There is no part of our lives that the Covid-19 pandemic has not touched in some way. Youth sports leagues, and the sports world in general, dealt with cancellations of entire seasons and huge losses in participation, fans, and revenue.
According to the World Economic Forum,
“The global value of the sports industry was estimated to be $471B in 2018 – an increase of 45% since 2011 – and before coronavirus stopped play, the only trajectory seemed to be upwards. Now, every part of the sporting value chain has been affected, from athletes, teams and leagues, to the media that broadcast and cover games."
While 2020 and the first half of 2021 were tough times for youth sports, there are many opportunities in 2021-22 to bounce back. Learn more about the impact of Covid on youth sports and how to rebuild your sports organization in this post!
In 2020 the United Nations issued a statement confirming the cancellation or postponement of most major sporting events at international, regional and national levels in an effort to safeguard the health of athletes and others involved. Statistics cited in the release reveal an increase in the global value of the sports industry from the 2018 numbers to now be estimated at $756B annually.
The halt to sports worldwide saw huge job losses, not only for sports professionals but also for those in related retail and other sports industries connected with youth leagues and events.
However, it's not all doom and gloom and the industry is adopting some excellent strategies in an attempt to minimize some of the impacts the virus has had on the industry. Professional sports are leading the way, with leagues like the NFL making every game since 2009 available for streaming on its direct-to-consumer channel Game Pass. This strategy has paid off with the broadcaster seeing a 500-fold increase in daily sign-ups for the service.
With the World Bank estimating that the global economy will shrink by 5.2% in 2020 – representing the deepest recession since World War 2, projections appear to be anything but positive.
However, history shows us that sport is really recession-resilient. As far back as World War 2, we have seen the sports industry thrive, not just survive turbulent times. Enter the introduction of the Women’s Baseball League in 1943, amidst a worn-torn environment and financial disruption - and now is no different.
Recent statistics on major ticket sale campaigns highlight support and not decline, as is the case with the 2021 British and Irish Lions Tour to South Africa. Following ticket ballot closure in 2020, the SA Rugby Federation announced applications for 323,964 tickets for the eight matches - a record high for the event.
So why is this? There are a number of reasons that attribute to the fact that the sports industry will effectively weather the Covid-19 storm. Be it as a form of escape, or because stadiums represent a theatre and entertainment experience, or because sports has the ability to provide a sense of belonging and community, it is an industry that is well supported and predictions are that, not only will it remain resilient to the pandemic, but that it will thrive.
What Covid-19 has done is force every industry, including teams in your youth sports league, to carefully examine how they can be safer, and Covid-compliant. The result has been innovations in the sports sector and a vastly improved fan experience.
From the introduction of cashless payments to high-density WI-FI installations to digital tickets and self-service digital ticket scanning and the mobile ordering of concessions - even the most lacking of sports enthusiasts now have something to enjoy.
During Covid-19, every industry has found that online platforms and software services offer significant opportunities to interact with customers and fans. Websites have become one of the most used tools to continue to promote your organization during the pandemic.
The sports industry is no different and sports management software platforms are proving to be valuable tools. Benefits include:
Organization of daily operations like posting schedules
Coordination of events and communication
While building a website may not be top of mind for your youth sports league, you can get started without any tech skills. Working with a company specializes in youth sports software can save you time and headaches and ensure the creation of an online presence to help grow your league.
Products like Jersey Watch offer easy-to-use solutions for your organization. Website builders that are made for sports allow you to use pre-defined templates to create your online presence. Within your site, you can:
Post game and event schedules
Send announcements via text and email
Easily recognize sponsors and increase support
List relevant volunteer or player profile information
Make use of mobile-friendly tools to update data at any time
Create a platform that encourages easily shareable content on social media platforms
As the organizer of a youth sports league, you are probably facing frustrations such as busy parents and a lack of volunteers. Reaching out to your parent community through your social media platforms can be an effective way to increase support.
Sharing relevant highlights from the team, showcasing players for achievements and providing community, club and league feedback can all be great, non-threatening ways to start including parents who possibly feel they are too busy to get involved.
While events may have been placed on hold, fans are still out there and are feeling isolated from their favorite teams. Social media platforms are a great way to reach them during this time, and engaging content will assist in re-affirming their position as your greatest fan. Using your social media platform, integrated with the other platforms you can:
Keep fans in the know with your latest team news
Open doors for direct communication between fans and athletes, especially through Q&A sessions
Highlight team-related community events and news
Your social platforms are a great way to share content even as parents are able to start attending games again. Try a few quick strategies like these:
Using Facebook Live to live stream some of your games or practices
Live-tweeting at events
Giving parents and fans game-specific hashtags to aggregate content on Twitter or Instagram
Within your youth sports organization you can encourage fans to use their own social media accounts to share and create content for your team. Tiktok and Facebook Live videos are a great way to get information to trend. Encourage your fans to use hashtag themes to create and share content.
While Covid-19 has significantly altered the way things are done, technological changes and advancements are providing growth opportunities for youth sports programs. From the creation of a website branded for your sports league to live streaming events, the opportunities are endless.
While the world faces a long road to recovery, the youth sports industry has the opportunity to build and grow as we return from the Covid-19 pandemic!