Industry Insights


NextUp 2022

7 Ways to Grow and Scale Your Youth Sports Organization

By Melissa Wickes
August 15, 2023
3 min

Taking your youth sports organization to the next level—wherever your organization is today—is likely something on your mind as a leader in youth sports. But where should you start? 

When we’re faced with a hefty question in youth sports management, like growing and scaling an organization, we look no further than our incredible partners to see what has worked for them.

Rick Abbott, CEO of Cooperstown All-Star Village; Eddie Sutton, director of operations at Manhattan Soccer Club; Craig Dixon, co-founder of the St. James; Cole Van Nice, co-founder and managing partner at Elysian Park Ventures; and Darcy Carroll, executive director at Richmond Volleyball Club offer these seven tips for growing and scaling your youth sports organization.

These tips are derived from a panel at NextUp: the Youth Sports Management Conference. To listen to the full panel, watch the video below.

Find Your North Star

Sometimes in business, especially youth sports, things don’t go according to plan—and that’s okay. When you have laser focus on your company vision, or your north star, you can continue to bring everything back to that vision even when the going gets tough, suggests Cole Van Nice, co-founder and managing partner of Elysian Park Ventures—an investment platform dedicated to building the future of sports.

Get Your Unit Economics Right

Unit economics, or the direct revenues and costs of your business, are the building blocks of any organization, says Cole. They allow you to better understand the long term sustainability of your business, as well as give you a look into how and where you can scale.

Look Through the Lens of the Customer

Ultimately, your business is trying to solve some sort of problem and to have a complete understanding of that problem, you have to see it through the lens of your customers, suggests Craig Dixon, co-founder of the St. James. Identify that big problem that you’re solving for your customers, see what you can do to help them from their point of view, and the strategy and tactics of your organization will flow from there. 

The St. James opened in 2018, and is a sports, health, fitness and entertainment complex that was the most visited leisure destination in the Washington region in 2021.  

Be Employee-Centric

If you do choose to pursue an acquisition or merger opportunity, don’t lose sight of the amazing employees that made you interested in the scaling opportunity in the first place, Rick Abbott, CEO of Cooperstown All-Star Village reminds us. 

“Protect the people that got the business to where it was,” says Rick. “Be a better listener than communicator.

Be Customer-Centric

To that end, you also have to maintain focus on your customers, as youth sports is a personal business before anything. Continue to speak to parents, treat everyone the same, and maintain those touchpoints throughout your athletes careers, suggests Eddie Sutton, Director of Operations at Manhattan Soccer Club—NYC’s largest and most comprehensive soccer club. 

Have a Shared Vision

Having a shared vision that every stakeholder is aligned on and bought into is key, and that starts with making sure every person at your organization understands why the vision is so important. When you have mission alignment, you can bring together people from different backgrounds, with different skills, and with different experiences to make something really great. 

Invest in Good Technology 

Technology is the way to the future, and there’s no doubt it’s already having a huge impact on the youth sports industry. With all of the various services the St. James offers its customers, they needed one seamless experience for customers to navigate the experiences. 

“We have found really great partners who have said, hey we see your vision we see the power of it and we think we should be helping to enable that,” says Craig. “LeagueApps has been one of those partners for us.”

For more content like this, register for NextUp 2023: the Youth Sports Management Conference.