Sports-based Social Networks

Sometimes I run across something that is just so clueless I have to say something. is that level of cluelessness.

Reported by the New York Times and blogged about, is a site that is a social network for kids who play sports. I would have shrugged this story off except at the 2008 NSCAA and US Youth Soccer shows, there have been entire companies built on creating social networks for soccer. Kids can upload their video, share soccer stories, put in their practice schedule, etc, etc.

And, all doomed to fail. Here is why.

Youth sports in America is something kids DO, not who they are. Segmenting kids’ lives into specific interests is just not going to work because the kids themselves resist the labels. Today, for 90:00 minutes, they are a soccer player, then later this afternoon, they are a music enthusiast and after that, they are a blogger. Tomorrow, they will be a student, then a peer counselor, followed by a fashion consultant. They may become a soccer player again for about 40:00 minutes of the required 90:00

They already have a called MySpace and Facebook. Before launched, the developers and their financial backers should have taken a long hard look at what makes MySpace and Facebook tick. And, segmenting social networks into specific interests is the antithesis of a social network.

In some respects, our calendar of soccer tournaments could be called a social network. But, we’re not and are not delusional about the amount of time and attention players, coaches and family give to the tournament. We are almost relentless about our 90:00 minute attention span rule. Focus on them when they are playing, do not expect they will care about you before or after. But, be grateful if they do!

Our Advice: Do not get caught up in imagining the teams care more about your soccer tournament than it being a great entertainment venue for a weekend. It is and will be nothing more to your guest teams and their families. Instead, focus your time and energy into providing them with a great time while they are your guests. Strive to capture their attention for 91:00 minutes while they are your guests.

For your on-line presence, keep your tournament web site as close to real-time as possible. Also, soccer tournaments should to focus on providing Widgets (Facebook apps) that kids and parents can bring the tournament into their Facebook, MySpace pages. Integrating interests is how kids see themselves. Parents and marketers need to quit seeing kids as the soccer player, the actor, the singer, the bandie, etc. Take a look at a typical soccer-playing kid’s Facebook page and my point here is established. (BTW, every TourneyCentral tournament has a widget teams can grab from their application page and paste into the team, club site that has the schedule, news and DEALS build in real-time.)

Focus on providing a great time; the players and their families will take care of making your soccer tournament part of their networks all by themselves.