As a baseball volunteer you're probably scrambling with long to-do lists including registration, recruiting new coaches, preparing facilities, ordering uniforms, and more. Your routine may be similar to what you needed to do to get ready for the season last year. But we've got a few trends to keep your eye out for in 2018 as you get ready for the season.
Trend #1 - New safety standards in place
Safety is the hottest topic across youth, amateur, and professional sports in 2018. Keeping your coaches and parents up-to-date on the latest safety standards and procedures is critical to having a successful season this year, and getting parents to come back for next season. Two safety related topics that are getting attention this Winter are new bat standards and concussion prevention:
Bat Standards - 20 years ago there were very few bat standards in youth baseball. Now it seems every year coaches and parents have to keep up with new regulations. Bat standards across different leagues and levels continue to evolve, and depending on the level and affiliation of your team it's important to make sure you're up to speed:
- Metal bats in youth leagues will perform more like wood
- Youth baseball organizations are adopting new bat standards for 2018
Concussion Prevention - While football and soccer are getting the most attention related to concussion prevention, it's important your baseball program is doing everything it can to reduce head injuries. Unfortunately players at the MLB and college level have been slow to adopt protection for pitchers and batters, but we're seeing more and more youth programs stepping up their policies for protective equipment standards. Concussion laws are also developing in states across the country, requiring that volunteers, coaches, and parents take educational courses before participating. Many organizations have coaches and volunteers follow an education course during the registration process so that they are certified before practice begins.
Trend #2 - Facebook won't cut it for communication
For the last 5-10 years Facebook has been a popular method to get information out to parents, coaches, and community members. You may have used Facebook to help communicate registration, game cancellations, and more. But, big changes are coming to Facebook that are going to impact your organization if you primarily use Facebook to communicate.
Facebook is now prioritizing content posted by individual users in News Feeds, and won't be displaying content from organizations, brands, etc. very frequently (unless you pay to Boost your post). There's no way of knowing exactly how many people or who your post will reach. But, it's likely that most of your Facebook posts will only reach a small number of the people who have "Liked" your page, not to mention the parents who haven't "Liked" your page or don't login to Facebook on a regular basis.
Using other methods of communication like email and text communication can reach hundreds parent directly and proactively, rather than sending messages onto the Internet and hoping they stick.
Jersey Watch allows you to reach parents directly with a couple of clicks, as opposed to relying on social media only.
If you've used a Facebook page for your organization in the past, it's a good idea to continue updating the page. But if Facebook is the only way you're promoting your organization it's important to look for more reliable options as your main way to reach parents directly.
Trend #3 - Creative Sponsorship ideas
Finding new sponsors is tough. It's a lot of work, and it can be awkward asking local businesses for dollars to help the baseball program.
The key to getting new sponsors is to be creative. Don't just send emails or letters asking for donations. Make sponsors in your community feel like they are actually a part of your organization and making a difference. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Encourage sponsors support specific projects (like a new outfield fence, a new concession stand, or new helmets) is a great way to make the sponsor feel like they truly made a difference, rather than just writing a check.
- Give sponsors special recognition at Opening Day, your Banquet, or any other special events. Don't forget about them once you print their names on uniforms.
- Make sure sponsors get recognition on your website and other online channels.
Be sure to make it easy for people to become a sponsor. Technology also allows organizations to collect sponsorship easily without having to drive around town soliciting checks. We've seen many organizations using Jersey Watch raise over $1,000 during the registration process by allowing parents to sponsor a team when submitting payment for a player.
It's as simple as having a question in your form asking parents if they would like to sponsor (or donate) to the organization this year. You can even provide different levels (like Gold, Silver, and Bronze) of sponsorship so they have a few different options. Then, when they select an option the corresponding amount will be added to their total when they pay.
If you're using Jersey Watch for online registration, it's easy to allow parents or coaches to choose to sponsor and submit their payment during the registration process.
Trend #4 - Playing time and positioning recommendations
One of the toughest challenges for youth baseball volunteers can be managing playing time. Whether it's a recreational Tee Ball team, or a summer travel team, parents are going to have questions, requests, or complaints.
Playing time and positions are particularly tough in baseball, because playing 5-innings in right field is not as action packed as 5-innings pitching or catching. Managing batting orders is another challenge for coaches. There is no perfect solution that will satisfy all parents, coaches, and players.
But, you can significantly reduce the amount of complaints and requests you receive by outlining your playing time policies well in advance of the season, and making sure parents and coaches are all aware. Your playing time procedures and policies should be listed on your website and in the registration form so that everyone understands from Day 1. Coaches should also set expectations for playing time at the first practice - whether playing time will be equal for all players (recommended for any rec program) or based upon ability. Don't allow any "suprises" from parents or coaches after games begin.
Getting ready for opening day...
Staying up to speed with new safety standards, communication methods, finding new sponsors, and making sure parents are happy is a long list to tackle. You can divide and conquer if you have a few different volunteers involved and willing to help and you'll be ready to go in plenty of time for Opening Day in April. Get started today if you haven't already...
Questions or feedback about the youth baseball trends for 2018? Or other trends your organization is concerned with before the season? Send us a message at email@example.com.