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On My Mind … Final Thoughts for 2021

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Wow, the final Team Insight Extra issue of 2021! In case you hadn’t been paying attention, it has been quite an active year and we have been here to cover it in 24 issues of TMX that complement our regular bi-monthly issues of Team Insight. Together we continued as the voice of the team sports industry and we take seriously our role as the only industry publication devoted to the world of team sports.

It is a market I have been covering editorially since 1992. Yea, I know I don’t look that old, but I have been on the magazine front lines of this industry since the time The Super Show dominated the scene, Starter was a cool brand, there were four team sports buying groups (and eight shows a year, yuck) and five trade magazines. The only thing remaining from that previous sentence are two of the buying groups – Sports Inc. and Nation’s Best Sports, which of course includes the old ADA membership – and now, me and Team Insight.

In those years I thought I had seen it all – people coming and going, new sports emerging, revolutionary new products, the unique merger of Dick’s Sporting Goods and Chick’s Sporting Goods – but nothing prepared me for the trials and tribulations of the past 18 months. No one saw this pandemic coming, and at first no one knew how to handle it. We all hunkered down, tried to stay healthy and tried to stay in business. Many succeeded, but many others failed.

Team sports held a unique position in this pandemic world for the past 12 months as we ever so slowly returned to some semblance of normalcy. Seasons resumed last January, and then many were promptly suspended or were reduced. Basketball and wrestling struggled as indoor sports at a time we were all supposed to stay away from each other indoors. But Spring 2021 brought with it renewed optimism as baseball, softball, soccer, track and lacrosse returned to the Great Outdoors to give everyone a little more breathing room.

Even that move to socially distant team sports didn’t always go smoothly, but at least there were games being played. Our readers had to deal with the fact that their customers probably didn’t need new uniforms this year after not using them in 2020, and there were a lot of unused balls and bats sitting around in team closets that didn’t need to be replaced in 2021.

And then just as we opened up came those annoying supply chain issues, so even if you had a customer ordering new unis, caps, socks or gear you couldn’t be sure you would be able to supply them. Compromises had to be made and both dealers and their teams understood they should be happy to get anything delivered. Communication was the key – as long as schools knew what to expect, and dealers knew from their suppliers what and when would be delivered – as we all realized we were all in this together. (At least it was better than 2020, when there was plenty of product but no one was buying anything.)

Anyone who has been in a grocery store or has tried to rent a car in the past six months knows what I am talking about.

From my perch in this editorial chair I send out accolades to the buying groups that provided their members with the tools and relationships they needed to stay in business. And to the vendors who worked with their dealers on minimums and POs and invoicing to allow them to navigate these uncharted waters. Also to the technology providers, led of course by OrderMyGear, that provided the technical tools that brought team dealers kicking and screaming into the 21st century. And kudos go out to BSN Sports, particularly hard hit by COVID-19 facing all of the problems local dealers did but on a national scale. It hasn’t been easy for anyone of any size.

Paradoxically, the shutdowns, cancelled buying shows and lack of in-person sales calls allowed Team Insight to play an even more vital role for our readers and advertisers — in addition to giving us a LOT of things to write about. With nowhere else to go, you increasingly turned to us for information, new products and trend reporting. We hope we didn’t disappoint.

So it is on to 2022. Will a post-COVID world of team sports exist? Will seasons be disrupted or played in full? Will we all see each other at the buying group shows and sales meetings? Check back in 12 months and I’ll give you the answers, but until then the one thing we can be sure of is that Team Insight will appear on your desks (and online at teaminsightmag.com) every other month and TeamInsightExtra will be delivered to your inbox on the first and third Thursdays of each month. As I said earlier, we take our role as the voice of America’s team dealers very seriously.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our offices to yours.

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Dec 16, 2021

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