The Ultimate Guide On How To Start A Sports League
Have you ever participated in a recreational sports league? You may have enjoyed it so much that you want to create your own sports league. We'll say this from the onset: it's not quite a walk in the park, it requires loads of precise planning. But it's also very rewarding (if you play your cards right) and this article is the best place to start.
Why should you listen to us? Because we're passionate about all things sports related. We boast decades of top-level experience organizing recreational sports leagues. So, we took what we know and made the whole process of creating a league easy for you. We looked around and most other guides expect you to do quite a lot on your own, based on a few vague steps. That's why we've chosen to do things a bit differently. We've gathered everything we know about sports management and put it in this guide.
In this article, you'll find information on everything, from accounting to marketing. We'll also guide you on how to find the right facilities, even rent-free ones, for your sports league. We've put the whole process into a few simple steps, to help you build the best league for your community.
Determining Interest And Getting Early Registrations
It's hard not to get carried away with excitement for your project. But, it's also important to balance enthusiasm with practical thinking.
Sports leagues run on teams, and you'll need at least 6 teams with enough players to fill them. So, you'll have to channel most of your initial energy towards finding players for your league. Trust us, it's much better to turn registered players away because you can't find a place to rent than paying the deposit and finding no players to register. This can hurt your finances, especially if you were planning to make a profit.
Before you proceed, try to gauge people's interest, particularly those closest to you. Introduce the idea to family and friends and ask them to help spread the word. If your budget is big enough, you can also print flyers and post them in strategic locations. Organizing games in your neighbourhood and encourage locals to get involved is another great way to market.
If you're going with fliers, make sure they have your website on it. This, of course, means that you'll also need a website. There, you can offer discounts for early registration and provide more information. Your website should also include a platform for registration and payments. If you need help with setting up a website, we'd be happy to assist. Or, you can check out our comprehensive article on sport league websites.
If you're looking to generate excitement for your league, don't underestimate the power of social media. Post pictures of all your milestones like new venue, equipment, official, or member of the team. If you want to take things further, we can help create social media ads, to help drive traffic to your page. Also, check out this article we've written, for more information on social media marketing.
As soon as you've registered enough players for at least six teams, you're ready to start securing contracts with sports complexes.
Get Your Finances In Check
When organizing recreational sports leagues, it's important to cover all angles. A single unresolved detail can ruin months of planning. And in our experience, nothing haunts a project more, than the bad financial planning.
Fortunately, organizing a recreational sports league is not very expensive, especially if you're not looking to make a profit. In this case, all you need to do is break even (with a little extra for end of season awards). If you want to make a profit for the business to be sustainable, you'd need to include a profit margin of at least 25%. We've mapped out a budget that can help you plan your league, in keeping with our hands-on approach. Regardless of the kind of sports league, you plan to host, here are some costs you need to take into account:
Locating The Right Facility
As we've stated earlier, finding a venue for your league is the most important consideration. Unfortunately, it may also be the hardest task to do, and you need to get it done weeks before the season begins. Depending on your budget, there are several options open to you.
You can approach this task by making a list of all the gyms, fields, or courts in your neighbourhood. If you're paying to use those facilities, try to limit the cost to around 35% of your entire budget. School facilities are pretty cost-effective, but they may be in use by the host sports teams when you need them. You can also check out the recreational facilities provided by your city and the permits you need to use them. Other facilities available for use include sports complexes, churches, and public parks.
Make sure to keep distance in mind. It'll be hard to convince players to travel long distances just to get to your field every match day. Try to keep the distance short, at most a 30-minute drive.
Though you may have your 6 teams, you want to keep your league growing. Thankfully, you don't have to spend a fortune trying to get the word out. Start by spreading the word yourself, then print flyers for high traffic areas.
If you have the budget for it, you may take out an advertisement in the sports section of your local newspaper. You can get some players in your local sports team to put in a few good words for you, or even make an appearance at games. Facebook is also a great platform to connect with your target audience and gain publicity for your league. All you need is to stay active and bring up interesting content for your audience to engage with. You can also set up a website as we mentioned above. Regardless of which medium you use, it's a good idea to limit advertising costs to about 5% of your budget.
Equipment costs money. Especially quality ones, and quality equipment will do wonders for the reputation of your league. Players love it, for instance, when a ball goes where they send it. Good equipment may even save you the extra expense of having to replace them as the season ends.
In most cases, fixed equipment such as goalposts, nets, hoops, and line markings are provided by the facility you're using. Others such as uniforms (for players and referees or umpires), balls, flags, whistles, pumps, bats, are on the league.
These may take up to 15% of your budget. But, these costs can be offset by securing sponsors. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can offer to feature the logo of a local business on jerseys or mention their name during timeouts. Costs can also be cut by buying equipment in bulk from a sports equipment store that offers a discount in exchange for being named the league's "official" supplier.
These are pretty workable plans for when you're just starting up. As you go on, you may find your needs becoming more flexible. If you reach a point where you're no longer comfortable with budgets, contact us and we'll work something out with you.
Sports are competitive, at whatever level it's being played. Fights are bound to occur. This is in addition to the fact that some players prefer bending rules (or even ignoring them). You'll need a referee to help maintain law and order (within the context of the game) and enforce rules.
Skilled referees will keep the game flowing, keep the players safe, and ultimately help everyone enjoy the game better. Referees will also resist being pushed around by players. They'll be consistent with their calls, leading to fewer disappointments for both teams. Referees also add a certain professional feel to sports leagues.
Referees that have a solid knowledge of league are ideal, and along with other administrative officers, may cost about 20% of your budget. However, referees do not have to be perfect. You can bring down costs by advertising for volunteers to take up these roles. You may also offer discounts to players who encourage members of their family to sign up to act as officials.
We're also happy to help you locate referees for your recreational sports league. Depending on where you are, we have a comprehensive directory of registered referees in North America. This tool will help you locate the best referee for you, no matter where you are. If that proves ineffective, contact us and we'll work towards helping you find a referee in your area.
Writing Up Rules And Policies
Rules are important because they give a general overview of how you want your league to be played. They also keep players and family members (in the case of youth leagues) in check while preventing teams from registering professional players who have more skill than all the other players in your amateur league combined. Rules are important for maintaining a level playing field.
We once attended an amateur volleyball game. As you can imagine, the skill levels weren't great and some of the players were new to the game. But the organizer insisted on playing by the book. It ended up being a game full of errors, interruptions, and unhappy players. It wasn't great.
If you're looking for a league that reflects the level of competition of the top leagues, then try to have rules to match. However, consider modifying the rules for less competitive leagues to help players with less skill enjoy the game more. You may also need to adjust your rules to work around some restrictions imposed by your facility.
Ideally, ensure that your teams are aware of all rules before the start of the season and make it clear that rule-breaking leads to punishments. You should also make sure that the rules are clearly stated, outlining punishments for various misdemeanours in detail. On the other hand, try as much as possible to encourage sportsmanship.
If you need a bit of direction, we've drawn up a template of sport league rules and regulations that can provide the perfect starting point for you. As you proceed, you can customize or improve them to suit your needs and preferences.
Creating Incentivization For Players
What can a little player incentivization do for the quality and popularity of your league? Quite a lot. Nothing motivates more than the reward (or expected rewards). Players are more likely to put in more effort if they know that there's something on the line. The increased competitiveness leads to better games, which can do the reputation of your league no harm.
Fortunately, you don't have to break the bank to do this. You can offer small prizes to the best player after every game. For the amateur leagues, you may even give out hotdogs to the best player in every match.
You can also host a party at the end of the season, where special prizes are handed-out to outstanding players, coaches and match officials. Simple plaques will be enough these cases. If you're planning to do this, it's a good idea to include the cost in your budget. Or, you can seek the support of local sponsors.
Once you've organized players into teams, the next step is to find coaches for these teams. Coaches encourage, support, and provide guidance to players while also strategizing on the best way to approach games. They base their judgment on the strength of their players and the weaknesses of the opposing teams.
Since you cannot be in over six places at the same time, you'd have to delegate these responsibilities to others. If you happen to know people who can handle these roles for you, then great, you're good to go. If, you don't know anyone who can fill these positions for you, you may have to look outside.
You can start, as always, by putting out feelers and making it known among friends and family that you're looking for coaches. You can also include the fact that coaches' services would be highly welcome on your flyers. Placing ads on social media and local newspapers may also bring positive results. If you're organizing a sports league for children, you should think about offering discounts to kids whose parents sign up to act as coaches.
Of course, if your budget can support it, you may offer to pay stipends to coaches when you place adverts for their services. Place parents and their kids in the same team and enlist the services of your local police to conduct background checks on coaches you're unfamiliar with.
It's important to keep track of relevant information when organizing a recreational sports league. When you're just starting, tools such as Google Spreadsheet and Excel can help you handle such tasks as:
- Recording the names, addresses, and contact details of players. Also, information from parents or guardians can be recorded if you're organizing youth leagues.
- Tracking registration fee payments
- Creating a league schedule
- Tracking insurance and insurance waivers
- Keeping track of uniform sizes and equipment.
However, as your season progresses and your league grows, you may need to buy online management software, for greater efficiency. In addition to the above tasks, good management software offers the following services:
- Website creation: Your website can make the registration process much easier and faster, and information can be accessed by players much more easily on your official website.
- Integrated Payment Processing: Rather than manually keeping track of the payments on a spreadsheet, players can make payments directly on your website.
- Unlimited Email Management: You can send emails containing information about your league to players, coaches, and other officials.
- Group Registration: You can register as many people as you want for your sports league.
- Personal Support: A project manager is on hand to offer support and help you get familiar with your system.
- Multiple Templates
- Reporting Tools
- Custom Database Creator
These are just some of the services offered by good management software which you really should look out for before purchasing one. However, if buying software doesn’t make financial sense to you right now, you can check out this Excel sheet that will help you organize your small league for the time being.
Ongoing Communication With League Members
The value of communication when managing sports leagues cannot be overestimated. People are sure to appreciate you engaging with them during and even after games. Fostering relationships with people will help them develop an affinity for your project, which will contribute greatly to its growth. In any case, they'll provide necessary feedback, and you can learn a few things about your league which you may have overlooked.
Don't forget to also talk to your players regularly. Encourage good performances and also encourage them to give suggestions on how the league can be better. You can also keep the lines of communication open by sending periodic emails with relevant information, reminders, and updates.
Designing Your League Schedule
Designing league schedules can be done easily and manually on a spreadsheet when you're just starting or when you have a limited number of teams. It's a good idea to create your league schedule before the season begins and distribute it among the teams. However, your workload may become a lot heavier once your league grows and there are lots of other things to keep track of. Things may get muddled and your efficiency may suffer a decline.
If you're organizing a big league, it's a good idea to get an online management software. It makes things much easier and much more orderly. Good online management software will assist with the creation of schedules for longer seasons. You'll also get the option of publishing the schedule on the league's website.
Sponsors can help fund your league, giving you a much-needed wriggle room and breathing space. To locate them, however, you'd need to be active and proactive. You may start by approaching local businesses to act as sponsors. In return, offer them the chance to advertise their products during timeouts in games. Your local professional team can also act as sponsors.
Alternatively, invite some of the big businesses in your area to a fundraiser. Some companies may also pay to have their logos printed on your jerseys. However, don't just choose any sponsor. Pick out one whose principles and practices are in alignment with the image you're trying to project for your league.
There's one other task you need to perform, and it's no less important than others in this article: purchasing liability insurance. You'd need to get liability insurance covering your league's players, coaches, volunteers, and other officials.
If your league is found responsible for injuries during the season, your insurance will help cover medical and legal costs. The Amateur Athletic Union is one of such insurance agencies that offer such policies. You may also need to get the players to sign injury waivers.
In addition to helping people find friends, sports offers several other immense benefits, which is why it's so enjoyable. This enjoyment value can be multiplied at least six times by sports leagues.
Make no mistake, organizing and managing a sports league is by no means an easy task, but if you're prepared to take it on, you just may affect people, and by extension your community, positively. Whenever you're ready to try your hand at it, give us a call or send us an email and let's work out something together.