Panel seeks to figure out the right age for kids to specialize

At a SXSW panel on Sunday, Tom Farrey cited a survey about Division I athletes who were specializing in their sport by the age of 12. According to Farrey, 87 percent of women gymnasts were only doing gymnastics at that age, while 72 percent of women’s tennis players, 68 percent of men’s soccer participants and around 50 percent of all hoopsters were one-sport specialists.

“What the data does not tell you is how many kids out there specialized early and didn’t make it, they either got burned out or they had overuse injuries,” Farrar said. “It’s a little bit like throwing eggs against the wall and seeing which ones don’t break. This data represents the eggs that didn’t break.”

Farrey, who leads the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, spoke at a SXSW panel titled “Raising the 21st Century Athlete.” A topic of conversation in a room filled with parents of young athletes was the appropriate age for a kid to specialize in one sport.

Emmanuel Acho, the former Texas and NFL linebacker who now works for the Longhorn Network, said he participated in sports ranging from soccer to handball to lacrosse during his youth. He didn’t focus solely on football until his sophomore year of high school.

“I wanted to be functionally educated physically in everything at an early age,” Acho said. “There are a lot of football players in the NFL that suck at basketball. A great way for me to steal their money is a one-on-one game.”

Hitting the Next Home Run: Investing in Sports

Ever wonder what the billionaires in sports believe is most worthy of an investment?

They’re going beyond the traditional, investing in start-up companies involving newer sports and broader entertainment concepts.

Representatives of the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins were on hand Sunday to discuss “Hitting the Next Home Run: Investing in Sports.”

Dawn Aponte, who works with billionaire Stephen Ross and owns the Dolphins, says her boss is investing in the Drone Racing League.

Ross also recently invested in Momofuku, the restaurant company owned by celebrity chef David Chang.

Deepen Parikh, who works for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, talked about Kite & Lightning, a company that’s developing the virtual reality game Bebylon. It features fighting babies.

Parikh believes there is a virtual reality future for athletic events, but thinks it’ll be more of a 360 experience without the reliance on a head set.

Gilbert also is sinking money into The Athletics, a content subscription service for news on sports teams in Chicago, Cleveland and Toronto.

Brano Perkovich is the chief investments officer for the 49ers. He talked about the team’s investment in Vertical Mass, an information broker.

As for future investments, Perkovich really likes Major League Soccer with its youthful demographics.

— Suzanne Halliburton

Back to the Future: Why eSports Needs a Colosseum

Can eSports get its fans out from in front of their viewing spaces and into a stadium?

Panelists at SXSW’s “Back to the Future: Why eSports Needs a Colosseum” session seemed to think so. WorldGaming’s Wim Stocks noted that a venue like Madison Square Garden has hosted an eSports event, and fans want to “feel part of the action, part of the energy of an intense competition amongst the world’s best players.”

Stan Press, who works for Magid Advisors, said fans can pick up strategies at an eSports event. He also remarked that gaming is a social event.

“There might be a handful of you that maybe go see a movie by yourself, but most of you enjoy seeing that with friends,” Press said. “Most of us would want to go do any kind of social experience at home with a group of people, whether it’s family or friends.”

Panel moderator Bonnie Bernstein mentioned NFL owners Bob Kraft and Stan Kroenke and Toronto Blue Jays executive Mark Shapiro as associates of traditional sporting franchises who have expressed interest in eSports. Stocks listed a handful of reasons why this may be the case, one of which was simply dollars.

“Every sports team owner is looking for that next big programming opportunity, and eSports certainly is one of them,” Stocks said.

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