On My Mind: Thoughts on Leaving Las Vegas After Sports Inc.
The team sports industry is back functioning at pre-pandemic efficiency — sort of. Still plagued by supply chain disruptions and hiring challenges, along with a somewhat rocky return to youth sports, the business of team sports nevertheless is ready to move on to 2022 with a renewed sense of optimism.
That’s my key takeaway upon returning from the recent Sports Inc. 2021 Team Dealers Fall Show, which took place last week in its traditional pre-Thanksgiving time slot in bustling Las Vegas. With mask mandates in place in the casinos, hotels and convention halls, there was still no getting away from the specter of COVID-19, but the simple fact that the major team sports vendors and most of the Sports Inc. members invested the time and energy to attend was testament to the strides the business has made in the past year.
Like the smaller but equally enthusiastic Nation’s Best Sports show earlier in the month, the Sports Inc. gathering in Lost Wages signaled a return to a semblance of normalcy in team sports. A few observations from a veteran observer:
- You will get little argument that the highlight of the three-day gathering was the first-of-its-kind After-Hours Beach Party, sponsored by Cap America and held at the trendy – although a bit chilly – Mandalay Bay Beach. (Apparently, “after-hours” for team dealers means it starts at 6 p.m.) Complete with good and plentiful food, free-flowing beverages and a wave pool, it has some of us recalling the Foot Locker parties of yore at The Super Show. It has been a long time that such a party was held in the world of team sports and kudos to Cap America for sponsoring it and Sports Inc. for putting it all together.
- The slightly revised schedule had the show opening earlier on Sunday afternoon, perhaps to accommodate the After-Hours party. It made the three hours of the show more business-like and booths were busier than normal on the first day, a time usually reserved for saying hi to old friends and socializing on the show floor.
- Once again making one of the biggest splash on the show floor was OrderMyGear, a technology partner of Sports Inc. We met with many of the OMG execs on hand and are excited about what they have planned to continue to bring team dealers (sometimes kicking and screaming) into the technology age. And you knew where the OMG booth was by all of the lime green shorts milling around.
- Speaking of OrderMyGear, it was interesting to see founder Kent McKeigg at the show with his new venture, a company called Team Gear Flow that builds on the technology with decorating capabilities for team dealers looking for an edge. Although Kent remains on the OMG board – and their T-shorts resemble those worn by OMG staffers – Team Gear Flow is independent from OrderMyGear and represents McKeigg’s expanded vision for team dealers.
- The mask mandate in the hotels, convention center and casino (where it was more of an “optional mandate”) was a bit annoying at first but soon became somewhat normal. By the end of the show the few people without a face covering seemed to be the outliers, not those of us wearing the masks. Another sign of the times.
- Finally, our thanks to the folks at Sports Inc. — Todd Adams, Travis Elam and Matt Martin, along with the rest of the staff, for making the Team Insight staff feel welcomed. The November/December issue of Team Insight debuted at the show and was eagerly scooped up by attendees. It was nice to see people read what we write!