In the U.S., about 37 percent of kids between the ages of 6 and 12 play an organized team sport on a regular basis.
While one-in-three kids seems like a high rate, this number – published in The Aspen Institute’s State of Play 2017 report – has been declining in recent years.
What does that tell us? There are many reasons why kids might be opting out of organized sports such as finances, skills, and location. But that also means it’s more important than ever for sports organizations to ensure kids have a good experience when they do participate.
To do this, youth sports clubs need to be organized and well managed. When evaluating your own organization, take a look at the following best practices for running a youth sports club.
There are many reasons why kids might opt out of organized sports. Don’t let a poorly run youth sports club be one of them. – Click to Tweet
Establish leadership and governance
Youth sports clubs need organization, and this starts with establishing governance. Most clubs have a board of directors, usually comprised of parents and community members. Make sure your board is clearly identified and the roles of each person are made clear. According to GoalNation.com, board members are needed from a leadership standpoint, but it’s also important they know when to let the director and coaches handle issues. Micromanaging staff members can hurt productivity and morale.
Also make sure the club’s mission, values and code of conduct are published and distributed. These will help define who the club is, what it stands for, and what behaviors it will or will not tolerate.
Every person on the club’s staff and roster should know what is expected of them.
Before the season begins, make sure all staff members and coaches are aware of the club’s expectations. From a behavioral standpoint, this could include following the team’s code of conduct and embracing its mission and values. Coaches could also be expected to attend clinics and seminars to ensure they are enhancing their coaching skills.
It’s also necessary for all players and parents to know what is expected of each of them. Players and parents should each sign and read the team’s code of conduct. This will make each individual aware of what is expected of them throughout the season, and what rules they’re expected to follow. This also gives teams written documentation to fall back on if action needs to be taken during the season.
Establish lines of communication
Teams should make sure there are open lines of communication between the club and its members. Establishing communication creates transparency throughout the squad as players and their families know the team wants to hear their opinions. It also gives directors, coaches, and staff members an organized way to talk to the athletes and their parents.
To ensure each person has a chance to be heard – and to prevent staff members from being bombarded with phone calls and emails – teams should set boundaries on communication. This includes how communication should take place and when. Determine if a specific team phone number or email address should be the go-to for communications from parents or players, or if coaches and directors can be contacted via a personal phone or email address. SportsRecruits.com also recommends determining when communication can take place. Are parents and players limited to making contact during business hours, or are phone calls and emails during the evenings and weekends allowed?
Sports clubs need to be as transparent as possible with athletes and their parents. With so much emphasis being placed on fairness and openness in youth sports, teams need to give players and their parents as much visibility into their club and its processes as possible. This can include giving clear instructions as to how rosters will be determined and how tryouts will be run. It can also include communicating information as needed throughout the season as issues occur, including roster or schedule updates.
One way to add more transparency into your club is by using sports evaluation software. Apps like TeamGenius allow clubs to evaluate players during tryouts without listing player names. Instead, players are listed by only their tryout number. This can prevent evaluators from knowing the identity of the player they are scoring. This solution also allows coaches to send results to players after tryouts so each player knows how they scored and what criteria the staff will be using when creating the roster.
Hire the right coaches
Running a good youth sports club can come down to the people. How a player interacts with their coach could make or break an athlete’s experience with the sport and your club. Putting quality coaches in place and ensuring they have the support they need can create a successful environment for coaches and players. Coaches can be supported by receiving training, being allowed to attend clinics and seminars, and other events where they can enhance their skills. They should also know they have the support of the director and the board of directors and that the entire club wants him or her to succeed.