Players, parents, and spectators might file into a tournament and never think twice about how the tournament happened. They might even go an entire season without stopping to think about how the fields or courts were reserved, how the number of players on each roster was determined, how the equipment was purchased, how the schedule was set, or even how the coaches, administrators, and referees were hired.
For fans, parents and even players, the amount of work that goes into managing a youth sports organization may never be fully appreciated – or even noticed. Although the work in the background might go unheralded, it’s crucial to keeping leagues running.
Get tips on how to effectively manage a youth sports organization.
Tip #1: Set goals
It’s important to determine goals for the organization before starting a season or even beginning a tenure as a league director. Knowing the league’s mission can help decide what goals should be set. Is the main objective to enhance kids’ athletic abilities, or build an athletic community, or increase involvement in the sport? Whatever the league’s mission is, the goals should help accomplish that. Break the goals into tangible items that can be realistically accomplished and measured. Perhaps goals are around wins or standings or increasing the number of youth participants, or parent and volunteer involvement.
Be sure to set the goals early and to communicate the goals to your entire staff, as these will determine not only who you hire, or how money is spent, but influence how other decisions are made as well.
Tip #2: Hire the right people
Whether it’s paid or volunteer coaches, or administrators, refs or evaluators, it’s important to hire the right people to work in a youth sports organization. You need to surround yourself with individuals who embrace the league’s mission and goals, as well as who you trust to effectively carry those out and communicate to the players, parents, spectators, and others.
Andrew Lenhardt, the Director of Coaching at Springfield (Ill.) Area Soccer Association (SASA), said it’s important for him to hire coaches – both paid and volunteer – who will carry out the vision of the club.
He pointed out that coaches are the ones who directly influence player development.
“We trust our coaches to be on the frontline of the club.” – Andrew Lenhardt, Director of Coaching, (SASA)
When hiring a staff – especially those who interact with youth – it’s important to ensure there is a process in place to run background checks before hiring new employees. This will help ensure the safety of the athletes and the rest of the staff.
Clear expectations for performance and behavior should also be set and communicated to all staff members.
Tip #3: Manage rosters effectively
It’s important to gather and store team information in a secure and accessible place. Leagues need to acquire contact information for each player. Make sure phone numbers and email addresses are available for team members, but not available to the public.
League directors should select a platform that allows team rosters to be formed and shared with squad members. Certain platforms, like the TeamGenius app, allow teams to create rosters, input player data, store player evaluations and even perform live-scoring during tryouts.
Leagues can then send communications and tryouts results through the app.
For teams not using an app like the TeamGenius platform, directors should put other processes in place to store and share roster information.
Tip #4: Set a budget
Setting and keeping a budget isn’t the most exciting part of running a youth sports organization, but it’s one of the most important jobs. For tips on keeping your youth sports budget in check >
Leagues need to track player fees and payment schedules, payroll for employees, cost of fees for fields, equipment and travel expenses, and manager those against the overall budget.
The budget should be kept and updated in an application or format that can be easily shared with those who need to see it –like the board of directors. Keeping transparency with the budget is important so there are no questions about how league funds are being used.
Tip #5: Develop a Safety Plan and Train Staff
Leagues need to have emergency response plans in place to ensure the safety of athletes and spectators. Organizations should have first aid equipment on-hand during all practices, tryouts, and games, and staff should be trained on how to use it.
All staff should also be trained on the process to follow if there is an emergency to ensure a successful and timely response.
Tip #6: Communicate Excellently
Part of running a successful sports organization is communicating effectively with players, parents, coaches and league administrators.
Communication often helps establish transparency and trust between the league and its athletes and their parents. It also helps keep coaches and staff up-to-date on league announcements and happenings.
League directors should establish how communication will happen and in what format. They should also develop a communication chain so staff, players and parents know who the appropriate contacts are for various issues.