Reducing Bias to Shift Demand: A Model for Reforming Youth Sports in America

Matthew T. Bowers and Tolga Ozyurtcu

As researchers and consultants working in youth sports, we traffic in good intentions; from parents to coaches to club and league administrators, everyone wants “what’s best for the kids.” At the same time, we are also inundated with critiques of the youth sports status quo; the same parents, coaches, and administrators rail that the current state of affairs is not “what’s best for the kids.” Despite the hint of contradiction, all of these stakeholders seem genuine in their beliefs and correct in their diagnoses: no one is working to actively undermine the youth sports experience, yet somehow it remains flawed. From this general consensus, attempts to improve youth sports have historically framed matters from a supply-side perspective. In that sense, policy-makers and coaches have doubled-down on good intentions, focusing on designing better offerings and opportunities. Yet these “build a better mousetrap” approaches have failed to adequately reform the system, and the valid critiques of youth sport remain