A Post-Millennial Pitcher and What She Says About Gender Right Now

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Aug 25, 2014 @ 03:07 PM

As a Philly girl, a (long since retired) softball player, a lifelong baseball fan, and, of course, aSI Mo'neDavis professional observer of youth culture, I couldn’t help but tune into the Little League World Series match between the Taney Dragons from Philadelphia and a team of tween rivals from Nevada. While this event always piques my interest, this year’s pull was decidedly more powerful: the team’s pitcher, Mo’ne Davis.

At a time in the sports calendar when preseason football typically dominates, 13-year-old Davis claimed the cover of Sports Illustrated, making her the first Little Leaguer to do so while still in their formative years. Davis isn’t the first girl to take the field in the crown event of the Little League season, but she is the first to pitch for a win, and the first African-American girl to get in the game at this level.

While many girls have gotten attention for playing boys’ games, many have credited Davis with being the first product of Title IX and the right to a fair playing field it provides for female athletes. Davis is clearly not a publicity stunt, and she’s presented as more than a symbol – she’s someone that her coaches and teammates expect to deliver in the highest pressure athletic situation that many athletes her age will ever face.

Davis arrives on our radar at a time when we’re talking about gender norms, expectations, and realities more than ever before. The very definitions of masculinity and femininity may be in constant flux, but today’s post-Millennials often appear to be growing up at a time when gender is more fluid than ever. We think Mo’Ne Davis – the phenomenon as much as the girl herself – serves as a symbol of what we believe are the evolving ideas and ideals about gender for today’s youth.

  1. Post-Millennial doesn’t mean “post-gender.” With much talk about this being a post-gender cohort, we think it’s critical to acknowledge that Davis’ dramatic victory over a team from Texas, and her mere presence on the mound has garnered a lot of attention. Philly Magazine recently described her as a “reluctant cover girl” who would prefer to catch some of the other games at the South Williamsport, PA tournament in peace. Kids interviewed about the young star for various publications echo the same sentiment that many adults do: this is/she is a big deal. She is on the cover of SI at the end of August, afterall.
  2. To Post-Millennials, everyone who can play should play. Davis is different – it’s not debatable among youth or adults. At the same time, this bucking of sports norms feels very different than it has in previous times, and in some locales still, where we see girls attempting to play being met with accusations of spotlight-seeking. We’ve often heard cries of inequity from boys, not girls, forced to compete against a perceived softer, more fragile set of competitors. But the post-Millennial response to Mo’Ne seems in line with their overall perspective on gender: gender shouldn’t stop you from doing something you’re good at or love.
  3. Boys will be boys, but they’ll also be buddies. While Davis’ pitching is worth watching, I found myself more engrossed in the off-the-field interactions between Mo’Ne and her teammates. To be clear, Mo’Ne doesn’t seem to play the role of mother, cheerleader or even “cool chick” when she’s in the dugout. With serious eyes, she watches the game. Her teammates stand alongside her naturally, without awareness that she’s symbolic of something bigger than the next batter at the plate. When she was pulled from the game, the coach and her infielders seem to have a kind of conversation that felt anything but gendered. It’s possible that, knowing all eyes are on them, these boys are on their best behavior. But in the heat of a game like this one, it seems unlikely that they could fake the kind of friendship, built on mutual respect, which their gestures and body language convey.
  4. Who says girls don’t like baseball? Post-Millennials are more likely than earlier cohorts to have gone to school in co-ed settings from the time they were toddlers. They are more likely to invite boys and girls to their birthday parties. They are even okay watching Frozen (even if Olaf is sometimes the convenient snowy excuse for listening to 1.5 hours worth of show tunes in a princess flick). Boys are happy to don rainbow loom bracelets, and they’re more likely to have been raised by a dad who changed diapers. And guess what? They know that sometimes that stuff that they’re not supposed to like, or their supposed to see as strange for someone of their gender to do, is actually fun. Mo’Ne seems pretty determined to make her mark, but not because of gender politics or a pro-social mission. She seems to like to pitch. 

Tags: post-millennials, girls, boys, Sports, gender

The World Cup: A Young Person’s Game?

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 @ 12:15 PM
FIFA 2014 World CupEvery three to four years for the last few decades, U.S. commentators wonder aloud whether this will be the year that Americans care about The Beautiful Game, in conjunction with both the men’s World Cup and the women’s World Cup (Canada, 2015). The escalation of youth participation in soccer, the rising international profile of U.S. Soccer (men’s – women, we know, have been on top for quite a while), and increased media coverage on mainstream outlets are all cited as reasons why this (insert year here) will be the year that Americans finally get soccer. Of course, on the heels of the draw with Portugal, which looked like a victory for the U.S. up until the last 30 seconds, this claim seems more justified than in the past. Can Americans still possibly claim that soccer doesn’t hold the excitement of other sports?

Thus far, research shows that viewership of and interest in the World Cup has remained pretty stable compared to four years ago. According to Pew Research, roughly the same share of the public is looking forward to the World Cup this year (22%) as it was in 2010 (23%). The nature of the tournament means that few moments will garner as much attention as the one and done Super Bowl. Despite the U.S. and Ghana match’s 7.0 ratings share on Nielsen’s overnight report—a record for a FIFA World Cup match on the channel, according to Businessweek, kids, tweens and teens who are still in school in some parts of the country and beginning camp in others, don’t exactly have the freedom to view during the day that many adults seem to find. Youth can’t flock to their local pub the way Millennials might, and kids and tweens, in particular, are consistently more excited to play the game than watch it on TV.

Still, it’s hard to argue that the World Cup and soccer, in general, have become important symbols of youth culture. Pew’s research shows that four-in-ten adults ages 18-29 (40%) were looking forward to the World Cup before the start of the tournament, compared with just 13% of adults 50 and older. The last time the men’s World Cup occurred, we wrote about the reasons why soccer should matter to today’s kids, tweens and teens. Four years later, we’re inspired to look at all that soccer – and the U.S. team specifically - represents and reflects about this particular cohort of youth.
  1. A global community. As fans of England now know, the seemingly solid lines of citizenship and belonging are hardly fixed. Uruguay dashed the hopes of the English team by the foot of striker Luis Suarez – best known for an infamous stint in the Premier League, and as a player for Liverpool. The global exchange of footballers is not new to the sport, but better reflects a kind of youth culture and experience that sees country boundaries and borders, and a general sense of belonging and membership that is more fluid than ever. The U.S. team has players that feel diverse in all sorts of ways – with many spending much of their lives living outside our nation’s borders. The U.S. team, moreso than many other “national teams” like the Olympic contingents for most sports, feels like it truly reflects the plurality of experiences and backgrounds that youth recognize from their own lives.

  2. An underdog coming of age. The U.S. team might be an unlikely underdog, but when it comes to soccer, the world seems to be watching to see whether this up and comer can establish itself as a world power on the pitch. Being underestimated makes the U.S. team even more relatable to youth, who respect fame and accomplishment, but root for those who – like themselves – are often trying to prove they’re more capable than expected.

  3. A respect for refresh. For many long-time U.S. soccer fans, the decision to leave Landon Donovan at home was controversial to say the least. But for youth, a chance for new stars to shine makes the team even more appealing. Soccer has been somewhat stagnated in popular culture, with athletes like Mia Hamm (who kids continue to love) representing the face of the game, despite being on the bench. Today’s youth are more likely to follow someone who represents the future of soccer, not its past.  

  4. Inclusiveness. The Nike campaign for the World Cup suggests that the kind of inclusiveness that this cohort of kids, tweens and teens value and demand is not lost on one of youth’s favorite brand, even beyond football. The ad includes “characters” from across the globe in a video game style ad, and, importantly, speaks to youth with humor, not only heroism. And, the language of laughter connects with a broad range of youth.

Tags: kids, World Cup, Sports, Youth, Teens, tweens, soccer

10 Things That Don’t Get Old to Kids

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 @ 09:47 AM

Roller SkatingWe sometimes find ourselves compelled to think about the new experiences that define kids’ lives…What is something they’ve never before seen or that’s new to their world (and ours). But we often forget that some of the simplest pleasures of childhood are hardly novel. In the everyday lives of kids, there are many, many “old” experiences that feel new to the latest generation of youth. So in case you’re looking for some inspiration in unexpected places, here are a few youth experiences and products worth revisiting:

  1. Roller skating. Roller blades might look cooler, but there’s nothing quite so fun than stumbling around the rink on eight wheels! Skating rinks of the suburban sort (Cherry Hill Skate Rink) still fit the bill. Maybe it’s the mini arcades, the kid-friendly food or the lifting of the usual kid noise restrictions! But we think it’s also about the fun of learning the ropes with the help, and the hands, of your friends.
  2. Bowling. Along the same lines, bowling might seem staid to moms and dads, but it’s new again for youth! Bowling alleys of the retro sort can bring in youth, but many might be getting their first taste of the lanes alongside their parents in hipster takes on the timeless activity. With newer lanes offering the option of bumpers that rise when kids come up to bowl and fall to level the game with parents, bowling might be the newest old way to enjoy family fun!
  3. Apple picking. Tis the season for apple picking in much of the country, and this old-fashioned pleasure continues to delight kids and their parents. This pastime appeals to romantic notions of childhood, along with the new notions of local and sustainable nature.
  4. Movie night. Screens may have changed and the popcorn might come in unconventional flavors, but movie night still matters to youth. They might be able to download the movie of their choice any time, but a night with friends or family focused on a flick continues to feel special to today’s youth.
  5. Sleepover parties. Whether it’s a backyard campout with mom and dad by their side, or the first brave night away from home, sleepover parties are still a milestone for minors.
  6. Reading with a flashlight.  Okay, so today’s kids and tweens might have books that light up all by themselves, but the mischievous pleasure of staying up late and reading under the covers with a flashlight can still make kids feel daring! And parents can feign outrage while secretly endorsing their child’s sneaky reading!
  7. Friendship bracelets. Loom bracelets might be all the rage right now, but they are just the most recent rendition of a classic kid creation. Whether it’s crafting the look of your arm candy with the perfect collection of charms, or weaving a wristlet of your own design, girls AND boys continue to love the friendship bracelet look. And while the making of these bracelets matters, the sharing is where the timeless fun really comes to fruition.
  8. Swimming. This “sport” continues to be the favorite active pastime of our youth (kids, tweens and teens)…Despite all the opportunities youth have for elite and unique activities for fitness, this no-pressure, everyone’s invited sport persists as a symbol of childhood at its best for good reason.
  9. Bike-riding. Bikes have certainly changed, with little kids learning on balance bikes and scooter/bike hybrids making mainstream tracks. But the sense of accomplishment associated with learning to ride a bike, and the freedom of getting to go around the corner on your own leg-power remains the same.
  10. Scoring a goal…or hitting a homerun or even that hole in one! Carrying the team for just a moment is still the standard in kids’ epic tales of achievement and triumph. Maybe everyone gets a trophy in today’s little leagues and soccer clubs, but making that precious point is still the stuff of kid fantasies.

What do these timeless pleasures tell us? Some of them involve a bit of rebellion. Many involve a break from the everyday routine (like bedtime in your own bed!). Many show the importance of mastery in the lives of youth. And most involve a taste of freedom – even when you’re right alongside your family! When seeking ways to delight today’s youth, don’t forget to consider these classic kid experiences as inspiration.

Tags: toys, movie, Sports, outside, free time, kids tweens teens, culture

Kids, Tweens, Teens On-the-Field Talking-Trash

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Jul 03, 2013 @ 09:23 AM

200225711 001Sports might be one of our favorite topics at YouthBeat – we’ve written about the Olympics and sportsmanship, soccer and head-related injuries, LeBron James and loyalty (from kids’ perspective) and more. We’ve also written about the state of sportsmanship in a blog on winning and on discussions of Silent Saturdays (a designated day in which soccer parents and coaches are asked to keep quiet on the sidelines) , the shifting role of the sports dad in conference presentations and in our YearBook. So, naturally, we felt compelled to weigh in on New Jersey’s recent decision to treat teens’ on-the-field trash-talking as a Civil Rights violation.

The new rules enforced by the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association and the State’s Attorney General require that “obscene gestures, profanity or unduly provocative language or action toward officials, opponents, or spectators” be reported to the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights. The rules fall under New Jersey’s Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act and make it clear that the Act extends not only to locations outside of school (as originally stipulated) but specifically to the fields and courts where high school athletes play.

While educators and coaches will likely debate about how to enforce this Act, it’s likely that another debate will soon surface: whether a ban on trash-talking shows consistency and sensitivity or an over-regulating of children’s lives. Put another way, is “handling” trash-talking something that marks a mature athlete (i.e., one who can block out distracting fans or competitors’ chatter) or is on-field harassment as dangerous and damaging as a vicious Facebook campaign or a taunt in the school hallways?

In full disclosure, I should reveal having partaken in some trash-talking in my day. Some of my most bitter rivals from my soccer playing days were both the subjects of my in-game goads, and, years later, bridesmaids in my wedding! A few are neighbors whose kids play with my kids on the playground. For all of us, trash-talking was part of the game and it was easily forgiven after the fact.

But for today’s youth, bullying isn’t something that they’re permitted to accept as being part of childhood. Today’s youth know that words can be weapons, and weapons whose cuts can last. So it seems increasingly difficult to identify places where verbal punches should be seen as permissible. And while adult athlete might temporarily cringe at the sanitizing of sports in this way, it’s hard to argue that respecting others should stop once you walk on to the place where, for those same athletes, the goal is to be one’s best self.

Tags: Education, bullying, Sports, free time, school

Why Back to School Should Start with an Understanding of “School”

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 @ 09:09 AM

Marketers tend to seek insights about adolescents outside the classroom – in their culture, in their extracurriculars, etc. But sometimes it’s easy to forget just how much time youth spend in schools during the day. As it should be (at least we think), these spaces are considered sacred and generally off-limits to non-academic researchers. However, understanding their attitudes towards school can shed light on the state of mind and on the characteristics of this cohort. What engages them intellectually? What does it feel like to walk through the hallways of their own schools? And, how do they view the adults they interact with almost everyday of their lives?

for web 57447358In a July 2012 study of 981 high school students (an equal mix of freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors), C+R Research found that some things never change, but of course, this creative and connected generation may be perceiving and experiencing school life differently than we might think.

We asked our survey respondents to choose the three words that best describe their school. Overwhelmingly, teens described their schools as “competitive” and “challenging,” but also “friendly” and “interesting.” Over 50% of freshmen say that science or math is their favorite subject – but only 32% of seniors share this sentiment. And, when it comes to food in the cafeteria? Boys and girls both agree that the options better suit the boys’ tastes than the girls’.

Recently we’ve taken to watching the documentary series, “Kindergarten” on HBO Family. Like the series, “High School,” before it, this tot doc shows how 5- and 6- year-olds handle the big transition from home to school – following a real-life kindergarten classroom from day one to the “moving on” ceremony. A view of this show reminds us what really gets little guys going and how a thoughtful teacher can engage and invite even the most timid early learners. (My own four-year-old is riveted!)

Knowing what their everyday lives are really like further contextualizes their out of school time (are we surprised that some kids want to lounge on the couch, after seeing the rigorous schedule they keep at many schools?). Knowing what topics they care about in school can inspire innovation even more than an investigation of what they already do after school. And knowing about their school day makes the causes they care about outside of school make more sense. So next time you want to understand eating, viewing or participating in sports, start with what’s going on in the place where youth spend most of their hours. You may find that what happens in school is closer to their hearts than you might have thought.

Tags: preschool, bullying, Sports, Teens, free time, reading, school

What Winning Looks Like For Kids, Tweens and Teens

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Aug 16, 2012 @ 02:34 PM

In our final mini-poll on the 2012 Olympics, we asked our KidzEyes and TeensEyes panelists to tell us who their favorite Olympic team was. Not surprisingly, 39% of teens and 41% of kids selected the fab five – the women’s gymnastics team – as the one they most wanted to watch. These girls put on a show throughout the games. Not only did they exhibit death-defying feats, but they also brought drama to spare!

  • Jordyn Wieber, the world champ and expected all-around competition victor failed to qualify for the finals.gty womens soccer mr 120809 wg
  • 16 year-old Gabby Douglas brought home the gold (the first African American girl to do so)
  • Aly Raisman’s parents mimed her whole routine from the stands, warranting an award of their own!

But along with the highlights, came some moments that made us cringe. Moments after Aly Raisman qualified for the all-around competition finals, she assured an interviewer that she never doubted that she would make the cut. But she did this within shouting distance of her teammate and friend, Wieber, whose Olympic dreams were shattered with Raisman’s rise. Yes, Raisman exhuded confidence, but what about empathy? McKayla Maroney took her silver medal with a very public smirk, not with the grace of a girl who won second place in a worldwide competition. And Gabby Douglas, when asked, on the Today Show, about how life would change, talked about how she was “trending on Twitter” and how everyone in the world knows who she is. What happened to, “I’m still the same old girl…”?

How this team handled victory and defeat invites the question: how important does good sportsmanship matter to kids, tweens and teens today? And what role does humility play in youth’s definition of winning?

In fairness, other Olympic athletes offered an alternative approach…

Sticking with the girls, we saw Missy Franklin (a 17-year old high school senior) who broke down after seeing her parents post-race, noting how appreciative she was to have their support. The women’s world soccer team (who undeniably have mojo to spare!) embraced their rivals, the Japanese women. They traded in trash-talk for a different kind of discourse. Megan Rapinoe noted, “They snatched our dream last year. And still we have that respect for them.”Girls around the world learned a valuable lesson -- play hard, but maintain perspective off the field.

But does the way that kids, tweens and teens define winning really matter for marketers? Absolutely. A few years ago, I received questions over the course of two weeks from three different clients who wanted to know what “winning” looked like for kids, tweens and teens.

  • Do they want to see an athlete’s win as the result of hard work?
  • Should you show them enduring the toughest training session, or simply show them with the trophy?
  • Is the best face of your brand the one who wins with flair or with focus?
And of course, ask a tween boy about their best sports moment, and you’ll hear about homeruns, not practice sessions. But, generally, when we ask this generation (often dismissed as fame-seeking and self-promoting) which celebrities they love and why they love them, we often hear them talk about character alongside championships. Granted, without a win, they wouldn’t likely make it on kids’, tweens’ and teens’ radars! But, when they talk about actors and actresses, or musicians they love, they often talk about how they do good things for others, or how they haven’t forgotten where they came from. The American Idol contestants who rise to the top are often equal parts exciting performance and appreciation for the opportunity. And, similarly, we predict that the athletes who will endure in the minds of youth will be those who are a little less arrogant and a bit more authentic. Because at the end of the day, youth want their winners with a healthy dose of humility, and they’re willing to stick with the second place finisher if they can stand-up even when they’re not on the podium.

Tags: play, Sports, TV, culture, youth media, olympics

Are kids and tweens interested in the Olympics?

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Aug 03, 2012 @ 11:47 AM

The Olympics are seemingly custom-made for a kid audience: A celebration of amateurs…A field-day of fantastic proportions…A rendezvous of people from remote places…And a chance to see some of their favorite, but often under-broadcast sports performed on screen (soccer, gymnastics and swimming to name a few). Even kid favorites LeBron James (tied for second favorite athlete among 6-12 year olds) and Kobe Bryant (undisputed favorite among 6-12 year olds) make an appearance.

This year’s games not only take place in the land of boy bands like The Wanted and boy wonder Harry Potter, but both of these pop culture icons have already played a role in the torch relay and opening ceremonies, respectively (not to mention that the American women’s gymnastics team’s favorite boy band, One Direction, is rumored to be playing at the closing ceremonies).

On the other hand, this generation doesn’t relate to “appointment viewing” in the same way as previous cohorts. The “amateur” athlete might not be as relatable as he or she was in the past (can we really cheer for LeBron like he’s an underdog?). And when results are broadcast hours before an exciting race, is it still worth watching?

Olympics

We conducted a poll of 100 kids and tweens ages 6 to 12 from our KidzEyes panel, and the results reminded us that the Olympics still matter to today’s youth. We asked if they were or were planning to watch the Olympics “a lot,” “a little”, “or “not at all”, and over half told us they planned to gander at these gold-seekers as much as possible!

Perhaps the true test of the Olympics’ salience will come in the next few years. Will Lochte replace LeBron as top sport among kids? Will gymnastics phenom Gabby Douglas – who might be relatable in age, but otherworldy in terms of talent – sustain her popularity among youth for the next four years? We’ll keep watching – alongside kids.

Tags: Sports, kids tweens teens, youth media, olympics

Making Retro Refreshing: Radio Flyer Reinvented

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 @ 08:31 AM

Radio FlyerThe first brand I worked on out of college, back in my ad agency days, was an iconic teen brand (which will rename nameless) that had seen better days. If you’ve worked on one of these brands, you know they can simultaneously elicit overwhelming affection and extreme frustration from those charged with nurturing them. Their brand caretakers wrestled with retaining the brand’s charm and reenergizing it at the same time. This is particularly true for the stewards of youth brands, who may have memories of the role the brand played in their own lives, but who have to rediscover the right way for these brands to connect with today’s youth.  We’re often asked for guidelines or rules for keeping classic brands cool…Clearly, one size doesn’t fit all in this regard. But we think Radio Flyer has struck a nice balance between authentic and exciting with some of their most recent innovations. Here’s how they’ve done it:

  1. They built from, not against their brand.  While Radio Flyer could have gone “everything container,” or even everything wagon, the brand seems to have recognized early on that its style was as important as its ride. Sure, its offerings are almost all of the four-wheeled variety (with the exception of little wheelbarrows and rocking horses), but they stand out versus the competition because they’ve kept to their classic look. Many brands have made wagons – even red ones – but the shape, the style and the lollipop-delicious-look of Radio Flyer products take them from scooter to sculpture. And when they have walked away from heritage red, they kept it basic: pink for girl trikes and primary colors as accents to their steer and fold riders. The essence of Radio Flyer exists in the middle of nostalgic and modern, and the brand seems to embrace it in product type, form, and aesthetic.    
  2. They found a way to fit families (not the other way around). The little red wagon might represent the most basic mode of transportation for the kid set (and for their stuff), but today’s parents are far from simple when it comes to their strollers. This generation of parents – especially those living in urban areas where your carriage carries more cache than your car – see their prams as much more than practicalities. It might be retro, but Radio Flyer delivers on timely design. Not only are the sleek lines and nostalgic materials (wood and aluminum) hip again, but the available add-ons make the wagon the perfect transition from baby’s stroller to big kid’s transport. With padded seats, beverage carriers and sun-shading umbrellas, the new Radio Flyer wagons meet the needs of moms and dads while the cushier seats suit the bottoms of the post-Pamper set.     
  3. They gave families a reason to re-buy, not re-use. Finally, following a trend set by many entrenched brands looking to re-establish their relevance, Radio Flyer went the custom route. Sure, you might have an old red wagon in your garage. But now you can get one made to order, with your child’s name on it. You can pick your own design, making the old fashioned four-wheeler fit whatever your style is. And it doesn’t just stop with wagons.  Radio Flyer kept the technology of their scooters simple – and reminiscent of the scooters they’ve sold since the 1920s – but they give kids a chance to put their personal stamp on them. The Style N’ Ride brings the customization and collectability of charm bracelets to a much more active mode of play.

Of course, keeping a brand strong over time is easier said than done. But we think Radio Flyer shows that oldies can be goodies if they’re treated with the care and consideration they deserve.

Tags: research, play, parents, Sports, outside, family, kids tweens teens

Summer Camp for the Connected Cohort

Posted by Amy Henry on Thu, Apr 19, 2012 @ 02:05 PM

It may not be time just yet for summer camp, but it is that time of year when parents begin planning, or putting down deposits. And for today’s parents, summer camp is no longer just about giving kids, tweens and teens a taste of the great outdoors…First, for many working parents, camp is a necessity, not a luxury. It fills in the summer gap for working parents who head to the office, even when the weather warms up. In a highly competitive educational context, in which youth and their moms and dads begin to express concern over college admissions before they’ve even hit high school, many see summer as a way to catch up and to get a step ahead. At the same time, schools have been hit with federal, and in almost every case, state budget cuts that have taken a toll on the extracurricular programs that give kids, tweens and teens a chance to find their passion. So it’s no surprise that summer camps cater to a broader group of youth – who are attending for different reasons – than ever before. And summer camp creators offer no shortage of options when it comes to summer camp.thrill logo

Take note: some of these camps involve very little interaction with the outdoors, but if a kid finds their “flow” at comic book camp versus canoeing, is that such a bad thing? At the same time, are we missing something by keeping kids, tweens and teens in school-like environments all year-round?

Regardless of where you stand on the indoor/outdoor debate, we think the following camps give us some indication of the signs of these times...They might be “no bug juice allowed!” and “email your parents here!”

  1. ThrillCoasterTours: Test your bravery by riding roller-coasters across the company (parents can catch that priceless pic on camp-photograph site, “bunk1.” And no cabins here – accommodations provided by Marriott.
  2. Surf Diva “Boarding” Camp: This all-girls camp takes to the waves, combining slumber party vibe with the kinetic curricula of a sports camp.
  3. Plantation Farm Camp: Want to inspire sustainability? Ship your kids to this California farm where they learn where their food really comes from…
  4. New York Film Academy: Because this generation doesn’t take pictures like tourists…this camp shows them how to become a professional cinematographer in just one simple summer.
  5. Digital Media Camp: Think summer camp is for getting your teen away from texting? Not so…this camp teaches them to develop their own apps!
  6. Camp Kennedy Space Center: The space program might be in limbo, but your kid can still lighten up in the no-gravity chamber.
  7. Engineering Camp: If building a robot gets your kid, tween and teen ticking, than these national engineering camps might be for them.
  8. Fashion Design Camp: For your budding fashionista or Project Runway devotee.
  9. Day Jams: Becoming a rock star might look as easy as posting a YouTube video, but this camp shows kids how to really get rockin’.
  10.  Bold Earth Adventures: More like a good-old-fashion survival of the fittest, these camps put youth out of their outdoor comfort zone, and promise to teach them about themselves along the way.

Tags: kids, girls, play, Sports, outside, Youth, fashion, kids tweens teens, culture, parenting

Take Me Out to the Ballgame: The Cost of Forgetting Young Fans

Posted by Amy Henry on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 @ 11:45 AM

As a Phillies fan, it’s a bit difficult to write about baseball right now. But the World Series goes on, and it seemed like the perfect time for a YouthBeat blog on the state of bringing kids to big games.

We’re certainly not the first to bemoan the high cost of taking today’s kids to professional sporting events (see this blogger’s recap of the costs associated with taking her Chicagoland kids to Wrigley for the first time). Back in 2008, the average cost of an outing at Fenway Park was just under $50 per person – for tickets alone. But high ticket prices are just one of a number of deterrents…Many stadiums have family-friendly sections, but the risk of exposing little kids to adult language and “themes” at a game make many parents think twice before bringing their children to the park. And baseball might be the professional league that’s the friendliest to young fans (with some newer stadiums including fantastic playgrounds designed for little fans, like the Phanatic Phun Zone at the Phillies home field, Citizens Bank Park). Game times seem to make catching a game tough for workiYouth Insights on Baseballng parents, school kids and those with reasonable bedtimes (start times for a variety of sports often approach 8pm).

Does it matter that young fans have a tougher time getting in the gates today? Maybe not…After all, adults engage in many behaviors that they aren’t privy to as children. Children don’t necessarily rehearse all of their adult experiences during their pre-teen years, so it’s not a given that losing today’s youth will mean the loss of adult fans when this generation ages up. And go to a Philly suburb, or to downtown Chicago, or to Boston or New York or St. Louis, and you’re likely to wonder whether clothing stores stock items other than team jerseys.

But we think the risk, and more importantly, the lost opportunity to engage with youth deserves attention. First, pro sports aren’t the only game in town. Youth and their parents, in many markets, have begun to trade-out their trips to the big leagues for more family-friendly minor league games (the cost, for a family of four is just $57.50 on average, according to BizOfBaseball). College sports have an inherent appeal to kids, tweens and teens who often find the unpaid and much younger athletes more relatable. And alternatives to the traditional pro sports (think Arena Football) might chip away at enough of the young fan base to make the next group of adults think twice before professing their loyalty to the local football, basketball or baseball team.

The risk might be great, but the opportunity might be greater…We know that today’s families cherish family time more than ever. Parents seek out spaces that cater to their children, restaurants that feel family-friendly without sacrificing fun (for parents or kids!), and experiences that allow them to bond and build memories in the sometimes limited time they have to spend together. And with childhood obesity continuing to count high on parents’ lists of top concerns, parents would welcome the chance to expose their children to athletes who take their health seriously.

We’re not writing anything that the leagues themselves, and team owners, don’t know. The Philadelphia 76ers’ new owners took drastic action in their first days in charge: slashing ticket prices on nearly 9,000 seats and establishing the website NewSixersOwner.com to solicit fan feedback. All the major leagues continue to court a younger audience through pro-social initiatives that support little leaguers and children in need of safe spaces to play. New arenas include more amenities for young families than ever before.

But still, the lesson to take from this change in the face of the fan base of major sports is one that brands in many categories should heed: kids today matter in the decisions their families make. And while they might grow up and grow into new brands and experiences, regardless of what they did during childhood, they might also redefine the “norm” for their own generation. And if you’re not willing to invest in them, someone else will.

Tags: play, parents, Sports, free time, parenting, tweens, money