NextUp Town Hall: Youth And Local Lacrosse In The Wake Of COVID-19
By Jamie Hancock
May 14, 2020
As multiple states begin reopening, players and parents are naturally wondering when youth sports will resume. The answer is a complicated one—informed not just by government decisions, but by how comfortable people are getting back on the field.
To dig into this, we gathered a group of leading lacrosse organizers to discuss what return to play looks like, and share tips and ideas for keeping clubs afloat as we travel the long road back to “normal.”
We were joined by Jake Dean (True Lacrosse), Rachael Dececco (PPL Academy), Theresa Sherry (Tenacity Project), Steve Sepeta (Adrenaline Lacrosse), in a conversation moderated by Jeremy Goldberg, Co-Founder and President of LeagueApps. All four of our featured panelists were accomplished collegiate players who choose to share their love and passion for the game with youth athletes. As leaders in the youth lacrosse space, their organizational approach in the coming weeks and months will be emulated by organizers looking to deliver a safe return-to-play strategy to their parents and players.
If you’d like to access the Town Hall in its entirety please click this link. For a summary of the major highlights, continue reading below.
Retain Revenue By Becoming Indispensable
True Lacrosse’s Jake Dean believes that youth lacrosse organizations are battling for financial survival—and the only way to win is by getting creative. “We’re challenging everyone in our organization from the management team down to the directors to think about how we can create more revenue on a daily basis,” said Dean. True Lacrosse’s current strategy is to provide their players and parents with a ton of valuable content so they don’t even think about asking for a refund. From coaching tutorials and intricate drills to video content from pro players, they’re going with the strategy that “more is more.” If parents can sense that an extraordinary effort is being made to provide daily value, they’ll respect that dedication and it will be reflected in your retention rates.
You Can’t Communicate Too Much
All four panelists espoused the virtues of establishing clear lines of communication. Adrenaline Lacrosse’s Steve Sepeta pointed out that they worked hard to secure venues in June and kept parents in the loop every step of the way. But as it became clear that a return to play in June wouldn’t be possible, they were out in front of the news, communicating the next plan of action and presenting parents with options that included credits. As a part of a new coalition organized by US Lacrosse, Sepeta is sourcing information from entities such as the CDC, the Aspen Institute, and both state and federal authorities. They’ve also shared return-to-play protocols and ideas with parents such as refraining from shared water bottles/coolers and postgame handshakes in an effort to create a feedback loop with their community. This openness has fostered a lot of goodwill with parents.
Embrace Technology—Virtual Reality Is No Longer A “Nice-To-Have”
The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) announced the hiring of Rachael DeCecco as the Head of PLL Academy on March 2nd. As she quipped during our Town Hall, “the first 10 days looked one way and the rest of days have been quite different.” But as our moderator Jeremy Goldberg noted, “change is a daily constant” for elite organizations and that has never been more true than it is in today’s world. DeCecco has quickly adapted to the new normal by incorporating virtual reality training options for her players. It’s estimated that 50% of sports organizations across the country are offering some form of virtual training to its players. This will be viewed as a differentiator for many organizations in the coming months.
Don’t Forget About the Parents
The Tenacity Project’s Theresa Sherry believes there has never been a better time to get parents involved with the youth lacrosse experience. She is focusing on providing parents with the tools and resources so that they can assist in player development. To kick things off they started a parental happy hour to connect parents and share coaching assets. Providing parents with a positive role is critical for any youth organization. As Jeremy remarked in the Town Hall, “If you don’t define your parents’ role, they will define it for themselves.”
Stay On Top of Your Recruiting Efforts
Adrenaline Lacrosse’s Steve Sepeta has noticed that college coaches are in a tough spot and really want to be able to watch and evaluate players. His organization is working with a video partner to provide tapes to every college coach in the country. For elite clubs this is top of mind for players and parents, so demonstrating that you’re on top of this element of the youth lacrosse experience is crucial. This may even evolve into offering video of practices and closed tournaments to coaches who cannot attend in person.
Resources For Organizers
Numerous resources were mentioned throughout the 60-minute discussion and we wanted to provide them here for our audience to access at any time:
Communicating with players and parents during this time won’t always be easy. Here’s a guide to handling difficult conversations with Charlie Hauck.
Community has never been more important than it is now. Connecting with other clubs to see what they’re doing can help you design your own return to play plans. Join our NextUp Industry Slack group where you can connect with other lacrosse leaders.
Many of our panelists are running virtual programming. We’ve published a toolkit for launching successful virtual programming if you’re looking for tips on how to get started.