I know this is going to be met with controversy, but that's what puts butts in the seats and gets the dialog going.
I have a radical idea for how to increase the numbers of attending teams and players for national and local tournament circuits and in turn infuse our industry with much needed cheddar.
Pay the Pro's. Pay them a decent, living wage, for now. Pay them as well as possible and keep paying them more as you can.
Right now, the carrot dangling from the end of the stick for moving yourself up the ranks and working hard to improve your game to one day finally make a pro team is wilted, dried, and mangy. What is there to motivate the young, up and coming players? Sure, you can point to all manner of intangibles like Glory, Friendship, Achievement. Some even try to re-introduce the idea of "fun" being a motivator to participate and compete. But you know what? That only works for a few. Those few who are already motivated beyond earthly reward. There will always be those in the sport who compete for the sake of competition. Improve themselves for the sake of being "the best." Sacrifice all in their lives to stand tallest on that podium.
But as you can tell from looking around, those few are just that: FEW. And far between. You can't build an industry off of a few crazy people. You need to fill in the gaps with all those normal people who want to stand amongst the crazies. For every Michael Jordan, who would be killing himself to be the best no matter what you pay him, you need 11 other jagoffs who are there for the paycheck and the chance to play with a monster like Jordan. And I'm not saying none of those other Bulls players weren't there to win and feel the glory and all that... but how many of them would be there if they weren't making a living doing it? How many kids would be buying their shoes and trying to some day be one of them if there wasn't a financial reward for all of that hard work?
I'm not so stupid as to think that Oliver Lang should get a multi-million dollar contract. But if I were a kid and looked up to Oliver and wanted to be him one day, I shouldn't have to choose between being able to feed myself AT ALL and playing Pro one day. And you know what, if that choice wasn't there... if there was a reasonable expectation of being able to pay my bills, then the D3's and D2's and D1's would be chock full of hopefulls working their way to the top.
Would all of them make it? No. Would all of them expect to make it? No. But they'd shell out the dough for the chance. Just like all of those amateurs in the mainstreams sports. And how much better is Chuck's and Lane's weekends when their lower divisions are all full and their tournaments are hopping?
Where do we get the money to pay our Pro's? Damned if I know. That's your problem to figure out, not mine. I'm the idea guy.