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September 12, 2008

WePlay – Kids and Athletes Connecting

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MySpace and Facebook have become cluttered with ads, applications, and millions of users. While these social networking sites might be good places for friends who know each other or adults to network with colleagues, they aren’t the safest online space for kids to meet new friends. A new site called Weplay has a more specialized and less cluttered social network—one designed specifically for young athletes who play baseball, football, and softball. Like most social networks, users on Weplay can post pictures, videos, and connect with each other by “friending” one other on the site. Unlike other social networking sites, all the participants are involved somehow in youth sports – including the collection of professional athletes in the network who serve as role models for younger players.

With the opportunity to connect with professional players like baseball player Derek Jeter, basketball player LeBron James, former soccer player Brandi Chastain and former swimmer and current broadcaster Summer Sanders, Weplay is an obvious draw for young athletes. What kid hasn’t dreamed of being an Olympic gold medalist or a professional football, basketball, or baseball player? And what kid hasn’t hoped to hang out with a pro to find out how it’s done? The site isn’t just for the kids, though. It’s also for parents, coaches, and fans. There are even family accounts for whole families to participate, and parents will be happy to hear that all professional players participating in Weplay were youth sports participants once upon a time, and all exemplify the benefits of youth sports: the good values and skills that come with winning, losing, and working at the game.

Practical Uses:

  • A little league coach can sign up her team for the site, then use it to share team photos and videos with parents and families
  • Families can use Weplay to share news of the kids’ sporting events with far-away relatives
  • Kids can be inspired and encouraged by professional players on the site while connecting safely with other young athletes

Insider Tips:

  • Once you’re a member, you have the opportunity to vote for your favorite photos among those taken by other members, which gives you a crack at winning gear or autographed memorabilia

What we liked:

  • Weplay allows parents to get involved so they can safely monitor potential online safety hazards. Safeguards include a strong language filter for all open text fields and moderation of videos before they’re posted
  • The site encourages positive role modeling with professional players – and inspiration for kids hoping to one day follow in their footsteps
  • Weplay also offers discounted prices on name brand apparel and equipment
  • Family accounts are available for parents of children who are younger than 13 years old

What we didn’t like:

  • We’re looking forward to more sports being added to the site to widen the playing field (so to speak), especially with soccer, swimming, and basketball
  • Professional players could update their profiles more often, to help inspire the site’s users
  • If young athletes aren’t guided toward good sportsmanship by coaches and parents offline, this sports-based online arena may become a way for young athletes to continue bad behaviors online

Alternatives:

While there are no directly comparable sites, there are a few sites for sports fans and/or high school athletes

Company Info:

  • Launched: March 2008
  • Privately Owned by Weplay, Inc.
  • Headquarters: New York, NY
  • Founded by Steve Hansen
  • Web site: http://www.weplay.com

Costs:

  • Free