Planning is the cornerstone of any well-run youth sports program. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail! Proper planning prevents poor performance! Planning is extremely important in coordinating any high-level program. Planning can come in many forms and most all plans are open and customizable to how you want to operate. Below are some tips on different plans you should have in place within your youth sports programs.
- Scheduling: Schedule out your program dates at least a year in advance. If you run multiple sports leagues organize your dates in a program calendar to give you a picture of the entire year. If you are coordinating programs all year round, you also want to have a solid programming plan in place. Once your schedules are set for the year communicate it!
- League Documents: No matter what types of documents you use in your league make sure you have your templates ready to go well before your next season. These include things like parents’ packets, rules books, forms, flyers, administrative spreadsheets, etc. Plan out all the documents you need and keep them accessible and organized in one area.
- Marketing: Marketing plans can come in several forms but at the very least have a calendar or outline on when you want to start to market your programs and what marketing channels you want to use. Narrow your marketing efforts to each of your target markets for more effective marketing and communication. Market to past participants as well as the local community.
- Budget: Your budget is the planning tool for your finances. Sound budgeting will ensure you only spend what you are able to spend based on your forecasted revenue and expenses. Once your budget is created, stick to it as close as possible and track EVERY expense that comes in to make sure you stay on track.
- Staffing: If you are a larger organization and have the ability to staff your games with part-time staff or scorekeepers, have a plan to staff your programs. You may also have your own in-house referees or work with an officiating association. Falling short on staff will have a direct effect on your game days and may leave some fields unsupervised or canceled altogether. Make sure to know your optimal staffing levels and have a plan to ensure you never fall short!
- Staff Training: Training and education is an ongoing process and should be taken seriously. You don’t have to do all your training in-house, as there are tons of resources out there to provide staff trainings. Regardless of how you want to do it, have an annual training program in place to make sure you get the most out of your most valuable investment, your staff.
- Volunteer Management: Volunteer coaches are the heart of your league and no youth sports league can happen without them. It is extremely important to have a plan to recruit, retain, educate and train your volunteer coaches or any other volunteers that may be a part of your program. The best programs generally have the best volunteer base.
- Parent Management: Plan on how you are going to manage your parents. This includes education, game day expectations, and your code of conduct.
- Fundraising: Many youth sports leagues will rely on some type of fundraising to help subsidize your registration fees and provide enough revenue to keep the league running. Have a fundraising plan to keep your fundraising goals on track.
- Maintenance: If your organization also maintains your sports facilities, create a maintenance plan that focuses on your preventative maintenance for every aspect of your facilities. A sound preventative maintenance plan will keep your facility aesthetically pleasing, increase the lifespan of your assets, and help you identify how long things are supposed to last and when they need to be replaced.
- Risk Management: Regular inspections, having proper insurance, and creating emergency action plans are all part of your overall risk management plan. Limiting your liability will prevent a catastrophic incident from closing down your program for good.
- Equipment Inventory: Have a plan for managing your equipment inventory so you always know how much you have on hand and when you need to order more.
To raise awareness about the benefits of youth sports programs, NRPA has also developed a communications toolkit, in partnership with the Walt Disney Company, to help park and recreation professionals make connections and encourage participation in park and recreation youth sports programs. This toolkit provides data-backed messaging, sample social media posts, template graphics and more.
All of the above can be put together to form part of your organization’s business plan and comprehensive strategic plans. Short-term planning can take place a year in advance with long-term plans going out 5-10 years. Regardless of how long you are planning out you should always review and adjust your plans on a regular basis. Lack of planning will always show, so remember if you put in the extra planning work up front, it will make your job easier, your operations smoother, and your overall programs better in the long run!
Jason Schaitz, MBA, CPRE, is a parks and recreation director in the state of Florida with 15 years of experience managing youth sports, camps and recreation programs. He also created and manages League Source and The Summer Camp Source with the goal of providing free high-quality resources for any type of youth sports or camp program. Take your leagues and camps to the next level by visiting our websites for free resources and education!