In 2013, ESPN looked at the exploding youth club sports landscape and came to this conclusion: “Youth sports is so big that no one knows quite how big it is.”
While ESPN was stumped by the sheer number of players involved in youth sports, last year a study by WinterGreen Research published in Time Magazine determined it was a $15.3 Billion industry and rapidly growing.
At the heart of any youth sports organization is a collection of well-meaning, hard-working men and women who are in the process of determining two things. First, they are finding out that very little of what they do every day has to do with sports. Second, they aren’t running a club, they are running a business.
The day-to-day process of running a youth sports club requires a skill-set as diverse as that needed to run any type of business. In an effort to assist club directors and leaders with their day-to-day duties, here are some suggestions.
Who are You?
Every club has a mission statement. Most of the time, it was the last thing written when the club was formed and it was given little or no attention at the time. After that, it was quickly forgotten. In soccer, a majority of mission statements involve the highly overused phrase – “the beautiful game.” But what really is your mission? Is it simply to provide programming to your community? Does it involve outreach to underserved communities? Is it to cater to high-level players or to players of all ages and talent levels? Are you focused on growth or maintaining what you have? What is your place in the local business community?
A clear-cut mission simplifies decision-making and makes it easier for the club’s decision-makers to explain the reasons for saying yes or no to costly and time-consuming ideas from the membership. Saying, “that’s not who we are or what we do,” only works if you can prove it with a history of consistent action.
Clearly Communicate Expectations
Every club parent and player needs to be aware of what is expected of them. From payment schedules, to behavior at games, to communicating with coaches and directors, to uniform policies, to codes of conduct, to attendance and more. Policies and procedures need to be written clearly – not as a legal document or term paper, but in language no one can mis-interpret. A separate document for coaches and staff should be made public so everyone is aware of what is expected from everyone.
Don’t Forget About the Future
Most successful clubs keep an eye on the direction their sport and their community are headed. If your community is building four new elementary schools, you might want to start thinking about expanding complexes or building additional fields. Then, of course, is the problem of how to pay for it.
Staying current on trends on coaching methods and child/player development, should be a priority. A study by SportsRecruits found that 59.27% of respondents said they chose their club team primarily for the level of coaching and the ability of the club to attract new players. The same study said 47.96% of respondents have already changed clubs or are unsure if they will switch clubs in the future. Competition is stiff and clubs that don’t look ahead will fall behind.
Keep Up with Technology
Many youth organizations have existed for years, and can get stuck in the mindset of “This way has worked forever, so why change?” The reason for change is because every one of your members is changing.
A blog post on SportsRecruits quotes Tim Harmon, a principal analyst at Forrester Research as saying “the last time the average small business made significant upgrades in technology was five years ago, when the economic recovery began.” Technology, he says, is increasingly becoming a necessity, not a luxury. Having the ability to not only make business decisions wisely, but also to interact with families in a way they are accustomed to in their everyday life is vital.”
New technology, like DRIVN, allows club leaders to not only effectively and efficiently communicate with members and staff, but helps clubs make data-driven decisions, based on objective data and not subjective instincts or history.