Commissioners use innovative strategies to reach new members
This article was originally featured in the December 2010 edition of USA Football Magazine.
The offseason can be just as important as the actual season itself for youth football commissioners. That's why more commissioners across the country are preparing for league registration through innovative strategies.
Leagues and commissioners have become more adept at employing the Internet. E-mail blast campaigns, surveys and interactive Web sites are some of the more popular ways leagues are harnessing the Web's resources.
USA Football offers an online registration and league website tools to help with operations.
"Unlike the past when communication was strictly limited to the newspaper, yard signs or flyers handed out to a school - which may or may not make it home - we now have access to families through the Internet," explains Indian Nations Football Conference (Okla.) Commissioner Tom Lott, whose league consists of 366 teams. "We have the ability to have constant contact with our families and we consistently search for any means we can offer on our Web site to entice everyone to stay in contact with us."
Commissioners also partner with local elementary and middle schools and use their listservs to reach prospective youth players. Once the leagues have sparked interest in new players, parents are directed to go online for more information in order to make player registration quick and easy.
"We have a very good registration primer on our Web site that is written much like the 'For Dummies' book," said Rockville (Md.) Football League President Erick Heckman. "We have a lot of boundaries and recruiting rules that must be enforced, so it's very important that we make ourselves available via e-mail and phone to answer questions and make sure players are registered to the correct age and weight groups and the right team.
"We have successfully used the technology to increase our registration by 10 percent to 20 percent a year for the last five years."
Perhaps the most important thing commissioners should keep in mind during the offseason is remembering to take the time to plan ahead. For instance, it's imperative to secure a location for equipment handout and registration day as early as possible. Planning ahead eliminates confusion and arms the players, parents and coaches with information they need when registration time comes around.
"In order to run a successful youth football organization, a commissioner must treat the club like a business and always follow the rule of the Five Ps (Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance)," said Lott, who has been commissioner of the Indian Nations Football Conference for more than 23 years. "I feel a new commissioner who is preparing for the upcoming season needs to make sure everything is set in place early - typically by April. For us, our equipment has been purchased, reconditioned, organized and returned to the shelves; our registrations are open and online; our Web site is up to date; and our coaches have gone through their first preseason meetings. We have also begun finalizing our preseason camps and coaches as well as assigning practice field and combine locations.
"We have learned that by preparing early, it eliminates a major amount of complaints which would otherwise arise. It also makes for a smooth transition into the season."