I received a phone call from an unknown number the other day and mistakenly answered it. The pre-recorded person on the other line immediately begins to inform me that I have been “selected” for a free vacation to some magical resort. Obviously, I put the phone down. At best, I was going to have to pay for my “free” trip; at worst, someone was going to try to steal vital identifying information. I’m sure every parent reading this right now would do the same. When we receive an email regarding the $10,000 we won in a lottery offering in Norway, we don’t respond knowing that our selection is really just a scam.
Yet, how effective is this technique today in the sports world and hockey in particular!? I’m sure everyone has heard these words – “Johnny was offered a position on the top ‘AAA’ team” or “Tom was invited to play on the elite [insert any ridiculous sounding mascot] team”. Now, if you weren’t from this country and you heard this you might mistakenly think that Johnny and Tom were given something for free or at least for a small fee to cover any necessary expenses. If you did think this, you’d be wrong. It actually works the other way around – sort of like telemarketing and email scams. The more sophisticated the approach, the greater the chance someone bites.
Similarly, the words “offered”, “invited”, and “selected” have to be pumped up as much as possible. The tryouts should be packed to give the illusion of massive competition. If you’re having trouble getting the level of players you want, identify a couple key players who are toward the top of the skill level you can get in your organization and give them free tuition. Sprinkle in variations of elite, premier, and advanced as often as possible. Put down all the tournaments your teams have won – it doesn’t matter if the tourneys are any good, most folks will have no idea anyways. The better you are at making your brand considered “elite”, the more you can charge. Forget about the training itself and the substance. Focus on the marketing.
Let’s all start to see this racket in youth sports for what it is – a scam. There are only so many players that can truly be considered elite. And there are only so many players at an age when it means anything. Why not just relentlessly pursue improvement? Especially in Minnesota, there are plenty of influential hockey eyes walking through our rinks and scouting our high school elite league and regular high school season. Focus on bettering yourself and improving your game. In today’s world, just doing that will help you differentiate yourself and leap frog some of your competition.