While most young athletes will likely 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.
Wondering how to start a select softball team to take on the travel softball leagues in your area? Although there's a few obstacles to consider when learning how to start a softball team, these 4 steps to success will have you well on your way to building a successful program for years to come.
1) Finding Coaches, Volunteers & Board Members for Your Fastpitch Softball Team
When it comes down to the core of your program, the coaches, volunteers & board members are an essential aspect of your team’s success. Therefore, it’s very important you inform them of exactly what they’re signing up for as you follow these recruiting methods below.
- Parents and Grandparents – This will be one of your greatest resources when first starting a travel softball team. Getting parents involved from the jump can be very helpful as most parents will be present at practice and games as it is. Therefore, they're likely to be willing to assist your team with whatever roles you may need filled.
- Former Coaches – Often times, former coaches are actively looking for ways to keep their foot in the door in the sport of competitve softball. Former coaches may also be a huge help in recruiting athletes to join the program when the time comes due to their previous softball connections. Lastly, coaches will likely have the experience/leadership your team needs to succeed in high level softball.
- Former/Current Players – Asking former and current players for volunteering help is always a viable option. 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/current players also give your athletes somebody to look up to and emulate as they are preparing for playing time in the high school softball level and beyond.
After reaching out and speaking with the potential coaches, volunteers & board members, it may be a good idea to schedule a meeting. A meeting will help you to establish some expectations and assign responsibilities for the upcoming season. Remember, it’s very important for the interested parties to fully understand the level commitment that’s required to run fastpitch softball organizations for the whole season.
2) Creating 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. Below you will find our tips and tricks on how to do just that.
- Assessing Costs – Some potential costs to consider when crafting 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. All in all, it’s a good idea to be aware of all the potential fees so you can price and budget your program accordingly.
- Fundraising – When it comes to raising funds, your main source of income will likely be the players registration fees. Although, we recommend looking into gaining potential sponsorships and donations from some local businesses in your area. Often times, local businesses love to support youth programs and donate/sponsor them. 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 while also supporting local businesses. For more fundraising ideas for travel softball teams, check out our fundraising blog!
All in all, crafting 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.
3) Gaining Interest for Your Softball Team
After establishing a manageable budget for your softball team, it may be a good idea to start recruiting players to participate in your program. Below you will find our recommendations on how to best do that.
- Create a logo and brand – Creating a logo and brand can be very beneficial and fun for your program. A strong brand can help your team not only with credibility, but it can also bring a level excitement to your program. Often times, players want to be a part of something new, fun and exciting so we recommend taking your time to figure out the perfect logo and brand for you. Something good to keep in mind when creating your brand is picturing it on travel ball jerseys. If it looks good, it's probably a great brand idea!
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- Reach out to other local sporting 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.
- Set up a social media account or two – 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. Setting up Facebook and/or 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 communication efforts on Facebook as there's a high chance parents aren't seeing your posts.
- Create a website for your travel softball program – 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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4) Registering Your Travel Softball Team
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 with Babe Ruth noting that it’s 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 – USA Softball is the 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 League – 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. Furthermore, PONY requires that children participate in divisions with kids of the same age to ensure fair play across the board. Lastly, PONY is 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 – 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.
In conclusion, 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.
Getting Your Travel Softball Team Ready for the Upcoming Season
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.
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!
All in all, by keeping an open mind and sticking to a well thought out plan, you’ll be well on your way to fostering the next generation of travel softball players.
Jersey Watch helps softball organizations build a website, post tournament schedules, manage player payments, and more.
Need more help promoting and managing your softball program next season? Create a free account and try it out here > www.jerseywatch.com/softball