How to Create a Winning Youth Sports Organization

By Melissa Wickes
September 28, 2022
3 min

You know that the way you lead your organization will influence the lives of athletes for the rest of their lives. Plus, happy athletes means a good reputation for your organization, and a good reputation means your organization will grow. It’s easier for a team to succeed when everyone is invested—in both winning and the people around them. That team chemistry that allows players to pick one another up when someone is down starts at the management level—it starts with you.

Unfortunately, the day-to-day chaos of youth sports often shoves “big picture” thinking to the back burner. How you help your players better and keep parents informed. How you find referees. How you retain coaches. Can you access facilities for every season of the year? How do you work with volunteers—and how do you gain more?  

High performance management involves a number of components—each under the umbrella of how to better serve your customers and grow your business:

Program Design and Operations

A really great youth sports program can only go so far in 2022 without the seamless operations needed to make sure everything runs smoothly. Program scheduling, registration, payments, and reporting are all necessary parts of running a successful youth sports program—and these days much more than just a clipboard is needed to run it smoothly.

Coach Development

Helping your coaches be better coaches is a crucial part of your job as well. Having an amazing staff is what sets a good organization apart from a really great one. Here are some tips for hiring great coaches:

  1. Begin your hiring process before you begin soliciting resumes
  2. Hire people in the present who will help you hire in the future
  3. Go deep during your interviews
  4. Set yourself—and your new hires—up for success

Customer Success and Communications

A strong customer success team considers the entire customer experience and puts the customers needs at the center of the business. Customers are what drive profit, so keeping them happy is what keeps your business growing and thriving. To build and maintain strong customer success and communications, follow these tips:

  1. Instill empathy as a company value
  2. Collect and distribute customer insights within your organization regularly
  3. Incentivize customer-centric behavior with compensation
  4. Make it easy for customers to communicate with you

Player Development

You have a job beyond just managing your programs—and that’s helping your players develop fully, beyond just as athletes. You know how to turn good athletes into really great athletes. But do you know how to support their mental health? How to stop and not tolerate bullying on your teams? How to prevent eating disorders (which are more common in teenage girls than boys)? Investing time in developing each player as a whole and teaching them how to look out for one another is what will give your organization the lasting legacy you’re striving for.

And it’s not just fictional teams like Ted Lasso’s that abide by this “I’ve got your back” leadership philosophy, the Women’s 1999 World Cup Champions followed it to victory too. When asked to describe their leadership style when they were captaining the Women’s National Soccer Team, co-captain Carla Overbeck described it as inclusive. “We wanted to make sure that everyone felt wanted, needed, and had a hand in our success,” says Carla. 

When a leader creates a team where everyone has a chance to lead rather than a “top down” mentality, players will feel more motivated to take initiative. As Carla puts it, you don’t have to wear the armband to be a leader.

With all of that said, for youth sports executives means way more than trophies and wins. It encompasses not just the physical, but the mental. As a leader, are you bringing your best self to your work everyday? It’s easier said than done. Creating a high-performing organization that delivers on your goals involves developing athletes both physically and mentally—and teaching them lifelong lessons and skills that will last a lifetime.

Next week, the leading minds in youth sports and organizational success will gather at NextUp: the Youth Sports Management Conference for a variety of main stage presentations, workshops and working lunches—one of which focuses on the secrets of high-performing teams.

In High Performance on and off the Field, athletes that are synonymous with winning (at everything they do) will speak about their journeys and experiences and how they maximized personal performance, inspired team success, and helped unlock performance in others throughout their careers. 

If you’re not already registered for NextUp, you can do so for 50% off by using the code Blog50. Register now, in-person spots are limited.