Summer just ended, and the MLB playoffs are getting rolling. But, getting ready for the 2018 youth baseball season starts now.
Over the years we've learned a few best practices from successful baseball programs. Try these tips to get the spring 2018 season off on the right foot.
1. Open registration early
Families try to plan their schedules months in advance, so the earlier you can open registration for the spring season the better. You might keep registration open for baseball and softball until March, but starting registration in the fall gets some of the work out of the way early and helps you get an idea of the amount of players you'll have this season.
Opening registration in the fall also allows you to get a good feel for how many coaches will be needed, the amount of uniforms you'll need from your vendors, and the number of sponsors you'll need for your teams.
A lot of baseball programs offer a discount for families that register early as an extra incentive. And since it just takes a few minutes to open up registration online (see below) there's no reason not to allow parents to begin registering in the fall.
2. Do everything online
We recommend giving parents one option to pay: Online. More and more baseball and softball organizations are turning to online payments registration, and it is making their lives easier.
Why? A majority of parents will prefer to pay with credit card or debit card instead of cash and check. The ability to register any time from the comfort of their home is also a big plus for busy parents.
Online payments and registration can also save volunteers hours of paperwork, entering data into spreadsheets, and counting cash and checks. Plus, you can eliminate days spent at on-site registration. Registration just takes a few minutes to set up and all of the player information can be accessed easily.
Worried about security and refunds? Online payments are also more secure now than collecting cash and check and refunds can be issued in seconds instead of having to cut parents a check and recording the transaction manually.
Sure, you'll still have a few parents that ask if they can pay with a check or with cash. You certainly don't want to turn anyone away, but you can handle those requests on a case by case basis. Instead of having to handle hundreds of checks, cut your work back to handling just a few checks and having everyone else pay securely online.
Do you have an organization that really needs to do uniform sizing for the parents that need the perfect sized uniform? Make that day optional, and it will be a much easier experience if all the parents need to do is get sized for a uniform then leave.
3. Keep the fees simple
Do you offer different prices for each age group? And different prices for T-Ball vs. Baseball vs. Softball? Is that really necessary, or could you charge the same price for all players?
Many organizations charge one price across all age groups, or limit it to just a couple of different prices. Volunteers that set up complex pricing plans for their organization make their lives way harder than it needs to be.
Charging the same price for each age group and division will reduce the amount of mistakes that can be made, result in fewer confused parents, and save your volunteers time because there will be fewer questions and complaints.
4. Collect Only the Information You Really Need
It's super important you collect all important information about each player and their parents during the registration process. But, try to keep in mind that parents are busy, and the easier you can make their registration experience the more likely they'll be to recommend you to other families, and come back to register again next year.
A lot of leagues use confusing and complex forms that take parents too much time to complete. Sometimes it's just because "that's how we've always done it" or "we use the same forms that the previous board used". Before you finalize your forms for 2018, make sure that every question in your form is absolutely necessary. If not, eliminate the question. Do you really need to know the phone number for the family dentist? Or could you get by with only the most important contact information?
The more information you collect, the more likely it is for parents to make mistakes as they rush through the form. Collecting only important information will ensure you get reliable answers about each player, and save yourself time once registration is over.
5. Assign one volunteer to own registration responsibility
Too often we notice that organizations don't have a volunteer whose role is managing and promoting registration. The duties are left up to the President, and anyone else whilling to chip in. This can result in the whole board throwing their hands up when registration numbers are low in February.
We recommend making sure you have one person whose main role is getting the registration process started, and promoting registration in the community. Even if you don't have someone with the title "Registration Coordinator", make sure it's clear which volunteer is in charge of registration.
It may seem early to be getting ready for the 2018 season, but if you start preparing now you can save yourself a lot of time once January and February come around. Remember to keep things simple, and make sure you've got at least one volunteer who is taking the registration bull by the horns and you'll be good to go!
What other baseball registration tips do you have? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment at the bottom of the page.