The Most Valuable Experience You Should Be Giving Your Youth Sports Club Members & Why It Matters
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Creating a strong member experience is an essential part of a highly successful club. A winning record is quickly overshadowed by a club that treats its members like a number or overtrains its athletes and overworks its coaches. When coaches, parents, and players feel they are part of an organization that values them and creates a connected experience for them, they are more likely to stay with your club and refer others to your organization.
Here are 8 strategies you can implement to help make members the central focus of your club/league and improve their experiences.
Invest in player and coaching development
This may seem obvious, but it’s too important not to mention. For players, focusing on athletic progression and player development is essential and impacts both the player and parent experience. Your athletes are going to want to progress in their sport(s), and so will their parents. Good player development is progressive, technical and all-encompassing. Can your players still complete a pass technically under pressure from an opponent? Does their practice incorporate enough strength and conditioning to meet the physical demands of their sport and a full game? Are your players building on skills and training week over week?
Keep in mind that not all athletic development happens at practice. A good coach and program will give players at-home training opportunities as well, to continue to develop their skills. Another great way to focus on player development is bringing in experts in the sport for a skill seminar, or referring out physical therapists or strength and conditioning coaches for help with injury prevention/rehabilitation or conditioning.
Development shouldn’t be limited to your players; invest in your coaches’ growth as well through continued education. There are plenty of online courses (we love the Positive Coaching Alliance’s curriculum), workshops, and in-person training your coaches can take that can help them uplevel their skills and grow professionally. Research has also consistently shown that kids who play for trained coaches have a better experience in their sports program:
According to Aspen Institute, one study found that only 5 percent of kids who played for trained coaches quit the sport the next year; the attrition rate was 26 percent otherwise (Barnett, Smoll & Smith, 1992). Of the 6.5 million youth coaches, fewer than 1 in 5 are trained in effective motivational techniques — how to communicate well with kids — and only 1 in 3 say they have been trained in sport skills or tactics (SGMA, 2012).
The bottom line? Investing in your coaches’ education and training is an investment in your players and overall member experience.
Be open to feedback
There is no such thing as growth if there’s no feedback. Asking your members for feedback not only helps ensure your organization is meeting expectations it’s also a great way to find out where and how you can improve. Soliciting input from members helps to build a culture of open communication and fosters connection and trust between parents and administrators. People want to be part of a community they feel heard in. Once you’ve asked for feedback, take time to internalize and understand it, before implementing where possible. You won’t always be able to implement every suggestion, but it’s a great best practice to follow up with those whose suggestions were not accepted, to talk through why it’s not the best fit at this time.
Parents and players make up the core of your sports organization. They are your boots on the ground for how things are going at your organization, and what other organizations might be implementing that could impact your club. Create a culture within your organization that values ideas and feedback from your members. Regularly ask for input and suggestions. Soliciting feedback and input from members helps them feel like their opinion matters, and it is a great way for you to improve existing processes or implement new ones and people want to be part of a community they feel heard in.
And implement feedback where you can
Once you’ve received feedback or suggestions, take the time to internalize and understand it, before implementing where possible. Making a clear connection between what they give you and what you’re able to do as a result will underline how important they are to you. You won’t always be able to implement every suggestion, but it’s a great best practice to follow up with those whose suggestions were not accepted, to talk through why it’s not the best fit at this time. This ensures that even though their suggestion may not have been implemented, they still feel seen and valued.
Emphasize injury prevention
Make injury prevention a priority at your club or league. Ensure coaches are emphasizing dynamic warm-ups and proper cool downs before and after all games and practices. Refer out to specialists in mobility or strength and conditioning for prehab exercises for joints like knees, ankles and shoulders, all of which can go through a lot of wear and tear with active athletes. Have coaches implement foam rolling and stretching into take-home exercises. Your athletes’ well-being should always be at the forefront of coaches’ minds, but making sure your club emphasizes this as a core part of its practice, is an actionable way to put player health and experience first.
Have a customer-first mindset
Get comfortable getting into a member’s focused mindset. What does this mean? This means putting yourself in your member’s shoes. As a board member, ask yourself what you would want from your club or league if your kids were playing here? On the other hand, put yourself in your athlete’s shoes, what do you think they’d want to get out of their time with your club or league? Better yet, your athletes at the start of the season what they want to learn and achieve. Have coaches check in with players regularly to see if they are meeting those expectations. At the end of the season, ask them if they felt they achieved their goals and what they want to work on for the next season.
Become a goal-oriented organization
Place an emphasis on having your coaches set measurable and attainable goals for their athletes at the start of the season. Goals serve as a north star to guide your teams and players towards an outcome. Achieving goals is great for team morale, creates connection through teamwork and helps kids feel good about what they are doing. Happy athletes make happy teams and happy players, coaches and parents are the recipe for a thriving sports organization.
Goal setting shouldn’t just be limited to your club’s players and teams. Have coaches set their own personal and professional goals for the season and help them find ways to achieve them. Setting and achieving goals is an essential part of personal and professional development and feeling valued at an organization.
Create a personalized experience
No one likes to feel like a number, least of all members of your club or league. Even if your sports organization is large, make a concerted effort to get to know your coaches, parents and players. Personalize outreach and interactions as much as you can. Recognize coaches and players for their hard work with end-of-season awards or player or coach spotlights on your blog/newsletter etc. Regularly scheduled club-wide events or team events outside of games and practices can help parents, coaches and players get to know each other. Social events and personal connections strengthen your members’ ties to your club, by building a strong community.
Use a solution that makes sport and game organization easy
The type of experience your members receive with your club or league also depends on your club’s organizational and communication strengths. A disorganized club without clear communication channels and processes is chaotic for both coaches and parents. Instead, use trusted technology to manage your day-to-day club operations that your parents and coaches will love, like TeamSnap for Clubs & Leagues. Designed specifically for growing clubs, leagues and associations in mind, TeamSnap for Clubs and Leagues allows you to collect registration payments, centralize your messaging and scheduling tasks in one solution.