After years of service from his trusty rod and reel, an avid fisherman decided it was time to buy a new combo. As he was making his selection, he recalled the many memories his old rod and reel had given him and wondered if someone else, maybe someone less fortunate, might be able to create a few memories of their own using his old rod and reel. Satisfied that he would be passing something of value on to someone else, he set his old rod and reel next to the curb in front of his home and attached a sign that stated "please take me."For more than a week, the old rod and reel remained next to the curb untouched. The wizened fisherman contemplated the situation for a few moments and then removed the sign and replaced it with one that stated, "For sale, $10."The next morning, he rose to find the rod and reel gone, a $10 bill clipped to his fence and his mission accomplished.What happened? Why did it take a change in signage for the fisherman to find someone who wanted his old rod and reel? The answer is perceived value. When the posted sign stated, "please take me," the perception was that the rod and reel had no value, and no one wanted something that had no value. When the fisherman created a perception of value by changing the sign, then people not only wanted his combo but were willing to pay for it.
This old story reminds me as a youth director that I must add value to the sport if I want to capture the attention of my Junior Bassmasters. I have taken liberty with the tale, but the message remains unchanged. If we want to grow the industry and capture the attention of our youth, we have to foster this perceived value in the sport.New Mexico's sponsors for the state championship included The Four Corners Bassmasters, The Sportman's Warehouse, Charlie's Sporting Goods and Wal-Mart — all of which must find a perceived value in the event if we wish to continue to see their participation. So what is in it for each of our stakeholders? Let's start with our youth. Our Junior Bassmasters learn fishing skills, the basics of conservation, and how to protect habitat and fishing resources. In a structured 4-H sportfishing class in New Mexico, for example, youth are taught fishing as well as how to market themselves if they turn pro one day. Without exception, grades are better for our junior anglers than they were before they joined the program, and they are taking classes that improve their writing and speaking skills.
The parents of our youth find that we provide an activity that keeps their children focused on positive activities during their free time. Our program provides association with other youth who have similar values and creates long-term relationships with a focus on family values. We stress that the secret to success is an education and that an education should be of the highest priority.Our sponsors make an investment in our program anticipating an eventual increase in the number of consumers of outdoor recreational products. Each dollar we spend with our sponsors helps our resource, creates jobs in the fishing industry and allows for the propagation of the sport. Each child that joins our junior ranks will most likely become a life-long recreational angler and pass that heritage down through the next generation, creating a consumer base that strengthens the industry.What about our adult anglers? They donate their time and boats to make the tournaments possible because most of them were mentored by other anglers, family members, friends or bass club members and cherish the opportunity to pay back the time someone else invested in them. They understand that mentoring a child will result in a strengthening of the sport they love. Many of the Juniors will eventually be going into the ranks of the adult clubs, increasing membership.
Each of our stakeholders has a perceived value in our youth that we must continue to cultivate in order to ensure the success and continuation of our junior programs. It is imperative that we understand that without our sponsors, volunteers and adult anglers, we would not have a youth program, just as they understand that without our youth our sport has no future.