While most young athletes will get their start with recreational softball teams, some athletes will seek a higher a level of competition. That’s where travel softball teams come in.
Are you wondering how to start a select softball team to take on other travel teams in your area? Although there's a few obstacles to consider when learning how to start a softball team, these steps to success will have you well on your way to building a successful program.
1. Find Coaches & Volunteers for Your Fastpitch Softball Team
The coaches, volunteers, & board members are crucial to your team’s success. You can use the recruiting methods below to find quality volunteers in your club's first season:
- Parents - Getting a few parents involved is the easiest way to find volunteers for the new program. Make sure you set proper expectations with parents so they know the time involved. You don't want to overwhelm parents with too much commitment.
- Former and Current Players - Asking high school or college players to volunteer to help can be a big help to get your new team off the ground. High school and college students are often looking for volunteer opportunities or leadership experience. They likely have the drive and competitive spirit your team needs to succeed as well as some tips and tricks for your own players development. Former players also give your athletes somebody to look up to and emulate.
Remember, it’s very important for the coaches and volunteers to fully understand the level of commitment that’s required throughout the year. Make sure to give them a solid estimate on the amount of practice time and travel that they are signing up for.
2. Build a Financial Plan and Budget
After getting your coaching staff and volunteers in place, it’s time to start looking into creating an in-depth financial plan and budget.
Your financial plan and budget are an essential part of running a successful travel softball program and you should take the time necessary to ensure they are well thought-out. Follow these tips:
- Estimate Potential Costs – Some potential costs to consider when creating your financial plan include travel fees, tournament fees, practice facilities/field fees, coaches (if paid), league play fees, team equipment, insurance, uniforms, and marketing and registering your team.
- Plan Fundraising Activities - When it comes to raising funds, your main source of income will likely be the players registration fees. You should also look into sponsorships and donations from local businesses in your area. Often times, local businesses love to support youth programs. By offering them incentives to sponsor your team such as logo placement, tax incentives, and goodwill advertising, you can help to raise more funding for your program.
A well thought out financial plan can make or break your program. Just be sure to account for any potential costs and try to keep the player registration fees to a minimum.
After establishing a manageable budget for your softball team, you need to start promoting your program and recruiting players.
3. Create a Logo and Brand
Creating a logo and brand is a big step for your new program. A strong brand can help your team with credibility and bring some excitement to your program. Players and parents like to be part of something new and exciting, so we recommend taking your time to figure out the name, logo and branding for your organization.
First you need to name your club. You should try to keep the name of your program somewhat short - 3-5 words at most. Including the region or city that you're located will be helpful when parents and players are searching online for travel programs in their area.
You should also search online to make sure that your potential name isn't already taken by another youth or adult softball program - you want your organization's name to be unique so your website and social media accounts are easy to find online.
After you name your club you should get to work on a logo. If you know a local graphic designer or tech savvy college student ask them if they would be interested in helping out with a logo. If you don't know of anyone with design skills, you can post a logo design project on a site like Upwork or Freelancer and probably get a high quality logo for around $100.
Your logo should have a few different formats so that it can be used on uniforms, team apparel, your website, and any other branded items.
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4. Reach Out to Other Local Sports Programs
Reaching out to other sporting programs in your area can be a great way to get your foot in the door with some local athletes. By asking other coaches/volunteers to help promote your new program to their current athletes, you can quickly get the news about your program out to your area.
We recommend reaching out to some of the rec softball programs for the highest probability of success. Some of their current players may be interested in taking the next competitive step into playing travel softball.
5. Set Up Social Media Accounts
You need a place to promote your new team. Setting up a social media account (or two) can be a quick and easy way to post some information and generate interest.
Facebook and Instagram accounts are easy and can be a simple way to post pictures, promote tryouts, and keep players and parents in the loop throughout the year. Just be sure to not focus all of your on Facebook as there's a high chance parents aren't seeing your posts.
6. Create a Website for Your Travel Softball Teams
A good website can be an essential aspect of running your program successfully. It will allow you to quickly get information out to parents and players, as well as easily being able to register your players online.
Furthermore, a website will help draw interest to your team and keep all your relevant information in one place. It will act as a one-stop shop for your travel softball team.
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7. Register Your Teams for Your First Season
After you've have verified that your program is gaining some interest around your area, you should now be ready to take the final steps towards registering your program. Below you will find some quick recommendations on where you can register your program.
- Babe Ruth League: Xtreme Fastpitch Division - This division is quite broad and can be a great fit for any players who wish to play softball on a recreational to highly competitive level. Playing rules will match High School and College playing rules to help better prepare your athletes for the next level of competition.
- USA Softball is one of the largest sports organizations in the country and offers competition across every state through a network of other state softball programs. USA Softball also offers a few incentives to registering with them such as exclusive discounts on team travel and softball specific insurance products.
- PONY is known for creating a safety first league full of challenging play for all ages and skill levels. They are unique in the sense that they allow each chartered program to create their own tailored made style of softball to best suit their community’s needs. PONY requires that children participate in divisions with kids of the same age to ensure fair play across the board. PONY is also well known for their post-season tournaments and fundraisers which could be a great bonus for your athletes at the end of the season.
- Little League is well known across the United States and beyond for their competitive league play. With set in stone rules and regulations, Little League is a great way to charter your program with little headache along the way. You can learn more about their online chartering and insurance enrollment here..
With many different options to choose from, we recommend taking your time here to discover the pros and cons of each organization and governing body. You likely can’t go wrong with picking any of these leagues but some may certainly be a better fit for your specific needs as a program.
Set Your Program Up for Success
Figuring out how to start a travel softball team from the ground up may seem like a daunting task at first - but it doesn’t have to be. By starting small in the early years with just one or two age groups, you can get a better feel on how to best operate your team while keeping your expenses to a minimum.
In future seasons you can begin to add more age groups, recruit more volunteers, and increase budgets. Before you know it, you may find your program branching out to multiple age groups and heading across the country to play in national tournaments!