It's pretty common for a professional athlete to change teams in their career. A big reason why is free agency. Whether they want to join a better team, move to a more suitable climate, or offer their services to the highest bidder, they have a lot of options when their contract ends with their current team.
If you think about it, parents (and their children) also go through free agency quite often. Every year, in fact. Now, unless the organization across town is the New York Yankees, you probably don't need to worry about your families being bought out. However, it's important to think about parents as having one-year contracts with your organization. There's no guarantee that they will be returning next year, and a new opportunity could be right down the road.
Here are some ways to retain parents within your organization, and prevent them from "testing the waters" during their annual free agency period.
Provide Volunteer Opportunities During the Season
All good retention strategies are proactive. This means that the best way to keep parents around when decision time comes is by laying the groundwork well in advance. If it's done well, there won't even be a decision to be made! When attempting to retain families from season to season, it all boils down to one thing: their level of investment.
More investment = Better retention. So, how do you get them invested? By providing opportunities for them to devote their time and effort for the betterment of the group. Parents are always jumping at the chance to serve as volunteers, and it should be a priority to ensure they have that chance. That being said, don't feel the need to hand them a spot on the Board. Just keep in mind that whenever people feel out of the loop, the extent to which they identify with that group lessens. When people no longer identify with the group, they look elsewhere for that sense of fulfillment and community.
Eager parents are everywhere.
(Image Courtesy of Fox)
Hold a Season Wrap-Up Meeting IMMEDIATELY
The season just ended. Time for a breather, right? Not just yet. Try holding an end-of-the-year meeting, where you can 'tie a neat bow' on the previous season and set your sights on the upcoming season.
Most organizations have some type of culminating event like an awards banquet or a pizza party, which is great, but by inviting everyone to a wrap-up meeting, you can gather feedback from parents concerning how they thought season went. Parents want to be heard, and this is a great way to accomplish that without feeling the need to institute any changes mid-season.
More importantly, you can use this meeting to provide a vision for the upcoming season. Feel free to even bounce some ideas off of the parents. This requires parents to envision themselves returning to the organization next season, and it keeps them invested in plans for the future.
Visuals are always effective.
(Image courtesy of NBC)
Keep Them Updated Throughout the Off-Season
Please, please, please... do not let your website and/or social media accounts go untouched for weeks at a time during the off-season. This is a critical error that many youth sports organizations make time and time again. Your sport may only take place for a handful of months out of the year, but your role in the organization is year-round.
Think of it this way: if you're looking to purchase a product online, and you notice that no one has left a review for that product in that 6 months, what questions start creeping into your mind?
Why did people stop purchasing this product? Was it discontinued? Is there something better out there that people are buying now?
Before you know it, you've already discredited that product and started looking elsewhere. Even if you're just sharing out a link to a new recipe on your Facebook page, make sure you find a way to keep in touch with everyone during the downtimes.
Take Ctrl of communication during the off-season.
"Convince" their Child to Return
All parent suggestions aside, there is one trump card that can be played at any time to overrule a parent's opinion: the child.
If the kid is having fun -- if the kid is learning the game -- if the kid is making friends -- if the kid wants to come back next year... more times than not, that family will return. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the primary purpose of a youth sports organization is to provide a positive experience for the children. If the child is happy, the parents will generally be happy, too.
Luke wants to play for the Rebels again next season.
(Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios)
How else do you keep parents invested in your sports organization?
Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment below!