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Youth sports is a multibillion-dollar business. An ex-Disney TV exec aims to supercharge it

Former Disney TV executive Ben Sherwood coaching his son Will.
Credit: Karen Sherwood

While Ben Sherwood was working as a top Disney

Sherwood traveled back and forth between the East and West Coasts to coach for his son’s baseball, soccer, basketball and flag football teams. He became passionate enough about it to launch a youth sports venture, MOJO Sports, following his tenure at Disney.

“I wasn’t very good at it, but I loved it,” Sherwood, also a novelist and a former journalist, told CNBC. “As I got ready to leave Disney in 2019, my thought was how could we bring a little bit of Disney magic to youth sports and build a consumer-facing app that helps parent like me who wanted to be involved.”

Now, Sherwood is looking to level up his platform with a new partnership. TeamSnap, a sports management platform, is buying MOJO, the two sides announced Thursday morning. Financial terms of the deal were not announced.

Sherwood hopes the deal will scale MOJO to TeamSnap’s millions of users. Parents and youth team managers use TeamSnap, founded in 2009, to organize rosters and schedules, while enabling communication between parents and coaches. The business also has a business-to-business arm, which facilitates management, registration and payments for league owners.

The partners hope MOJO’s coaching resources and live game streaming will make involvement in youth sports a better experience for players, families and coaches. MOJO’s data has shown that its platform leads to lower coach churn and supports lower dropout rates for players.

This is partially due to the wide range of coaching materials available on the platform, which were created and supplied by MOJO’s partners in pro sports such as Major League Baseball. The resources give coaches the material and know-how to lead a better, and more fun, team practice, Sherwood said.

“The biggest reason kids drop out of sports is that it’s not fun,” said Sherwood. “One of the biggest reasons it’s not fun is practice sucks and the coach is terrible.”

When your kids are involved in youth sports, every weekend becomes Super Bowl weekend, said TeamSnap CEO Peter Frintzilas.

MOJO rising

MOJO Sports launched its platform in 2021 fully decked out with coaching materials, virtual player cards and a photo library for players. But the main attraction is its live game streaming, a service that, say, lets grandparents watch their grandkids’ games from across the country.

MOJO also boasts National Football League star power. Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, who is now with the Denver Broncos, came on board with MOJO in 2021 as a founding partner and investor. MOJO announced a partnership with NFL Flag, where Wilson serves as chairman, in August 2021.

“I’m deeply connected to our mission at MOJO, which is to enhance the youth sports experience,” Wilson said in a statement. “With the size, scale and resources of TeamSnap, the combined new platform will be unstoppable in helping us reach that goal.”

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson drops back to pass during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX.
Icon Sports Wire

TeamSnap’s platform captures more than two million daily active users, which will allow MOJO to scale its streaming and training content to the vast user base, Sherwood said. MOJO already has five million users worldwide on the platform, the company said.

While professional leagues such as the NFL and National Basketball Association generate billions in revenue, youth sports isn’t exactly small fry. The market captures $37.5 billion globally, with an estimated 60 million young athletes involved, according to Sports Business Journal, referencing Maia Research. The NFL made revenue of nearly $12 billion in 2022 in its main market, the U.S., NBC Sports reported.

The youth sports market as whole is heating up after a pandemic slump, when Covid restrictions limited social interactions and events, according to youth sports expert and Aspen Institute director Tom Farrey.

“Private equity is flowing billions of dollars into the youth sports market,” said Farrey. “Firms are buying up and aggregating clubs in a number of sports, and creating new products for an industry that serves as many as 30 million children and could serve tens of millions more in the U.S. alone if it can reduce attrition rates.”

Youth sports is uniquely positioned because of its ability to attract a far more devout customer than even that of top professional sports leagues. The average parent in the U.S. shells out $883 a year for one child’s sports commitments with many families paying far more, according to an Aspen Institute report from 2022. In total, parents cough up $30 billion to $40 billion annually for youth sports, the Aspen Institute added.

“I love the Liverpool Football Club, but I’m a way bigger fan of the team my son plays soccer on,” said Sherwood. “You are a much bigger fan of your child’s team than any pro team, and it’s that fandom that we are trying to unlock.”

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