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Youth Sports Management Tips & Best Practices

8 Tips for the New Sports Association Technology Director

By Paul Langhorst on 10/29/2015

So you are the new technical director or webmaster for your local youth sports association. If you work in information technology in your real job, you are a step ahead of those who may just have general internet and word processing skills. This article is written for the novice and those with limited experience in managing websites, databases, and other systems.  But even tech veterans may pick up a point or two!  Let’s get started…

Survey your technology landscape.

Most youth sports organizations use a mix of technologies.  Common systems include a hosted website, hosted registration & payment system and accounting software.  There is also growing use of online systems for league and tournament scheduling, facilities management, point of sale software, and work duty management.  In short, if it was once done on paper or a white board, there is now likely an online solution.  Take stock of all your technology systems and record the product name, version, vendor name & contact details. Dig up contracts and familiarize yourself with the terms and contract end dates (most auto renew with a 30-day notice.) Once you have identified all the divergent systems, create a Google Doc or Google Sheet with the details on each.  In this way, you will have immediate access to the material and can pass it down to your replacement.

Interview the outgoing tech director.

This person is a wealth of knowledge. Capture it as he or she is running out the door!  Much of the information in your survey above will come from the past tech director.  Ask about problems, opportunities, glitches, bugs and most importantly get the login credentials for all systems and details on who has clearance to access each system.  The past administrator may need to “invite” you into systems as a new administrator. Once you have gained control, remove past administrators for security.  Ask about vendor relationships. Ask what they would change if they had to start from scratch.  Ask. Ask. Ask…and you will learn.

Where is important data and records stored?

During the systems survey and outgoing tech director interview, pay particular attention to where data is stored, in both how to locate important datapaper and electronic forms. Is your data secure? Consider scanning important papers into PDF form and store online.  In many cases the director and key positions may have association data stored on personal computers. This makes it very hard to locate information when needed and is high risk.  For a low-cost, high capacity backup site, consider using Google Drive or DropBox.  

Investigate your Internet & WIFI connection.

With the increasing trend to web-based solutions, your current internet connection may need a boost.  Phone and cable companies are upgrading their systems all the time, so you may be able to boost speed with little or no increase in cost. Investigate your WIFI coverage.  Do you have internet access in all the important buildings at your facility?  Low cost, higher power transmitters are now available and low cost USB WIFI receivers can replace slower internal cards at a fraction of the cost of new machines.

Review the website. 

The most visual aspect of your organization other than the field and teams, is your website followed by your Facebook and Twitter accounts.  It may be your job to maintain these systems or it could be a shared effort, with you responsible for the core technology.  A special warning: Beware of the “dad” who offers to or has donated the association website. Always a great low-cost solution and builds goodwill with the parent, but such relationships often start good and end bad. The “dad’s” kids get older and leave the program, or he changes jobs and loses access to a critical system, whar are the problems with a free websitesor the demands just get to be too much and his enthusiasm and support starts to wane.  Here at Engage Sports, we see this play out time and time again.  These “dad” sites as we call them are not free. They have a cost – an opportunity and performance cost.  Often lacking many of the new template driven sites, such as integrated registrations, work duty managements, and multi-party administration, such sites overtime start looking more and more out of date and more problematic to manage. Relying on one person to set up your site is not as effective as relying on a company whose job it is to stay current in sports administration software.

When reviewing your website presence, determine how long since it has been updated. Delete items that are not for this year or next. Is it mobile responsive, which means that the images and layout automatically re-size if being viewed from a mobile phone or tablet.  Does it allow for ease of editing and administration? What does it cost annually?  Where is it hosted? Is it secure, using a minimum of 256-bit encryption technology? 

Review your registration process.

A best practice is to combine the website and online registration into one unified system, such as offered by Engage Sports. This eliminates multiple vendors, makes it easier for participants to find and navigate, and helps keep all your data in one place.  Make sure your registration process is mobile friendly. Half of all web traffic today originates from a mobile device. Parents are busy and want to complete registration when and where time allows.  If your organization is still using paper based registrations, read our blog: Tips on how to convert from paper to online registration.    

Speak with coaches, parents, & board members.

What’s working and what isn’t?  How does your association compare to other associations, leagues, and clubs in your area?  Send out a survey (Survey Monkey is free and easy) in your next newsletter or have conversations over a hot dog at the concession stand.  Get ahead of complaints by opening dialog with your stakeholders.

Document! Document! Document!

As you work your way through all the systems and accounts, people and places be sure to document, document, document.  Make heavy use of Google Docs and Google Sheets to create web-based storage areas for ease of access. As noted above, this will make it easier on you and for the next volunteer tech director who comes along.

Volunteering for your local sports association or league can be one of the more rewarding, yet challenging experiences in life.  It’s a great way to network, build connections, build your skills and help a very worthwhile cause.  As the tech director (or webmaster) you will be one of the most in- demand members of the organization.  By following the steps above you will be prepared for any situation.  If you need help with your new position, just drop us an email and we would be happy to share our experience and provide any assistance as possible.

Paul Langhorst

Co-Founder and Chief Technologist for Engage Sports, providing sports league websites, online registration and league management. Over the years, Rich has coached football, basketball, baseball and fastpitch softball. He has also severed as a board member for football and lacrosse organizations in the St. Louis area.


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