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Fresh Ideas For Growing a Youth Sports Program

Fresh ideas road sign with lightbulbLooking for ways to grow your local youth sports program? Here are some suggestions:

1.  Reach out to other programs and organizations:

  • If you are a soccer club, reach out to the youth baseball and football programs to engage in cross-promotion of your clubs or leagues.  Ask them to pass out your fliers and announce your registration dates near the end of their season, and agree to do the same for them; 
  • Ask local churches and schools if they can include your registration information in their newsletters or e-mail blasts; and
  • Ask schools if you can promote your league at school functions/events (country fairs, holiday fairs, spring carnivals) by handing out flyers or by sending them home in the student's home folder.
2. Early registration/incentives/payment options
  • Offer a discounted price for early registration;
  • Give discounts or free sign-ups to families who are new to your program;
  • Provide incentives to families for bringing in new participants such as discounted registrations or free play for their child.
  • Give parents the option to pay by credit card online;
  • Set up "layaway" programs so parents can spread out payments, especially after the holidays when money is tight; and
  • Hold raffles prize giveaways at registration (free registration or gear-related items or gift cards kids can use to buy a new glove, bat, or other equipment);
  • Run an equipment swap or sale during registration;
  • Hold registration at a local restaurant, where families who register get a discount (a win-win for the league and the restaurant!) or a local sporting goods store;
  • Provide free registrations to those families who can't afford the cost of sports, making up the revenue through fundraisers, concessions and sponsorships from corporations and local businesses; and
  • Turn registrations into fun events by filling them with activities: get a retired professional athlete in the community or college players run clinics, have food, prizes donated by the local sporting goods stores) and music.

3. Set up sports-free weekends and school vacations.

  • To allow for family weekends and vacations, schedule some sports-free weekends, Sundays or school vacation periods.

4. Advertise

  • Post a banner at your fields, courts or diamonds;
  • Hold registration during school sports tournaments;
  • Set up a Facebook page;
  • Post brightly colored fliers at grocery stores, hair salons, and on bulletin boards of popular local businesses;
  • Hold events where parents can meet the volunteers who work behind the scenes to run your program, not only in your town but at the district level, such as by setting up desks with forms and volunteers to answer questions for a day or two in front of each elementary and middle school in your area;
  • Promote the new program (such as fall baseball) by giving each player a t-shirt.  Not only do the kids get something special, the t-shirts create buzz about the program;
  • Have kids, coaches, managers and local board members and parents wear their team or All-Star shirts to school one day; and
  • Do more outreach in Hispanic communities by doing more advertising in Spanish.
Have an idea? Please send to delench@momsteam.com.

Brooke de Lench is Founder and Publisher of MomsTeam.com and the author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports  (HarperCollins 2006).
Do you have fresh ideas that you have used to build participation in a local youth sprorts program in your community? E-mail them to Brooke at delench@MomsTeam.com.
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Updated February 20, 2012