3Step launched in 2016 and built a foundation by acquiring businesses in youth basketball, lacrosse and volleyball. Later acquisitions included field hockey and more.Sports in 3 steps
Like 3STEP Sports continues to grow with one headline-worthy acquisition after another, there’s a very important question for the aspiring youth sports conglomerate: is this a good fit?
Many things go into the answer. David Geaslen, founder and CEO of 3Step Sports, will first have a phone call or two with the executives of the company he is considering acquiring. He will then travel to visit the company and attend one of its matches. If Geaslen likes what he sees – not just how the team or event works, but also the people running it – the company will be invited to visit 3Step for a discovery meeting. If this meeting is fruitful and the interest is mutual, the two parties begin to discuss finances with the aim of evaluating what an acquisition could look like. The process took anywhere from six weeks to two years.
These days, Geaslen estimates that only one in 10 companies that ask for information makes the first phone call. In this way, 3Step has come a long way in a short time.
The company was launched in 2016 with a mission to become the standard for the youth sports experience and create consistency in the industry. At the end of 2018, the Wilmington, Mass.-based organization had 30 employees and generated about $10 million in annual revenue. Soon after, private equity from Fiume Capital and Juggernaut Capital helped spark further growth. And today, more than 700 employees make 3Step Sports a $250 million company.
Sports in 3 steps
Sports in which 3Step operates and key acquisitions in each:
Baseball: Select Baseball
Basketball: Zero gravity*
Fast softball: united sea coast
Field hockey: College Login
The Crosse: 3d stock*
Football: united sea coast
Volleyball: East Coast Energy*
* The club/event company manager is now the 3Step Vice President in that sport.
The company operates in eight youth sports (see box), and is about to enter its ninth. In addition to operating the Under Armor Next program for soccer, volleyball and basketball, and the Adidas-sponsored 3SSB basketball circuit, 3Step has completed 54 acquisitions. It has over 70 distinct brands under its umbrella. It has staged over 2,500 events, involving over 1,800 club teams across 41 states. Sponsors include ESPN, Gatorade and New Balance.
“We’ve basically created an ecosystem unlike anything else,” said Geaslen, whose resume includes stints as CEO of Scouts Inc. and ESPN’s vice president for sports and recruiting at secondary.
It has not always been so. Before hopeful companies contacted Geaslen to join 3Step, he was chasing them. It all started with Geaslen convincing a company in three sports to join as an acquisition. In basketball, it was Zero Gravity; in lacrosse, it was 3d lacrosse; in volleyball, it was East Coast Power. From there, 3Step had the tools to grow within each youth sport.
“I think we were able to pick this right fundamental to get into the sport because they all talk,” said Walker Jones, the company’s chief marketing officer. “And they all listen, even though they’re in competition with each other. And so once you’ve done that fundamental element, that’s the one that’s going to come in and say, ‘You have to go buy those other three clubs because they’re getting it. They understand and they will complement what we do.
Sports in 3 steps
Geaslen added: “We don’t need all the clubs. We need the right clubs. I’m not going to say the best or the greatest. Just the good ones with the good people running them.
Geaslen said that 90% of 3Step’s programming is aimed at attendees between the ages of 8 and 14. The society has elite clubs and events, but also those that are more developmental in nature. Companies absorbed by the conglomerate do not lose their individual brand image. “People know East Coast Power, West Coast Elite and Thunder LB3 Lacrosse,” Walker said. “It’s who they trust.”
For potential acquisitions, youth sports under the 3Step umbrella becomes much more about the sport itself than all the intricacies of running a team or event.
“Volleyball is the reason people who own a volleyball business actually get into it,” Geaslen said. “They want to teach volleyball, they want to coach, they’re parents, etc. So we come in and I say, ‘You keep doing what you’re doing, and I’m going to eliminate facility management issues, financial issues. , marketing, sponsor sales, website, media, insurance, registration, apparel, and we’ll have it all in one central location. I just gave you 25 hours of work, right? What are you gonna do with that? You love volleyball, you will go back and hand it over to kids and parents. And that’s what happened.
Sports in 3 steps
Walker insists that 3Step’s growth has never been about hitting a certain number of acquisitions or revenue dollars. “It was never about size, it was about impact. What positive impact can we have on the youth sport space?” he said. “The one interesting thing about our company is that all of our leaders have either played youth sports, coached youth sports, or been involved in them. So we all know the value it had for us.
Geaslen echoed those points before bringing up another – his employees – describing his pride in 3Step’s impact.
In early April, 3Step sent 10 staff members — two each from the marketing, finance, operations, and apparel departments, in addition to Geaslen and another executive — to Louisville, Ky., for a tournament volleyball organized in a convention center. It featured over 100 courts and thousands of participants. None of the staff other than Geaslen had ever been to a 3Step event like this.
“I told them, ‘Now you’re going to see why you’re marketing, why you’re paying for the floor, why you’re talking to advertisers,'” Geaslen said. “‘You’ll see him as soon as we walk through the door.'”
So Geaslen walked through the door first – backwards. Their reactions were everything to him.
“To see them see the impact they have on all these kids and their families, that’s where I get,” Geaslen said. “That’s where I get the reward.”