The Secret to Growing Your Youth Sports Organization
By Melissa Wickes
December 14, 2021
We kicked off the Volleyball Leadership Summit on May 19th with a conversation with Neal Shenoy, CEO of Begin and investor who has helped many companies grow and scale. He spoke with LeagueApps President Jeremy Goldberg about the secret to growing an organization, and how the team you hire is everything in that process. Listen to the full conversation to see how you can apply this advice to grow your youth sports organization.
What’s the Secret to Growth?
The first ingredient to growing a company, per Neal, is having a North Star—or destination you want to reach. Being able to communicate the North Star to everyone on your journey—which includes your team, your employees, your customers, and your investors—allows you to appreciate why your team is doing what they’re doing.
Maybe your North Star is to create the most impactful volleyball organization in your city or delivering a certain level of customer service. Whatever it may be, declaring it (as specifically as possible) is important when it comes to growing and scaling your organization.
Second, provide context to your North Star. Why is this destination or goal important to you? How does it connect to your belief system? What plan will you follow to get there? When people clearly understand your goal, they have the opportunity to question and have dialogue about it, thus making them more likely to be committed to it.
Lastly, manifest your organization’s North Star through company culture. It’s all about the team you put together and how you coach that team to success. Your people and culture matter—you can prepare for growth at any size by investing in your employees.
In addition to these three steps, Neal emphasizes the importance of personal growth when growing an organization.
“It is impossible for a startup to grow 100% if you are growing 10% because companies are humans,” says Neal. In other words, the faster you grow, the faster your organization will grow.
Always start with humility and give yourself grace. Growing an organization isn’t easy, but no one expects you to be perfect and know everything. By being humble, you’re leaving room to constantly grow, evolve, and change with your organization. One way you can work on personal growth is by looking to mentors for outside perspective and advice on what you’re doing.
How to Build Brand Awareness
When you’re explaining your brand to a customer, you may want to begin by talking about your organization’s features, plans for your company, or the credibility of your team. The truth of the matter is, customers care more about the “why,” or your company’s reason for doing what you do. For example, if you created your volleyball organization because you want to foster a love of sports, customers who align with that mission or likely to want to partner with you.
“[Your ‘why’] transcends the minutia of any one individual thing that you’ve done, and that’s what people will rally around,” says Neal. “Communicate the ‘why’ in every single message, every single plan, every single customer communication, every single marketing campaign. Because what people will gravitate towards is not the specifics of how you describe your league, not the plans, not the people. It’s the why.”
Culture in Your Youth Sports Organization
Culture begins at the top of the organization. If you’re a small organization every person in your organization will look to the founder of to see how you manifest the culture, and that sets the standard of what the company culture truly is. Ask yourself, what do I stand for? What am I modeling?
Building the Right Team
When you’re interviewing potential candidates, the best way to build a team that is aligned with your mission and will work towards fulfilling it is to tie every interview back to your company’s “why.” Design an interview process that creates consistency. To give yourself leverage when you find the right person, make sure your process has a special, ceremonial aspect as well.
Listen to the full panel discussion, where Neal goes into detail about the secrets to growing your organization, below.