Some younger coaches and administrators might not remember a time when sports leagues operated entirely without the Internet. Schedules were photocopied and distributed to players and their families. Scores were called in; the results were tallied in a spreadsheet or, maybe, a spiral-bound notebook. Stats might have been kept by individual teams, and if an ambitious volunteer could be found, all those numbers would be gathered to compute league leaders (which, again, would be typed up and photocopied for distribution). League news was spread by word of mouth.
This all seems quaint, but the scenario is only about 20 years old. Around then, email started to emerge; leagues began creating their own crude websites with Geocities or Angelfire addresses; and life became easier for admins, coaches, players, and parents. More people became comfortable with the Internet, website design became more sophisticated (and fostered better ease of use), and an online league presence became expected rather than a novelty.
What should your youth league website include today? Features ideally should streamline just about every league function that was previously done by hand, eliminate any margin of error, and enhance the community aspect of individual teams and the entire organization.
First and foremost, your youth league website should include online registration. Besides making the life of the league administrator much easier, digital registration is a welcome option for parents who won’t need to mess with paper forms and check writing to sign up their children for the upcoming season. Furthermore, online registration promotes increased participation. New families who might stumble upon your website don’t have to search for flyers or download PDFs to sign up, but can simply make a few clicks and type in some info to efficiently register.
Today’s parents and coaches expect, and demand, access to updated schedules online, and your youth league website better oblige. PDFs are better than nothing, but most families prefer linkable schedules that can be easily accessed off their smartphones and are always current. The best online league management software allows for easy updating so that admins can make quick changes that are reflected on the website (and, perhaps, automatically send notification of the change to parents and coaches).
Along the same lines of updated schedules, if a score is entered into the youth league website, it should update the appropriate standings. As much as coaches and parents say winning and losing aren’t important, they do like keeping an eye on standings and seeing who is winning and losing (and older youth players like this, too). Provide a website that satisfies that goal.
Photos and Videos
Photo galleries and video uploads are great at both the league and team levels. Parents can upload pictures and videos to share with the community without having to bother with the hassle (and privacy concerns) of Facebook and other social media. The feature is great not only to feel a sense of community within your organization, but also to promote that community to others who might be interested in your league.
Coaches often need quick access to roster information, but with downloaded spreadsheets and documents, finding that info (which might be obsolete if players were added to the team) can be a pain. A youth league website that gives coaches that info simply by logging in is an appreciated feature. Furthermore, parents who want to contact each other can access the roster to find phone numbers and email addresses.
What feature of a youth league website do you feel is most important?