Elite Tournaments is a Maryland-headquartered,nationwide presenter and a leading provider of full-service event management. Elite Tournaments endeavors to provide professionalism to youth and adult sporting events through organizational efficiency, specialized management, and operational proficiency. Its scope of detail includes event logistics, sanctioning, staffing, college recruitment, assignment of referees, housing management, website management and merchandise sales.
Sports Destination Management sat down with Mike Libber to discuss business, youth sports and industry issues.
Sports Destination Management: We’re ready to exit 2021. How has the year been treating you?
Mike Libber: We’re coming out okay – more than okay, actually. We have increased our employment and our events have almost doubled. We took over some events this year that in the past, had been run by local organizations, and they didn’t have the manpower any longer to staff them. The other reason we grew is we landed a very large contract for the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) and that has really increased our calendar. Organizations are leaning toward groups that have the experience to put on events.
SDM: Do you work nationwide?
Libber: We are nationwide, and we generally put on some international events as well. We have tournaments and showcases scheduled for 10 states from Florida to California, Massachusetts to Texas, North Carolina to Utah, and including every state in the Mid-Atlantic with many of these events having ties to international events as well.
SDM: How is the international side of the business?
Libber: With the travel restrictions put in place with the pandemic, our international events have been rescheduled or shifted to another format. All our partners and events are looking to come back at the end of 2021 and 2022.
SDM: Sounds like business overall is good, though.
Libber: It is extremely good. We were busy going into the summer and it hasn’t slowed down.
SDM: What age groups are you serving?
Libber: We are primarily a youth tournament event owner – generally U8 to U19.
SDM: We’ve heard youth registration in sports is at an all-time high. What do you attribute that to?
Libber: I honestly think it’s pent-up demand. Youth sports registrations are at a high because we are now entering a generation in which both parents had the opportunity to play at high levels more than any others before. Parents are starting their children in more sports and travel or club level sports at an earlier age.
SDM: Your tournaments seem to be both lacrosse and soccer.
Libber: We’re about 75 percent soccer, 25 percent lacrosse – but honestly, we can do any sport. We started with only soccer events, but we have expanded to have over 25% of our events in lacrosse. Elite Tournaments has also run field hockey, running festivals, etc. We are able to put on any sporting event – volleyball, basketball, baseball – anything.
SDM: What difference did 2020 make on your events?
Libber: Earlier in the year, I’d say we were seeing more local teams than out of state but that’s changing too. 2020 started off hard with all of our events from March through July canceled with the pandemic, but we were able to spend that down time focusing on bringing in new clients, including the IWLCA, and enhancing our current events. When we were able to start again, we had more local teams at the events then in years past, but this trend is reversing the further we move into 2021.
SDM: What do you see as a primary driver of youth sports?
Libber: In soccer, I’d say more interest is driven by the World Cup than in the men’s game. A lot of youth teams follow the US Women’s National Team. I think that parents, and media are driving components within youth sports. The parents start the process and then with all the media access, youth players can see and emulate all the professionals.
SDM: Years ago, lacrosse was a northeastern phenomenon but that is changing.
Libber: It is. We’ve seen growth in lacrosse through the Midwest and South growth – well, really, across the entire country. I’d like to see more events and more teams in the upper Midwest – Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Idaho. California is flourishing and there are a lot of clubs in Washington, as well as Oregon and Texas. One example of the growth is the fact that the Presidents Cup was presented in Dallas this year; it’s usually in Florida. Coaches are really excited about growing the game too.
SDM: What are you looking for when you’re doing site selections?
Libber: You have to consider the cost for families as what the entry fees will be. Those costs are generally reflected in the costs you as an event organizer are paying for things like the rental of the facility and the hotels; therefore, you want something that is affordable to your players/teams and wont’ outprice for what you need. The quality of the playing surfaces at the sites is key and so are the conveniences such as parking, bathrooms, food availability and hotel locations. We also have to think about climate and timing – there’s no way you can put on an outdoor event in January in a place where the temperatures are freezing.
SDM: If cities have an interest in hosting, how should they contact you?
Libber: They can send me an e-mail at email@example.com.
SDM: Do you see any particular demographic in your tournaments?
Libber: Overall, it seems like kids are starting younger. After age 12 or 13, the numbers in tournaments go down some.
SDM: Do you live stream the tournaments you put on?
Libber: In the past, we have worked with several live streaming services. We’re not tied to one specific company; it really depends on the geographic area of the tournament and the level and type of event.
SDM: What kind of numbers did you see at your tournaments?
Libber: Our Memorial Day weekend tournament, the Columbia Invitational, did really well – we had 6,000 room nights. We were in Maryland, using 60 different fields in Howard County, Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County. All in all, we had 756 teams. We saw a lot of great discussion on the social media platforms afterwards.
SDM: We’ve heard a lot of talk about small-sided soccer and lacrosse. Are you working with those formats?
Libber: Yes, we are. We do it all.