Growing your youth sports league can be a struggle for a number of reasons. Disruptive parents, unruly coaches, access to facilities, and inconsistent community support play a part in a decline in participation.
No kid should be forced into an activity they don’t want to do. But participation in a youth sports league offers a wealth of growth opportunities and life skills. If you're struggling to maintain or grow participation in your league, try the tips below to get participation rates back on track!
Meeting parent expectations is one of the most difficult parts of running a sports organization.
You can start by hosting a meeting with the players’ parents at the start of the season. Use this meeting to discuss guidelines for playing times and let parents know what to expect up front: walk through policies and set clear expectations so parents are well-informed.
This is also a good time to go over the coaching philosophy at your organization. Many misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations can be avoided with a little clear communication beforehand. When parents understand the reasoning behind your practice and game day plans, they are more likely to support your decisions.
A paper trail is always good—creating codes of conduct for players and parents is a great way to support the points you discuss at this meeting. Enforcing a code of conduct is also a great way to get your expectations across to players and coaches.
A successful youth sports league is a community wide effort. Your participants are more than just the players and coaches - you need to work on involving all members of your community including parents, sponsors, and local businesses.
Growing your league is a breeze when you have community support. Start your season with a party (say, an opening ceremony) and invite the whole community to the event - players, parents, coaches, sponsors, and local businesses.
Send out press releases, advertise on social media, and contact the local newspaper to help spread the word. An exciting event before the season starts will generate interest from potential sponsors and build camaraderie for the entire league.
Generating long-term community support also requires a year-round commitment from your board. You should develop a plan for attracting new sponsors, applying for grants, and recruiting new volunteers in your offseason.
You can also raise significant funds by using online tools to collect donations and writing a detailed donation letter to send out to community members.
Safety is always a concern, especially for young players. Concerns about safety can often be an obstacle to youth sports league growth. Make safety a top priority at all times, from pre-season to closing events.
There are steps you can take to ensure the safety of your players, and parents will appreciate you doing so. For example, creating awareness around concussion-related injuries is critically important and should be encouraged at all times. Talk with parents and your community to make sure everyone stays informed about injuries and risks.
Also, make sure to constantly update and upgrade your equipment. Equipment that is out of date can be dangerous for players. Equipment is expensive, and a good service plan for certain items can assist, but make sure to never, ever cut corners on new equipment when you need it.
Similarly, background checks are also very important when it comes to keeping your league a safe and welcoming space. From coaches to officials to volunteers, thorough background checks before each season help clear that all the adults involved are not potential risks to youth players.
If you've never required background checks at your organization before, you should develop a background check policy in your next offseason.
Running background checks on volunteers and coaches before your season helps keep your players safe.
If you run a youth sports organization there are dozens of tools that can help you run your league more efficiently.
Technology doesn't have to be expensive or hard to use either. You can follow some tips on setting up a website, registration, social media, and online apparel store below.
Parents expect that your organization is going to provide a quick and easy registration experience, to communicate effectively throughout the year, and to provide relevant information like league schedules online.
Creating a website for your organization is the first step to effectively promoting your organization online. The website can be the hub for all of the information about your organization as well as registering players and managing payments.
Don't have a website yet? Learn some quick tips to build your site in this video.
You also need to make sure your organization has social media accounts to help promote the organization. You can appoint a person on your board to be in charge of social media and to manage all of the accounts.
If you don't have social media accounts yet, you can start small by creating a Facebook page. Learn more about managing your social media accounts here: 4 Best Practices for Managing Your Sports Organization's Social Media.
You should have an online apparel store that is available year round. Getting people in the community wearing your team gear will increase support and also provide fundraising opportunities.
Depending on the needs of your league, you can set up a store that is run completely online. You don't have to worry about collecting payments or managing inventory - just set up the store, post the link on your website and social media, and start selling gear!
Big change won't happen overnight. It could take several seasons or years to build momentum to increase participation.
You should start by creating a positive experience not only for players, but for parents as well. Managing parents starts by setting expectations up front and enforcing a code of conduct.
Investing in safety measures to keep kids protected on the field helps increase trust with parents. Make sure that coaches and parents are aware of safety guidelines at your league and continue to collect feedback on policies after your season is over.
Finally, make sure to invest in modern technology to make marketing and managing your league easy each season!
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