We are excited to spotlight our partner, Ashley Gersuk Murphy with Summit Lacrosse Ventures. Her organization is a leader in nationwide lacrosse events and programs for boys, girls, men, and women, with a clear focus on the responsible and sustainable growth of the game. They deliver exceptional value and first-class experiences for their customers, with an emphasis on the development of life skills, alongside athletic skills. She is a 4-time team captain and National Champion from Northwestern. With 15 years of experience in the industry, we are excited to share a small part of Ashley’s story. 

What is your earliest sports memory?

  •   My earliest sports memories are a combination of playing every sport under the sun with my brother and neighbors in our neighborhood cul-de-sac, throwing the baseball with my Dad, and begging my Mom to lobby the local Boys & Girls Club to allow me to be the first girl to play baseball little league, rather than softball. She succeeded!

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

  •   I always wanted to be in the FBI, and also to be a college athlete.

Did your involvement in sports change your approach or motivate you to do anything differently during your time with Summit? 

  •  My lifelong involvement in sports is fundamental to who I am, and most everything I do in my adult life – team orientation, work ethic, motivation to succeed, leadership, accountability – these all stem from the experiences and skills developed as an athlete who was always a part of something bigger than myself, with a great drive to be better, and makes those around me better.

What has been Summit Lacrosse Ventures' best achievement and biggest challenge so far? 

  •  Summit Lacrosse Ventures (SLV) was formed in 2015 as an umbrella organization to manage various existing events, and engage in new event opportunities. Our best achievement thus far has been to maintain the character, integrity, and history of our traditional events (ex. Lake Placid Summit Classic, est. 1990 and Northstar Midwest Showcase, est. 2005), while streamlining, professionalizing, and standardizing our operations to create an ‘SLV standard’ to meet the expectations of today’s customer and our industry’s evolving landscape. Our biggest challenge was in the face of the global pandemic – to ensure the survival of our organization, and maintain the jobs and livelihoods of our small team, while protecting the customer relationships that we value tremendously. I am proud to say that we survived, rebuilt, and are well positioned for long-term sustainability.

What is your vision for Summit Lacrosse Ventures in the future?

  •   SLV will continue to operate high-quality events in desirable destinations because we firmly believe in the enduring value of team and family-oriented experiences, in special places. We strive to give young athletes a platform to develop tools for success in life, and we believe that the experiences offered through quality youth sports are a fundamental piece of the puzzle.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to run events in the youth amateur sports industry? 

  •  You must have a passion for youth sports and their value to our next generation. From there, (some) keys to success are sound strategy, relationships, diligence, transparency, and adaptability. The adage – “do it right or do it twice’ – holds true!

Recently the sports tourism industry has been discussing the issues surrounding securing and retaining referees for events. Two of our partners, Eugene Binda of Refrees Crease (EB) and Ryan Morgan of Soccer Management Company (RM), answer some questions to give their perspective. 

  1. What is your current role and what was your career path to get there?

EB- I am the President of Referees Crease. I started to schedule referees in high school and then worked with multiple leagues outside of the city. I found there was a need for a central scheduler and started asking leagues if they wanted one central assignor to control the assignments. The company grew from that point on. 

RM- I am currently the Southeast Director for Soccer Management Company. When I graduated college, I started working for a local soccer club in Virginia coaching a few teams and also running 2 tournaments. After 3 years, I started working for Soccer Management Company running multiple events throughout the country. Now I oversee all Southeast Events, managing 12-15 events per year, mostly in Florida. 

  1. How long have you been working with and scheduling referees?

EB- Since 1976 for the South Boston Youth Hockey League.

RM- I have been working with and scheduling referees since 2013. From 2013-2016 that was just in Virginia. Since 2016 I have worked with referees from 10+ states. 

  1. What is your process to secure referees?

EB- The process depends upon the levels. 

For youth hockey, my main objective is to get new officials as many games without burning them out. The assigning process at the youth level also helps me with those who can follow simple tasks. For example, are they coachable, can the official make adjustments to improve their skill sets? Skating, rules knowledge, positioning, and communication are the key factors for advancement to the higher levels. 

For the advanced level’s juniors, college, and professional rank, the selection for advancement there are a lot more moving parts, time commitments, and travel, are some of the keys to advancement. The good hockey is not coming to you, you need to go to it! And for some that is a commitment, they cannot make, family work and other commitments are key factors in some officials not wanting to advance. 

Other key factors you must be an excellent skater and be in great physical condition to work at the college and professional levels. Skating is the key, you must be able to skate to put yourself in the next possible position to make the correct call.

RM - We hire a referee assignor that is often local to the area with an extensive knowledge and database of the local referees. We keep the referee assignor updated on expected number of teams/games so they can plan accordingly for the necessary number of referees. 

  1. In past years, what challenges did you have in securing and retaining referees?

EB- Hockey has expanded at twice the rate of the officiating pool, in years past, past we had enough officials to cover the game. In the 1990s and early 2000s we still had ex-players wanting to join the officiating ranks to stay connected to the game and get a pretty good workout doing it. Not so in today’s game. 

RM - Overall, the biggest challenge is just the number of referees needed compared to the number of referees available in a certain area. In some areas across the country, there is a large pool or referees, but in most areas, it is definitely a challenge trying to fill all the games with enough referees. 

  1. Recently, have those challenges changed?

EB- Yes, there is more hockey and fewer people want to join our ranks for several reasons. There are more opportunities for the players to keep playing. When I came through the system you were done after high school for the most part there were not a lot of other playing opportunities like today. 

There were not many junior and D3 college teams so playing at the next level was out of reach for most of us, you had to be an exceptional player to make it. 

Now there are several minor leagues as well allowing players to stay in the game longer, and when they are done, they go into the real working world and start families. Most players do not come back until they have kids playing and coaching instead of officiating. 

  1. If so, what are the most pressing issues?

EB- We need to make it easier for new officials to join our ranks, some of the current requirements are too time-consuming are overwhelming for some, then the start-up for equipment and fees does not make it attractive. 

The system is going to crash, we have a lot of veteran officials leaving in record numbers and not enough new officials coming in. With the veterans leaving along goes the game experience these officials have. It takes about three years for an official to have the skill sets to make a difference in managing a game. 

RM- Easily the most pressing issue is referee abuse. As the older generation of referees starts to finish their career, it is hard to get the younger generation of referees to stick with it due to the harassment that some officials receive. The number of tournaments/games that happen every year is constantly increasing while the number of referees available have not been able to keep the same pace, often times decreasing.

  1. What is your opinion as to why these challenges have occurred? What is your strategy to overcome them?

EB - Sportsmanship is nonexistent. Players, coaches, and parents are hurting the game, and the behavior goes unchecked, no one is willing from an administrative standpoint to remove them from their organizations. Allowing this type of behavior to go unchecked to me means it is acceptable! 

We need to continue to drive more training sessions and opportunities for advancement. If there are and ex junior, college, or pro players we have the ability to fast-track them up the referee ranks. 

As far as the behavior --- if the administrators do not figure it out soon, they will be doing the games! 

RM - Obviously, it starts with the behavior of parents and coaches as far as respecting the referees. Treating referees better will keep them in the game. As far as getting more interest from younger referees, youth clubs can host referee courses and provide an avenue for younger players to become referees. 

  1. What should tournament organizers consider when scheduling and working with referees?

EB- That is a loaded question, quality, service, price -pick two. Realistically outside of the players, the officiating is the next most important tournament directors need to figure out. 

We all know subpar officiating can make or break an event. For the most part, I have a great relationship with the tournaments I am involved in. 

However, there is a new quick-hit market for tournaments, and they shop around for the lowest game cost, and like anything else you get what you pay for. A lot of officials are not willing to listen to the coaches, players' parents for a minimal fee, that is a new reality. 

RM- One factor a tournament organizer must consider when scheduling is the number of games per field. You have to schedule enough games for a referee to make it worth the time to come out, but also can’t schedule a referee for 8 straight games in the summer heat. Tournament organizers also have to consider keeping referees hydrated during the day and also providing them with snacks/lunch throughout the day. Tournament Organizers work closely with Referee Assignors to find the right balance of number of games and age groups for each referee. 

  1. Closing thoughts? Any other information you want to share that would be pertinent to the sports tourism industry?

EB - Find a good referee scheduler and plan ahead to make sure you have enough officials to cover the event because the last thing you want is to have games go dark because you do not have enough officials

When all participants have an enjoyable experience at the tournament venue, they are more likely to come back and spread the word about what a great time they had at the event. 

RM- Soccer is a growing sport, with the number teams and games being played increasing every year at a rapid pace. Especially with the World Cup 2026 approaching, which will be hosted in the United States, the sport will continue to grow. In addition to developing pathways for players and coaches , referees will need the same amount of attention to allow for the continuous growth of the great game of soccer in this country.

In this edition of Tournament Talk, Jason Puckett discusses how to start an adaptive sports program and the positive impact on the community with Tom Simmons from Rochester Special Hockey.

Listen to the full interview here!

By: Neil McNab, Executive Director, Rush Union

As parents, we want to help our children find activities—often sports—for which they have great interest. We are passionate about it. And once our children discover a passion for something, parents often go into high gear, investing time, energy, and money into that discovery. It’s easy to get caught up. 

The studies on early sport specialization have been prevalently publicized over the last several years. Some disadvantages of specializing at a young age have been highlighted; and yet as soon as our child tells us they like something or want to try a new activity, we immediately sign them up for year-round camps, clinics, season play, private lessons, you name it. Good. Better. Best. Next level. Youth sports have become masterful marketing machines and with that can come the realization that we might be pushing our children too soon to commit to one thing. 

Many sports offer year-round options now, beginning as young as 6 years old. Options for our kids are important. And some—a few, like Olympians—like that singular focus and thrive, even at a tender single-digit age. Most will do better having exposure to multiple options. And when we stand back, soak it all in, it’s good to be committed to a program, but equally as important to say no if that’s the better route. 

My daughter recently expressed an interest in playing soccer over the winter months—the “off-season”. This was something we had never invested in before as a family. How much did we want to invest in a year-round activity when that would mean missing out on full-family time? Fortunately, Rush Union offers a program that is “customized” to parents’ and athletes’ off-season tolerances. Short programs, a la carte clinics, and pay-as-you-go programs came to the table based on feedback received by our members. In my personal case, we selected a five-week program with practices and no game play. It was a good balance. My daughter and my family enjoyed our winter. 

As a family we often travel over the summer on vacation or enroll our children in other summer camps like County Kids Camp, which is an outdoor camp that focuses on good old fashion outdoor activities like playing in the mud, and rope swings into the lake. So, summer soccer leagues may not be on the horizon for us, but a weeklong soccer camp will likely be worked in somewhere this July. 

If you are unsure what do to with your child’s sporting experience, there are people you can turn to for perspective, starting with your athlete. Simply ask them what they would like to do with their time. Their passion for a sport will certainly grow if your child gets to be in the driving seat of their own experience. There are also parenting groups, such as Soccer Parenting Association, that provide parents with great guidance and options. League organizers and coaches can also offer advice. 

If your child has not found their passion yet, you do not need to heavily invest in time or finances to discover where it may lie. Many children’s interests change over time. My oldest son is nearly 12 and has not settled on any one thing that genuinely piques his interest, so we encourage him to experiment with lots of activities as he goes on his journey of self-discovery. And it may be that he doesn’t want to do just one thing. 

 

More about Neil:

Neil played through the Manchester City youth system from 1994-98. Moved to Portsmouth F.C. in the summer of 1998 and turned professional at Portsmouth in November 1998 where he played until 2001.

In April 2001 Neil moved to the USA and during a 4 year span played professionally for the Utah Blittz, Long Island Rough Riders, Syracuse Salty Dogs and the Wilmington Hammerheads until winter 2004. Neil was part of two USL National Championship teams with the Utah Blitzz, and Long Island Rough Riders respectively.

Neil coached at various youth programs throughout the U.S. from 2001-2004. In the winter of 2004 Neil started coaching for TYSA (Tucker Youth Soccer Association) where he became Assistant Director of coaching in 2005-2008.

Neil joined CFC in June 2008 where he served as Executive Director for Chiefs Futbol Club. In the summer of 2020, Chiefs FC and Georgia Rush merged to form Rush Union Soccer, where Neil currently serves as Executive Director.

Neil holds the USSF A, UEFA C coaching licenses, the NSCAA Director of Coaching Diploma, and the USSF Grassroots Instructor License.

*Note this article first appeared in the March 2022 Our Milton Neighbor publication and consent to redistribute was provided by the author*

Lori is a trusted partner of ours and someone our staff truly enjoys working with, so we wanted to share a little more about her journey in the business. We have learned a lot from Lori and we think you will too! Lori has a proven track record of strong positive leadership utilizing a team-focused approach. She oversees all aspects of the business strategy, growth, and development. A former DI player at the University of Richmond in field hockey and lacrosse, and a former US National team member.

What is your earliest sports memory?

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Did your children’s involvement in sports change your approach or motivate you to do anything differently?

What has been Top Threat/Triple Threat’s best achievement and biggest challenge so far?

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to run events in the youth amateur sports industry?

Jason Puckett speaks with Mark Dvoroznak, Operations & Co-Founder of Base Sports Group, to discuss bringing a professional sports sponsorship approach to amateur sports. Valuable best practices are shared to help facilities and event organizers drive more revenue.

Listen to the full interview here!

Jason Puckett sat down with William Knox, President/ Owner of Legacy Sports Group and partner of The Collective, to discuss the current state of the industry regarding facilities, his new initiative with SportsETA, and to provide destinations and facility operators insight from an industry leader. 

Listen to the full interview here

We are excited to announce four new Client Relationship Specialists to the Pellucid Travel family. They all join with a wealth of knowledge in the travel industry and to get to know them better, we asked them a few fun questions below. For more information on their background, check our Meet the Team page.

Kelsey Fischer

1. Why do you love working in the travel industry? 

Meeting and getting to know people from all across the country. You learn about different lifestyles and locations. I can "see" a little bit of the country without having to visit it, although given the chance to visit - I'd jump at it!

2. Who is your favorite sports team? 

Anything Syracuse University, Bills, or Yankees

3. Best sports memory

I love watching my kids enjoy their sports and the excitement they have playing and competing!

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Gretchen Secky

1. Why do you love working in the travel industry? 

Getting to know different areas of the country and learning something historical about it is my personal favorite reason for traveling!

2. Who is your favorite sports team?

Buffalo Bills Baby!!!

3. Best sports memory

Playing catch with Johnny Bench, Brooks Robinson and Lou Brock at Cooperstown. I didn't know then what legends they were!!

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Linda Smith

1. Why do you love working in the travel industry? 

My love of travel would be my reason. I want to share that love with other people to make the best experience possible happen for them. If I can just do one thing to make their experience better, it's worth it. Sharing tips or recommendations is the best way to do that.

2. Who is your favorite sports team?

Currently, it's the Tampa Bay Bucs. When Greg Jennings played for Green Bay, I rooted for them, having a personal connection to Greg after booking many trips for him and his wife, Nicole, including their honeymoon.

3. Best sports memory?

I played a mediocre tennis game in my teen years but lived vicariously through watching my brothers compete at national events, meeting future tennis celebrity stars along the way. I continued supporting my own kids, my daughter, a competitive baton twirler, winning the World Championship in Amsterdam and my son. played college baseball. I can't say that I have just one favorite, because I keep making new sports memories with my grandsons, the oldest playing college football in the fall.

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Patti Gaudy

1. Why do you love working in the travel industry?

I love working in the travel industry because generally, people are happy when they travel! I am a "people person" by nature and love to interact with the clients, whether it is for a traveling sports team or a vacation client. My vacation clients are fun because I can recommend places, I've been to myself and can share my own experiences to help make their vacation the best ever!

2. Who is your favorite sports team?

I guess I would have to say the Buffalo Bills, since it's my "home" team. They've had their ups and downs, but their "ups" are especially fun to watch! Also, I worked with the team scheduling all of the corporate events at their Summer Training Camp for 19 years, so I guess that's why they are my favorite team!

3. Best sports memory

I didn't play sports myself, but thoroughly enjoyed watching my kids play everything from soccer, football, cheerleading and dance! My best sports memory has to have been watching my son play soccer in his senior year of high school. Even though he played club soccer since he was 8 yrs old, his senior year was the first year he played Varsity. He was a track star and a wrestler but decided to play soccer in his last year of high school. He started out slow but was soon nicknamed "The Machine" and helped take his team to the State Championships that year! Very exciting for me to watch!

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Rush Soccer announces two new tournament partners and a new deal with an existing one 

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Rush Soccer has secured two new tournament partners, which will assist clubs with elements of travel and apparel, according to Rush Director of Tournaments Steve Lovgren.

Pellucid Travel has been designated as the official housing partner for Rush Soccer and will be providing housing services for member clubs for their events.

“We’re excited to be working with Rush clubs in providing world-class service for their teams and participants in upcoming events,” said Shannon Barrows, the CEO, and owner of Pellucid Travel.

“Given the amount of experience Pellucid Travel and its connections with local Convention and Visitors Bureaus, we think this group is going to help Rush clubs take their tournaments to the next level,” Lovgren said.

Simax Sports is the other new tournament partner, an on-site heat press apparel company with a great reputation for superb customer service and a proven track record of good experience for tournament participants. The Atlanta-based company will be providing screen print t-shirts and other apparel from Capelli, Rush’s exclusive clothing partner, at upcoming events.

“We look forward to providing quality products and great service at Rush tournaments in the future,” said Yuriy Radchuck, Simax Sports CEO and founder.

“The kicker is that Simax will be carrying Capelli gear at all Rush events,” Lovgren said. “This will be a great way to provide support to another partner that has supported Rush so fervently over the years.”

Lovgren also shared that Rush has renewed its contract with Wilson Trophy Company, which will be providing discounted awards. However, new to the agreement will be Wilson Trophy providing co-branded items for winners’ circles, including backdrops, wind feathers, frame pop-ups, mesh banners, and other items to elevate the award ceremony environments.

About Simax: Simax Sports is a national sporting apparel industry that works hand in hand with executives, directors, business owners, and coaches of soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics, track n field, swimming, wrestling, regattas, cheer, féis, etc. Simax is rapidly expanding its services throughout the U.S. to provide the best quality custom printed apparel both on-site at the tournaments and by orders. We have serviced events with 50 teams or 3,000 teams. Simax highly values all relationships with events and tournaments, and we take on every job with passion and dignity.

About Pellucid Travel: Pellucid travel is a full-service sports housing agency, focused on making good things happen for other people. We have easy processes, clear and transparent communication, and the knowledge and experience to find you the right housing solutions.

Pellucid Travel is proud to be the official accommodations parameter for DME events!  

The vision, the brand, and, overall mission of DME are exactly why pellucid Travel chose to align with DME. The greatest thing about our business is we get to choose who we want to work with. We choose our partners carefully as we value the relationship and the success we create together. We are super excited to be a part of this talented team.

“I knew instantly when I met with Dan that we could make good things happen for others together” -Shannon Barrows, Pellucid Owner.  

DME Academy is an elite, multi-sport training and educational institution designed for student-athletes, they offer a wide variety of programming, from 6th-12th grade co-ed boarding school and post-grad programs, to year-round camps, tournaments, team events, and collegiate and professional training.

“As we continue to grow our Academy, our first-class facilities have drawn the attention of many tournament operators. We found it necessary to look for an expert in the hotel and housing space. In Pellucid Travel we have found the perfect solution for all our travel needs. We will be working closely with Pellucid to establish Daytona Beach and DME Academy at the very top of the tournament destination landscape. We are pleased to announce our partnership.”- Dan Panaggio, DME Owner

We are ready to make good things happen for others together!