The NFL schedule was recently released to a fair amount of interest. Fantasy football players want to know what the matchups look like through their playoffs (i.e., December, before the real playoffs begin). Season ticket-holders look to see what weekends are slated for their team’s big games. And NFL fans in general love discovering who is opening the season, playing on Thursdays and Sundays, when the big divisional showdowns are, and so on.
The task of determining a 16-game, 17-week schedule for 32 teams while accounting for TV, stadium conflicts, bye weeks, and the NFL’s scheduling formula would seem to be daunting. Yet many administrators of youth sports look at the NFL’s scheduling process and think “meh” because they have arranged slates that are much more complex. These directors might be scheduling for a dozen or more divisions spread out among a dozen or more locations on every day of the week. Throw in practice schedules, and you can understand why youth sports admins might feel superior to their NFL counterparts.
However, all the effort spent scheduling can take too much time out of the lives of volunteer league directors who simply don’t have much to spare, especially when they must also deal with registration, hiring game officials, roster management, and a host of other responsibilities. Any time management hacks to help youth sports admins ease the burden of scheduling will free them up for other tasks, as well as reduce their overall stress levels. Here are four such tips:
1. Repeating schedule
League directors don’t have to get too cute with schedules. If a division has eight teams, with each playing 14 games, set a seven-game schedule and simply repeat it for the second half of the season. Variety is nice, but most kids won’t care the order of who they play. This is a great hack for fall/spring rec soccer leagues: Simply design one schedule for the fall and use the same one for the spring.
2. Same days, same times
Again, some youth sports admins want to shake things up so that schedules don’t feel too routine. The goal is noble but only creates more work for directors and forces parents and coaches to be constantly adjusting their already busy lives. Many leagues keep games on consistent days for each division, at consistent times, and then work in a consistent weekly practice or two for teams around the game schedule. When you start juggling things around (sometimes out of necessity), keeping track of the overall schedule becomes a logic puzzle that feels impossible to solve.
3. Slot the bye weeks first
Bye weeks can create chaos for youth sports admins trying to devise a schedule. The chance a team gets fewer games than another is increased, as is the possibility of playing one opponent extra times and missing another foe altogether. If you need to work byes (or double-headers) into a schedule, slot each team’s week(s) into the grid first and proceed from there. The schedule likely will come into focus in less time and be more balanced than if you try adding byes on the fly.
4. Automatic scheduling software
Online league management software has emerged as a great asset for youth sports directors looking to save time. Automatic scheduling tools consider many factors—age, skill level, gender, venue, holidays, starting times, byes, doubleheaders, coach requests, officials, and so on—and in minutes does all the busy work that took admins whole weekends to work through. Schedules are more balanced and can be varied (great for those directors who try to shake things up). And if you do have to shuffle game days and times, the software can handle the complex task. This solution is the ultimate scheduling hack, thus allowing you to focus on managing your league rather than figuring it out.
What trick have you used to save time with scheduling?