March 12, 2021 - Podcast

Episode 102—Youth sports, and video games

There's a growing problem in youth sports, and it's one that threatens to eliminate competition for children across the United States. It has nothing to do with health, equipment or facilities, but a shortage of officials. A significant percentage of officials are closing in on retirement, and younger officials are quitting at alarming rates, which is threatening the sustainability of youth and amateur sports. David Pierce, director of the IUPUI Sports Innovation Institute, is working to change the trend. Each year, the host school of the NCAA Division I men's basketball Final Four has its programs highlighted by the NCAA NextGen program. This year, IUPUI has invited all NCAA member schools to participate, as teams will attempt to find solutions to enhance the recruitment and retention of sports officials. It's the first innovation challenge of its kind, and Pierce hopes it will spark fresh ideas to combat the problem. Twenty-five schools signed up to participate, and each team will pitch its solution to a panel of sports innovators, entrepreneurs, officials and sports business experts. Pierce says the goal of the innovation challenge is to create more awareness about the shortage of officials. The shortage of officials has been a growing problem for years. One reason is youth sports continue to grow, with over 100 million youth sports competitions in the U.S. There simply aren't enough officials to keep up. Furthermore, as the younger generations look to more technological hobbies, there has been a drastic decline in young people looking to become referees. Colin Fierek, a NCAA NextGen Program Coordinator intern, is leading the process and says there can be no organized sports without refereeing. He hopes the challenge will help turn the situation around.

In other news, for parents, determining the amount of time your child plays video games can be a battle. But IU Assistant Professor John Velez says research has shown people who play video games like Fortnite or Rocket League have higher visual acuity, meaning they can keep track of multiple moving objects at once – or even see things in the fog or rain that others cannot. It’s one of the many benefits researchers have discovered about playing video games. Velez says when you keep an eye on your enemies, grab the best loot and change your inventory without even looking at the controller, you are essentially flexing your brain. Your brain loves challenges like this – and can actually grow from playing video games. Video games can develop other skills, too, Velez says, such as teaching you to never give up, no matter how many times it takes to beat the final boss or reach the next level. The persistence a child uses in video games shows that hard work will help achieve goals, both inside and outside the video game, Velez says. Additionally, he says succeeding in video games is not as simple as using the same strategy over and over again; video games can train a player to solve problems by considering and trying different solutions. Finally, Velez says video games also help people connect with friends either in person or virtually. While playing video games can be fun, Velez says real life can be more rewarding. He encourages young people to enjoy developing skills by playing video games but to also ask themselves if they are up to challenges outside of video games.