There are three questions every youth organization should continuously ask. Honest answers can clarify the work being done and the direction taken toward success.
The questions are:
- Who are our customers?
- What do they want?
- Are we giving it to them?
Simple, right? Well, not really. If you put 10 youth coaches in a room and ask them who their customers are, you will get two answers and an argument.
Some will say their job is to serve the players, so they are the customer. Others will say the parents pay the bills, so they are the customer. The ensuing argument will hinge on one key point – service. Should everyone in the club focus on serving the kids or the parents?
The answers should be:
1. Who are our customers? The parents;
2. What do they want? For their kids to have a good experience and improve.
3. Are we giving it to them? Probably not.
We all know that having a club full of happy parents is a pipe dream but pleasing the majority of your customers is an attainable goal. So, to please the parents you need to serve their children. If the kids are happy with the services you provide, the parents are happy, but you will never find a happy parent of an unhappy kid.
Attract and Retain
Competition for players is stiff in most communities. But while most clubs put a lot of time and energy into attracting new players to their club, keeping the ones you already have is perhaps more important.
The best marketing in youth sports is word of mouth. When parents are looking for a club for the child, they ask other parents. What will the parents of kids in your club tell prospective customers? How parents in your club answer questions depends on their child’s coach. Rarely, will they love the club but hate their coach, and they can be dissatisfied with the club and still be happy if they like their coach.
Your coaches are ambassadors, but they often don’t have enough information to articulate the policies and priorities to which they are supposed to adhere. If a parent approaches their child’s coach with a problem, is the coach equipped to answer sufficiently? Have you properly prepared them to be an agent of retention?
Another important question your clubs don’t often asked themselves is, what is your club doing to make sure your players don’t go shopping around?
During a soccer coaching course, the instructor asked the group of candidates a seemingly simple question, the answer to which revolved around retention.
“Say you are coaching a U11 team,” he began. “What is your goal for those players?”
Answers came flying out quickly. “Make them technically capable,” said one. “Give them an understanding of the game,” said another. “Make them comfortable with the ball,” said a third. “A solid understanding of all positions,” said another candidate.
After everyone with an answer had spoken up, the instructor indicated that those goals were all important, but not the most important.
“Your goal for U11 players is to make sure that next year they are U12s,” he said.
His point, of course, is that the most important job of a coach anywhere on the developmental ladder is to help their players love the game so they want to keep playing.
What the coaches in attendance were missing was the bigger picture. The instructor did not say the coach’s job was to make sure the best four players come back next year. And those are the kids most coaches will focus on the most.
In another coaching clinic, a roomful of coaches was split into small groups and asked to answer this question: “What is the job of a coach?”
Some groups decided to list the duties a coach needs to perform, others came up with a job-description type of sentence, but one nailed it -- “Make sure every player has fun, gets better and comes back next year.”
Your club’s desire to retain players, however, can not be approached as a business decision. The coaches you hire have to have a genuine desire to make sure every player’s experience is enough to start them on the road to developing a life-long love of the game.
But to accomplish all that, youth clubs need to start asking themselves some serious question and giving honest answers.