I'm starting this a bit backwards and not going to far back right now, so I decided to tell a story that was more recent.
Growing up in a wonderful blue collar town outside New Haven Connecticut, expectations for a family summer vacation was usually limited to camping (which as a kid was awesome). What was never expected back then was a weekend spent playing competitive sports against kids from across the country, staying in a hotel with a pool and going out to TGIF's for unlimited appetizers with 20 other families.
Recently my travels took my son and I to Trenton, NJ (I know very exotic) even more fancy than the vacation destination was the standard Courtyard by Marriott circa 1989. The first morning in town, while eating breakfast with all the other chipper Sport-Cation families...my son and I were watching and listening to travel softball, baseball and wedding parties mingle over breakfast and enjoying all of the stories from last nights hallway shenanigans (That's right I wrote shenanigans).
On this particular morning when I was second guessing my decision of this trip and noisy old hotel, I witnessed a teenage softball player cruise into the lobby/breakfast area with a leftover slice of pizza dandling from her mouth like a bald eagle with a fish. From what I could tell from my people watching skills mastered over two decades of sitting in airports, I was listening to a conversation between the "Softball Pizza Girl" and the table next to her that was made up of a group of Italian grandma's from last nights wedding. The "Pizza Girl" was telling the Italian grandma's the story of how her Alabama travel team has practiced all winter to play in a tournament "EVERY WEEKEND" throughout the country last summer. The grandmothers couldn't believe it and asked a great question as only seniors over 70 are allowed to ask...
"So when do you have time for fun"? The other grandmother then follows with a lob pitch in her NJ/NY accent "Whatcha tawking about Louise... the poor thing doesn't have time for a real breakfast let alone any fun..such a shame"
For those in the business of operating youth sports events and tournaments this was music to my ears and a family Sport-Cation culture that doesn't seem to have a ceiling. The Italian grandmas certainly didn't travel to Alabama for a softball tournaments when they were raising their kids so they shouldn't understand this culture. Back in their day Rockaway Beach and maybe Atlantic City was most likely their travel radius. They were really more concerned about what Pizza Girl was eating for breakfast rather than playing softball every weekend!
We too were in town for a Sport-Cation attending a football passing academy. We are right along side all those other softball parents and forming bonds with these parents who have accepted the sport vacation culture along with plenty of "I wish we had the same opportunities as our kids" conversations. But honestly my son and I love the time together, the experiences we have traveling and meeting wonderful families from all over the country with the same goals.
I hope millions of families continue to embrace the Sport-Cation culture as we have and if possible one day I hope to take all my kids on a real camping trip like the ones from my childhood.... however it will probably have to be at a Music Festival with plenty of cold pizza for breakfast.
Rob Thompson is a 25+ year entrepreneur and executive in the sports and media industry. He is a Keynote Speaker and Mentor for college students and young professionals. Rob shares his personal and business stories along with one on one interviews with influencers and trend setters in the sports industry.
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