Skateboarding used to be a counter-culture sport. In fact, towns across America ban skateboarders because they ruin public property, but also because who wants crowds of young boys at high speeds in an area where people are supposed to feel secure and happy and spending their money?
Bur today there are skateboarding overnight camps in middle America touting good old values like hard work and safe play.
The X Games have brought respectability to sports that are solo, not structured, and not sanctioned by schools. And as Generation X has gained control of city governments, skate parks have popped up in cities all over the US. As Gen X started controlling the spending for ski resorts, snowboarding became a standard offering, and some sports, like doubles-beach volleyball, has even edged it’s way into the Olympics.
At the same time, Generation Z is poised to be independent, counter-culture, and non-hierarchical—all the things that Generation Y is not. It makes sense: Baby boomers raised Gen Y to compete on teams and always be a winner. Generation X is raising Generation Z to be their own person, ignore the flow, and do what feels right.
The result will be that organized sports will look old-fashioned and boring. We will celebrate the athletes who are self-directed, independent and operate independently of an organized team.
I have read a lot of research about sports and women. Women earn more money if they play sports as girls. There are other benefits that come from sports, of course (body image, leadership, self-confidence), but they all roll into making more money—that is a quantifiable, easily understood result.
But I think that might be generational—that’s Title IX data that assumes that women have to smash through institutional barriers to get to high earning positions. Which today, they do not.
And there’s interesting research from sports psychologists that shows that the things kids love about sports actually have very little to do with the team part. Kids like friends and fun. And it makes sense to me that Generation Z will find that through solitary, unorganized sports.