How to Lead a Youth Sports League

Sports leagues can consist of all kinds of activities, including baseball, basketball, soccer, full-contact football and flag-or-touch football. Many times the person who is picked to lead the league or association came up “through the ranks.” They coached, worked in concession stands, sat on the board, umpired or refereed. In short, they were involved.

Unfortunately this is not what an operation like this necessarily needs for a leader. This person would certainly be dedicated to the league in most cases, but I have seen some hardworking, dedicated league presidents who led the league to a major financial and enrollment decline.

Leadership qualities needed

If an active, financially stable league is your goal, the choice for league president or leader should be based on proven leadership, preferably in a competitive business environment. This person, male or female, must have two attributes that are critical. Recruiting support and delegating duties are critical. If this person cannot recruit good people to coach, work concessions and referee, the league is going to be noticeably harmed in their effort to provide for youngsters. Recruiting can also include obtaining financial and equipment support from major business firms in the area. The other attribute that is critical is problem solver. If this leader cannot solve major dilemmas, the league will suffer in a critical way. The problem can be participation, support, financial, or logistics. This person must be able to address the issues well and quickly. If they are not able to do this, the league will be in trouble.

A major recovery that really happened

Many years ago I was chosen to be President of a contact football league. I had never coached football or worked for the league. The players were using old, broken equipment. There was very little money in the treasury. Participation was dropping – they had just reduced the league by a single team. Things could not have been worse. The first thing I did was to bring in a friend of mine who had moved to town from Florida. He had told me about his sons playing flag football in Florida. I talked our board into keeping contact football for nine to twelve year-olds but adding flag (no contact) football for ages six to eight year-olds. I believe we started the flag league for less than one hundred dollars for every two teams (Tee shirts, flags and footballs are needed). Not only was the cost minimal but also the six to nine age group comes with massive parental participation. Concession stand coverage increased, many parents attended games and the money just kept rolling in. We were able to make a major equipment upgrade for the contact football teams before the end of the season.

What is the most important position?

I learned very quickly that the treasurer is the most important person on the board and the concession manager is the second most important. The treasurer must be someone that can appreciate the need but not seek prestige or notice for the contribution made to the league. This is a thankless job that usually goes unnoticed but is critical to any league. The second most important position is the manager of the concession stand. Just like with the treasurer you want a very honest, trust worthy person who can manage supplies, money and volunteers. In many leagues very few parents even know those two people.

Special note about concession stands

No concession stand is complete without snow cones for $.50 to a dollar. What really helps is when the parents rotate being volunteers to buy the snow cones for the team after each game. Think about the true cost of a snow cone and then calculate the profit margin. It will quickly add up to large profits especially if you have your own ice machine or if free ice is furnished.

Field managers

A league president must be responsible for the conduct of all players and parents. One support position that can be delegated is a position of field manager. This person can establish conduct rules that will prevent many of the problems that many leagues experience every year. Failure to fill this position can dramatically impact conduct during all your games.

What if they select me?

If you are selected as a league president or leader, consider it an honor that the community is putting their trust in you. Do not accept the job if you are not prepared to provide the time and effort required. Never fail to remember it is an awesome, time consuming, thankless job but is very rewarding when you see the kids playing. Improving a league in any way needed can be a very rewarding experience. I can only say good luck and enjoy the job.