In January 2015, ESPN Digital Media—basically, ESPN.com and the various apps available to stream the Worldwide Leader’s content—posted a record 94 million unique users for the entire month. That’s a whopping number of people going online to consume sports.
Youth leagues and teams across the country have gone digital with their own websites—albeit, with much more modest goals than ESPN. Yet, if only 20 people are accessing your team’s site instead of 94 million, it can still be worthwhile for you, your players, and their parents.
There was a time when a team or league having a website was a challenge, because it often needed to be built by hand and wasn’t conducive to easy updating and maintenance. The emergence of online league management software has changed all that, and now, teams are keeping parents informed and active. Here are four ways to leverage a team management website to help your youth team:
1. Use message boards
Communication is always a challenge for the average youth team. News about postponements, cancellations, and league events must reach coaches and parents, of course; but even healthy discussions about topics such as snack schedules, league philosophies, volunteers, scheduling, and so on, are important. Trying to email the whole team (or the whole league) to start such a conversation can be difficult—sometimes, messages aren’t seen, someone forgets to hit reply all, or a parent replies to a note from days ago instead of the continuing conversation. Message boards offer a more streamlined medium to engage in these discussions. For example, a thread about the snack schedule can encourage parents to sign up for a certain game. The same conversation through email might be ignored or misread, possibly resulting in two families picking the same game or someone missing the note requesting a gluten-free option.
2. Keep everything updated
This unintentional scenario has occurred to more than a few coaches: Your youth team is given a practice schedule; the league moves the practice site and time for one week, but it gives you a month’s notice; and you think you’ve alerted your team’s parents to the change until you show up to the new site and nobody is there. Game and practice times and sites are adjusted all the time, and though some of the notifications on such changes will be made by league admins, you may be tasked to disseminate this information as well. A youth team website with schedules and calendars can be a great resource to help avoid confusion on when or where something is. Again, some of this info will be automatically updated, but be sure to update everything else in a timely manner so that someday, you won’t be running a practice for just your own child …
3. Highlight the positives
A youth team website shouldn’t be just about schedules and snack schedules. It should also highlight the experience and the excitement the kids—and their parents—are feeling throughout the season. Positive game recaps, team and action photos, news about camps and clinics, and simple stories from the season (e.g., “That was the muddiest soccer practice ever!”) build the community and remind everyone the true importance of youth sports: teamwork, improvement, fun, and lasting memories.
4. Involve the parents
As you have likely gathered, a team management website isn’t just for your benefit, but also for the parents of the kids you have the honor of coaching. A great way to emphasize this is by asking those parents for help with the website. Perhaps one dad can be responsible for posting pictures, or a mom can update game scores and stats, or someone can assemble the snack schedule online. Besides giving you a respite from some of those duties (and, thus, allowing you to keep more of your focus on coaching), this, too, builds the community—a “we’re all in this together” attitude that creates friendships among the parents as well as the kids.
How has a league management website helped with your team?