children to sports at a young age; one company that knows this well is Kids In Sports.
Mike Strutt, co-founder of New York-based Kids In Sports, a franchised concept that teaches kids aged 12 months to 12 years the fundamentals of a variety of sports, says that the goal of their program goes well beyond teaching the basic skills of the games. “My partner Ken Colon and I created programs that introduce young children to the rules and skills of the games, but we also emphasize sportsmanship, teamwork, respect, and communication,” he explained.
Mike and Ken know sports first-hand. They each competed in collegiate sports and earned degrees in Physical Education and Exercise Physiology. They’ve taught physical education, worked as personal trainers, and coached many sports including baseball, football and soccer. They used their expertise to create Kids In Sports when they realized that the younger children develop the proper skills, the better chance they have for success in the long term. “It is amazing that even the youngest children can understand and appreciate actual proper techniques of different sports skills,” said Strutt.
While still avid sports enthusiasts who compete themselves in various adult sports leagues as well as attending many professional sporting events, Strutt and Colon have found a way to combine their passion for sports with their strong business acumen. “We started Kids In Sports over 15 years ago,” said Colon. “It was an after-school program and we had thirty kids. I think both us and the kids learned a lot in the first couple of years. We developed our own curriculum, and designed and handmade the sports equipment for younger children with smaller hands. It was a labor of love and it has paid off.”
Today, Kids In Sports is a thriving business operating out of a storefront location on New York’s Upper East Side, along with several satellite locations. In addition to its regular schedule of classes, Kids In Sports also offers summer camps, birthday parties, and other events. “In all, we’re consistently teaching more than twelve hundred children per week,” says Strutt. “We developed our own, proprietary software program in order to manage the business more efficiently and make it easier for parents to sign up.”
A survey conducted by ESPN reports that 34% of girls and 61% of boys across all grades say that sports is a big part of who they are. “This is great news for our business and reflects our own experience,” says Colon. “We want to expand to take full advantage of this market. But, while we want growth, we also want to make sure that our brand is protected. After evaluating and even testing different ways to expand Kids In Sports, we have determined that franchising will enable us to achieve both of our goals.”
Kids In Sports launched their franchise program earlier this year, and so far they have been pleased with the response. According to Strutt, “We began by letting our parents know that we were franchising – we wanted to get the word out and to reassure them that we were still going to be there for their children. The number of parents that inquired about a franchise, or who passed the information on to their friends and relatives, has proven to us that we made the right choice in franchising.”
For more about Kids in Sports franchise opportunities, visit kidsinsportsfranchising.com.