When you’re trying to grow your sports league – whether it’s new or established – one of the biggest challenges you’re likely to face is acquiring new members. Luckily – we’ve curated a list of the best ways to get new players. We’ve broken them down into warm players (coming from the social networks of your existing members) and cold players (coming in totally fresh and new).
Let’s talk about your existing (warm) players first. It’s no secret that sports are a social activity; people joined your league to play their favorite sport, but they come back every season to see their friends/teammates. Thus, it’s vital to the long-term success of your league that you foster a community for your players.
So how do you make people become friends? The best thing you can do is to create opportunities for your players to connect. Once your members have the opportunity to get to know each other, friendships will be able to grow organically. There are a few ways to do this.
The first thing you should do is help your players communicate with each other. Whether it’s through text or social media, this helps them get more engaged in the league. Expand on this by opening up your personal communication (whether it’s your own phone number or social media handle) and encourage players to reach out with questions and comments. This not only ensures that you are able to connect to your players one-on-one, but also provides a confidential outlet for players to voice their feedback.
Additionally, we encourage you to host events outside of your typical games/practices. Many leagues are already hosting end-of-season parties but to help players meet each other out of the gate, try hosting a season kick-off social! This event is especially effective at integrating new players into your league. Other events to encourage social interaction include organizing pick-up games, hosting mid-season tournaments, or having a single day in your season where you mix up players from all your separate teams. Anything that can help your players get to know each other in a positive setting is great to try. We’ve even heard from the Toronto Ultimate Club that they found success by introducing spirit/enthusiasm points within their adult leagues.
So now your players are all friends with each other. How does that help you grow? First of all, improving the culture of your league drastically increases player retention, which will make it easier for you to project player numbers season-to-season. Secondly, emphasizing social experiences in your league encourages your players to bring their friends to future games and events. One event that we’ve found works wonders for growing your league is running a free pick-up game for your players. This not only gives your members a chance to meet others players in the league, but if you encourage everyone to bring a friend, it will also give you direct access to a pool of potential new players.
Attracting cold players is trickier. To start, look online for sports groups in your area. Most cities have Facebook or Meetup groups for a variety of different sports; there may also be local non-profits that help match sports players with leagues. If you took our advice from above and are hosting an event for your players, share it with these groups to encourage cold prospects to come join in on the fun.
Good old-fashioned guerrilla marketing works too. Posting flyers around your local neighborhood or on notice boards in places like cafes and pubs helps get the name of your club out there. We also recommend talking to your local municipality to see if you can set up flyers or booths at their community centers.
Finally, a lot of leagues find success with Google SEO or online ads. Unlike the other methods, this one is typically more costly – especially in large cities where you’ll be competing for keywords with other leagues.
Overall, building and growing a league is tough. The tips outlined above are all great ways to accomplish this feat, but as long as you're creating a positive community for your players, you'll find success.
If you have experience with building league culture or have any questions/comments, we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org! You can also check out our website to learn more at www.javelinsportsinc.com/leagues.