Every youth sports league wants to thrive. The opportunity to grow—to provide more kids with the chance to play, learn, and develop—is a goal for many organizations as well. Some successful leagues find themselves bursting at the seams, and no league wants to turn away kids who, at best, might find another league, or at worst, end up not playing the sport (or any sport) at all. These organizations are ready to scale, but saying you are ready to expand and then actually expanding are two different things.
Growing your youth sports league isn’t always easy, but with a little hard work and the right tools in place, it won’t be as crazy as you fear. Don’t be deterred—here is some advice for scaling your organization:
If seemingly more families want to join your sports league, and if you think you have a general idea of how many existing players will return, don’t automatically make plans to scale without assessing if that interest truly exists. Much hard work will be wasted—not to mention league funds buying extra equipment you discover you don’t need—if you overestimate how many players will register.
Word of mouth and diligent communication with prospective families are important, but a more effective strategy is early registration. League management software can send out automatic, multiple reminders so that parents are thinking of registering well before the season starts. Offering a discount for early registration provides a good basis for determining how much you can scale for the upcoming season.
Registering 100 more players may feel like an achievement (and so it should), but unless your youth sports league can adequately accommodate those players, you will run into trouble. Say those 100 players in a basketball league, for example, results in 12 more teams: Do you have courts available for six more games a week? Or 24 more practices? Are there enough referees and scorekeepers to cover the additional games? The last thing you want is to create oversized rosters—rec players should be playing at least half the game. Before setting a goal to scale, be sure facilities and manpower can keep up, and take time to secure more gyms and officials before the season begins.
Call for Volunteers
More players will naturally require more volunteer coaches. As your league grows, extra administrative help will be necessary, too, from board members, equipment managers, fundraisers (more on that next), concession stand volunteers, and so on. Get out the call early, and explain why volunteers are so important—they strengthen your league and give it the means to grow and serve more families.
Ramp Up Fundraising
Scaling a youth sports league inevitably will necessitate extra fundraising. The additional funds brought in from registrations more than likely will be applied to additional field and gym rentals, equipment, and game officials. If you used fundraising to address a budget gap before, that gap isn’t going to disappear just because more kids are in the league (if anything, it might be a little more pronounced …). Plan events and campaigns well ahead of time, work local businesses for sponsorships, and don’t be afraid to get creative.
Upgrade League Software
If your league plans to scale, your website must scale with it. Scheduling, stat keeping, registration, and roster management will become more complex as you add players. The best league management solutions deliver scalability as needed and can handle a league of 10 teams or 200 without skipping a beat. As already stated, growing your league requires some work on your part, but at least you can do so knowing your website and league management software is along with the ride and will assist in, not work against, your efforts.
What steps have you taken to help your youth sports league grow?