GIRLS' SPORTS OVERVIEW: BASKETBALL

Slam Dunk

Dealers shoot for the moon when it comes to girls’ basketball sales.

Strong professional leagues, expanding college programs and strong and steady high school participation underpin the steady growth and success of women’s basketball. And because this is an Olympic year, there is lots of potential for substantial growth opportunities, particularly due to the addition of 3X3 competition.

“I’m bullish on the growth of women’s basketball,” says Jim Tooley, CEO of USA Basketball. “The WNBA has been rebranded and is now more powerful, the NCAA is strong, USA Basketball has added corporate partners and media coverage — it’s all converging and creating more exposure and popularity. I’m confident that we can sustain and improve it over the long term.”

Toward this end, the organization is focusing on two key initiatives.

• The first, which launched in 2019, is an expansion of the women’s national team program leading up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The effort seeks to amplify the profile of the women’s team and women’s basketball in general and includes community programs and outreach, a media tour and playing college exhibition games.

• The second is a continuation of USA Basketball’s Women in the Game, a now three-year-old program that speaks to women’s empowerment and opportunity by educating high school girls, college women and young professionals about career paths in the sports industry.

“The game is staying the same or growing and we’re seeing consistency in all of the things that USA Basketball is doing,” says Tooley. “Our national team programs start at age 16 and focus on high school and college players. But we need to expand efforts to older players, too. It needs to be a holistic approach whereby all girls and women share opportunities.”

There is a general consensus among team dealers that female basketball has been steady over the past few seasons and will likely remain solid going forward.

“Hoops has held its own,” says Dale Keith, owner of Duke’s Sporting Goods, which operates one location each in Elizabethtown and Bowling Green, KY. “About 30 percent of our overall business is female and we expect that to stay consistent for the next year or two.”

Although Duke’s uses the same strategy to sell to male and female teams, Keith has found that “girls like to buy more things and are more aware of style and color than the guys.” He also believes that having female reps would be extremely helpful when selling to female coaches and teams.

California Pro Sports’ Kim Karsh concurs: “Our basketball business is split evenly between male and female and our approach to both is basically the same. But to succeed on the girls’ side, you just need to be open, fashion-savvy and know what girls are liking in terms of style and fit.”

BY THE NUMBERS
The 2019 SFIA Basketball Single Sport Participation Report found that in 2018, 24.2 million people played basketball, with 22.1 percent being female. Overall participation rose 3.5 percent from the prior year.
Basketball was the third-most popular high school participation sport for girls in 2019, numbering 399,0767 players, according to the NFHS 2018-19 High School Athletics Participation Survey.
Retail sales of basketballs and backboards (other than systems, portable backyard systems) totaled $62.8 million in 2018, with intended use by women accounting for 23 percent. (Source: NSGA)

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