The numbers are a bit stark: Kids aren’t participating in youth sports leagues as much as they once did. Since 2008, fewer children ages 6-12 are playing basketball, baseball, soccer, football and volleyball. Moreover, only 26.6 percent of kids in this age group are considered active to a healthy level and beyond. Granted, some children not playing team sports are getting enough physical activity through individual sports and/or just running around outside. However, and unfortunately, many other kids are sedentary, preferring video games and TV to active play.
Amid these numbers, the importance of the youth sports league is amplified. Even if kids aren’t going on to play at a comp level or in high school, rec sports teach them the importance of being active and working with teammates, and that moving and sweating can also be fun. A youth sports league can provide this opportunity, but in order to do so, it must be firing on all cylinders. Parents and kids might not have patience with a league that is lacking; the risk is not so much losing these families to other leagues, but losing them to participating in sports at all. Here are some steps your organization can take to raise the bar:
One reason families (as well as some coaches) flee from youth sports leagues is that trying to keep track of everything becomes a hassle. Game and practice times are changed and parents sometimes aren’t notified. Coaches need to get a hold of families or administrators and have no convenient way to do so or don’t get replies back. Families may need to set up car pools but can’t access contact info of other families. Effective communication is essential to a successful youth league. The best online league management software facilitates this communication, but a commitment from league admins, officers, and coaches to interact with families and each other is also essential.
Many kids lose interest in team sports simply because their coaches aren’t bringing the enthusiasm (or are bringing misplaced enthusiasm—the “win-at-all-costs” attitude) necessary to keep players interested. They don’t plan practices or try to teach skills; they cancel practices on a whim and don’t communicate with parents; or they don’t present themselves as role models on game day, but instead yell at referees, refuse to even out playing time, and fail to stress good sportsmanship. Some of this is just attitude, but some of it is an inability for organizations to find and support coaches that are dedicated to principles of your league. Again, good communication helps, but you should also offer plenty of resources, such as coaching videos, clinics, and roster management, for these key volunteers.
Parents might be the biggest influencers on their kids playing and enjoying sports. Capturing their enthusiasm can go a long way on keeping players coming back to your league year after year. The best way to do this is to get parents involved, both within their child’s individual team and with the organization as a whole. Encourage families to post pictures and videos to your league website or to help coaches keep stats or organize snack schedules. Ideally, you want each team to become an individual little community amidst the bigger community of the league. If those communities are strong, the chances of your organization thriving will be stronger as well.
An Awesome Website
A dynamic website is more than just a billboard to draw families to the league—it’s a resource for everyone already involved in your organization. Your site should foster communication, keep rosters and schedules organized and accessible, offer online registration, and ultimately build the community. Any league without a good website will be seen as behind the times and taken less seriously from current and prospective families. If you find your youth sports organization is lacking in more than one area, upgrading your site first often can lead to other improvements as well.
What do you think your youth sports league is currently lacking?