Despite growing concerns about concussions, youth football participation remains strong, with 1.23 million kids ages 6-12 playing tackle football in 2015. Another 1.14 million kids played flag football last year as well. With numbers such as these, and with football teams fielding the largest rosters of any youth sport, the organizational challenges are immense.
League directors are increasingly turning to online management software and mobile apps to help run their organizations in order to decrease the time spent on administrative busy work. The time saved can then be spent on other tasks—such as fundraising, equipment upgrades, hiring the best officials, and so on—that strengthen the league but also sometimes get the short shrift when directors are bogged down with administrative duties.
A football app also benefits coaches and parents, who will appreciate being able to access key league information from mobile devices. In short, adopting league management software is a win-win, and here are four features every football app should have:
1. Online Registration
Because of the numbers involved, registration is often the biggest bottleneck that directors of football leagues face. Hundreds of paper forms translate into a data entry mountain; all those checks can result in a bookkeeping overload that burdens many admins before the season even begins. Moreover, parents in this day and age feel generally hassled by any sort of sign-up that isn’t digital; they can easily forget or dismiss registration, thus leaving you with fewer kids or more late registrants. A football app that features online registration eliminates these problems and makes the process easier for admin and parent alike. Parents register their kids online (even on their smartphones if they so choose) and receive reminders in case they forget. The league management software does the rest—sorting all those registrations, depositing the credit card payments into the organization’s account, and giving directors accurate rolls from which to build teams (which the app can also help with).
2. Easy Roster Management
A youth football roster with, say, 20 players requires plenty of diligence from admins and coaches to manage. A league football app can help in several ways, including:
- Streamlined roster requests so players are placed on the teams they asked to be on, thus eliminating excessive changes later
- Intuitive adjustments so that if you must make a change, it happens seamlessly, with parents getting notifications from their new team right away
- Easy access to rosters so that coaches, parents, and admins can find contact info as needed
- Accurate player data so the correct number and sizes of jerseys, pads, helmets, and so on, can be ordered and delivered to coaches
Again, this saves time not only for league directors, but also for coaches and parents who can access roster info on their mobile devices.
3. Simple Communication Tools
Football doesn’t encounter as many cancellations and postponements as other youth sports, but they do still occur—and when they do, getting the word out as quickly as possible is imperative. And of course, coaches should be constantly communicating with their teams’ families throughout the season. Choose a football app that makes this communication as easy as possible. Sending emails isn’t as time-consuming if a coach can click on one button to deliver the message to everyone (instead of manually copying and pasting each email address or finagling with a “reply all” message). League management software that sends text messages also improves communication; these texts can include team and league news, game and practice reminders, and reply options that ask recipients to confirm attendance.
Online stat-keeping may seem like a luxury for youth football—at this age, coaches can usually tell what is working and what isn’t without the hard data to back them up. Nonetheless, stats are still helpful and fun to keep with a football app, and they serve a bigger purpose in terms of the entire league. As a volunteer tracks the game, those stats are entered into the system and automatically updates your league website. When the game ends, standings and schedules instantly update as well. And because stats are being kept in real time, anyone not attending the game—whether it’s parents and grandparents or other coaches—can follow along through the app.
What features do you think are essential in a league football app?