Most people like to start the new year off with a bang, while we want to end it with one also. This holiday season we have gotten the greatest gift of all.. 3 new employees! All of which bring so much talent and personality to our growing team. 

Introducing David Oakes as a new Client Relation specialist David graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in marketing. He is an experienced professional who has been in the customer service and Account management field for the last 15 years. His passion for customer service always leaves customers in a better place than where they started their experience. David has a strong passion for sports, in between playing men's league and coaching his son's youth team, you can find David watching his son's baseball games, or spending time with his wife and daughter.

We didn’t stop there though, adding another Client Relationship Specialist in the mix, meet Aaron Maciejewski! Aaron has been in customer service for over 15 years, spending the majority of that time in luxury retail and fitness.  When working with his clients, Aaron is always looking to elevate their experience and help create moments that will stay with them for years to come.  When Aaron is not at pellucid, he can be found instructing at Spoke Cycle + Fitness in the Rochester area.  There, he leads spin and row classes; pushing his members to take steps toward achieving their fitness goals.

Our next new hire is now coming into a position we have never had at Pellucid. Welcoming Sara Meadow to our team as our first Brand Manager! Sara graduated in 2020 with a degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Florida Gulf Coast University. However, since graduating she has pursued a career in marketing having 3 years in the industry and continues to grow. To Pellucid's advantage, Sara has grown up around the hotel industry giving her knowledge of what we are all about. With Sara's go-getter mentality she strives to set her team up for success! Outside of work you can find her traveling around the US as she seeks adventure or laying low with the thing that makes her happiest (her cat VV).


This is only a small snippet of who they are but they jive perfectly with our team. All three of these awesome people have hit the ground running in their first few weeks and are ready to accomplish our goals of making good things happen for others.  

Visit our team page to see the pellucid team continue to grow!



On this version of Tournament Talk we chat with Sean Flaherty the Co-Founder and CEO of Playeasy. The conversation focuses on Sean's career, the origin story of Playeasy, what is next for their platform, and how it positively affects the sports tourism industry.

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!

As I returned to the sports tourism industry after a short detour into other sectors, I was excited to see the new trends and how the industry had grown. The one consistent theme I observed was the significant increase in the use of technology to support the youth sports industry. 

 

This included the significant advancement in the minimum standard of facilities. Nowadays, if you do not have Wi-Fi and mobile food ordering throughout the entire site, you are behind the times. The newer facilities even provide the destinations and the event organizer with consumer mobile tracking. Event organizers will no longer need surveys to understand their customers, they will now have numerous data points on their consumers with one click of a mouse. I observed significant increases in registration platforms, housing booking technology, and RFP distribution solutions. These RFP distribution solutions allow small to mid-size event organizers the ability to position and sell themselves to the right facilities and destinations. 

 

However, there is very little information available on how to build your RFP to help those that are new to the youth sports tourism game create the proper RFP to get them noticed by the right potential partners. So here are some tips I have learned over the years that will help you compete on a national scale.

 

  1. Self-Evaluation – Take time to analyze your business. Do a SWOT analysis and be honest with yourself. Maybe you are great at operating your events, but do not have the business acumen to drive revenue through anything other than registrations? Or maybe you are a revenue-making machine, but your customer service is lacking, and you are losing teams to your competitors. Understanding where you are as a company and where you want to go in the future will be vital to selling yourself to destinations.
  2. Who Are You? – Give destinations a clear view of your company’s mission and purpose. Highlight why you are different than your competitors. Identify any causes or initiatives that you support. This will help paint the picture of what kind of organization you are at your core.
  3. Understand Your Audience – For the most part, you will be sending your RFP to destinations across the county, who will then pair you with the right facility. The vast majority will mostly care about “heads in beds”, basically how many room nights you are producing in their area. This is because their funding comes from hotel taxes. While this is an important element to the value of your events, it is not the only element destinations consider. Other key factors may include marketing exposure to the destination (TV coverage, international/national media, etc.), filling inventory in new sport-specific facilities, and/or aligning with a community’s initiatives (diversity, attracting young professionals, health/nutrition).
  4. Needs vs Wants – Identify a list of necessary, must-have items that you will need from a facility and destination to run your event. These should be items that must be secured or the event is a non-starter. This may include specific dates, the number of playing surfaces, square footage of indoor space, minimum hotel rooms on peak nights, venue requirements, etc. Once you have this established, you will know your floor and then you can add in your wants (wish list) items. This may include grant funding, volunteer support, sponsorship dollars, in-kind donations, etc. You do not have to identify which items are needs vs wants but it will help you when comparing the value of each RFP response. Providing a deadline for responses and giving a framework of your evaluation criteria will help make sure you receive qualified proposals.
  5. Provide History, Project Growth – If you are an established event organizer, make sure to identify what you have produced historically. Key items to include are the number of years the event has taken place, the total number of participants (local and out of area), spectators, and the number of hotel room nights produced. If this is your first event, you will have to “sell the dream”! Identify how and why your event will be successful and grow in future years.
  6. Testimonials – Use your network and previous customers/partners to showcase your value. These testimonials/referrals will help provide you with credibility and assist you in getting the most support possible. These can come from previous host destinations, hoteliers, vendors, and participants from your events.

 

I hope these tips are valuable to you and help provide the framework for creating a great RFP that gets you the responses you need. The goal is to package your event properties so that you get the most support possible, while also being honest with what you can provide. The goal is to find the right partner so that you can grow together for years to come. We at Pellucid Travel have years of experience in this industry and offer this service to our partners. We would love to learn more about your organization and would be happy to assist you in maximizing your RFPs!

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