Diane Mastrull: At expo, the serious side of youth sports

20130805_inq_mastrull05z-b
Organizers of December's Sports & Education Expo Marc Rosenthal (left) and Perry and Sherri Gold.

They are a hard-charging South Jersey trio of entrepreneurs on a no-nonsense mission regarding something that's supposed to be fun but isn't always: youth sports.

Concussions, knee injuries, overly aggressive coaches, and obnoxious bleacher parents bear out the not-so-fun part.

And there's the economic ramifications: Talented young athletes, if kept healthy and coached effectively, can wind up with college scholarships, even drafted into the pros.

Yes, indeed, youth sports is serious business.

To drive home that point and best prepare all stakeholders - athletes, coaches, parents, athletic directors, trainers, and guidance counselors - Sherri and Perry Gold of Moorestown and Marc Rosenthal of Haddonfield have organized what is believed to be a first-of-a-kind expo.

Their inaugural Sports & Education Expo is scheduled to take place Dec. 13-15 (Army-Navy Game weekend) at the Convention Center. But the founders' intent is to stage it in subsequent years here and in other U.S. cities, with "a distinct possibility this will become virtual, so we could provide these resources 365 days a year," said Sherri Gold, the mother of two sons who play baseball at Moorestown High School.

The expo is several steps removed from home-improvement products, foam manufacturing, and singing at wedding receptions - just some of the many careers in which its architects have dabbled.

Sherri Gold, 48, a native of Burbank, Calif., in the early 1980s was one of the first women in management at Home Depot, where she met her husband. They would go on to run a sporting-goods store in San Francisco and a golf shop in Las Vegas before buying a foam-manufacturing company in Pomona, Calif., in 1988.

The Golds grew North American Foam from $50,000 in sales and six employees into a multimillion-dollar operation with 175 employees when they sold it in 2005 to move to South Jersey to care for sick relatives.

It was a homecoming for Perry Gold, who grew up in Haddon Township and graduated with Rosenthal from Haddon Township High School.

Rosenthal has spent more than 30 years in event management. The last 13, he has been commuting to Detroit each week as executive producer for Mitch Albom, the sportswriter, radio broadcaster, and best-selling author who grew up in Haddon Township, too. Albom played piano in a Fifties rock-and-roll band, the Lucky Tiger Grease Stick, with Rosenthal, Perry, and five other friends back in their high school days.

An accomplished singer whose portfolio includes a Carnegie Hall performance, Rosenthal more regularly has appeared locally at weddings with the Marc Rose Dance Band.

Although their career paths have been divergent, the common experience of the Golds and Rosenthal as parents of athletes - Rosenthal has a daughter who will be rowing for Northeastern University this fall - inspired them to come together on the expo.

"We all have the same goal, and that is taking care of our kids," said Sherri Gold, the event's director.

Virtua, the South Jersey hospital system, is "presenting sponsor" of the event. It will provide lectures, screenings, and demonstrations on a range of topics, including concussions, heat illness, overuse injuries, sports nutrition, and preseason conditioning, and also will offer CPR-certification classes and creditworthy continuing-education seminars for athletic trainers.

Screenings will assess athletes' physical fitness and movement methods. A sports nutritionist will advise on healthy ways to tailgate and the snacks that should accompany an athlete to a practice or competition, said Paul Kasper, director of sports medicine for Virtua.

For parents, there will be lessons on recognizing signs of concussion or other serious injuries, and efforts to empower them to, for instance, stand up to a coach who is pressing their child too much.

"A lot of parents don't know what they don't know," said Kasper, whose three kids play sports. "The consequences are injuries or lost opportunities - with academics and athletics."

Bryan Queeney, a youth baseball coach for more than 20 years and program director at Parisi Speed School in Cherry Hill, a sports-performance-enhancement company for young athletes, said the expo, with more than 300 exhibitors expected, is unrivaled in scope. Most expos are devoted to a single sport. This one will cover at least eight, along with health issues, bullying and college preparedness, including financial aid and admissions processes.

Additional exhibitors and sponsors are welcome, the expo's organizers say.

There will be star power there, too, including baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and his brother Bill.

"I've never heard of another one or have been to one that is this detailed and this intense," said Queeney, whose company will have a booth at the expo.

Sherri Gold admitted one shortcoming: "Not making it seven days long."

 


Diane Mastrull:

About the Expo

For information on tickets and other details on Sports & Education Expo, go to www.sportseducationexpo.com.

 


Diane Mastrull: >Inquirer.com

Hear participants talk about why they are holding the Sports & Education Expo in Philadelphia in December. www.inquirer.com/sportsexpo


Contact Diane Mastrull at 215-854-2466, dmastrull@phillynews.com or @dmastrull on Twitter.

For information on tickets and other details on Sports & Education Expo, go to www.sportseducation expo.com.