How Can Clubs Provide the Best Value for Players and Parents?
Youth Soccer Clubs Need To Keep Soccer Fun
Jason Pratt is a former Director of Coaching and former Director of Training with Boyertown Soccer Club and currently a Partnership Manager for Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA). Pratt has also worked with Paul Riley’s Women’s Professional Supergroup as Director of Operations. In his role with PCA, Pratt is responsible for working with youth sports organizations in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. He also helped to establish PCA’s partnership with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).More recently, Pratt helped to found ProConnect Sports, along with Jeff Tipping, Danny Califf and Andrew Donnery. ProConnect Sports provides a revolutionary new experience for youth soccer players. Here is his article on the importance of keeping youth soccer fun.
There are over 8,000 youth soccer clubs in America, so competition exists everywhere within and between the thousands of youth soccer clubs. It is important for most youth soccer clubs to keep their players from leaving, thinking that the grass is greener elsewhere. The obvious competition comes from neighboring soccer clubs as well as other sports or hobbies. The biggest drop in registration numbers takes place at the age of 13 year old, by which time roughly 70% of youth athletes drop out of sports altogether. Surveys show that the number one reason given about why kids quit is that they aren’t having fun anymore. This tells us that perhaps an organization’s biggest competitor is actually…that organization!
Parents are the customer on record, as they are the ones writing the check to an organization. Of course, there is often some degree of input from the players as well about their desire to play and as kids age, they become more vocal on their desires. But, for the sake of protecting a club’s registration numbers, directors should keep in mind that parents who see and hear that their child is having fun playing are much less likely to spend time looking for a reason to leave.
Focusing on “fun” does much more than simply protect the numbers, as important as that is. Have you ever tried having a constructive conversation with a child who responded defensively, negatively, or perhaps worse – with indifference? Without wanting to get way off course, think about the details around that discussion with the child. What had recently taken place? How did people around the child react, including parents, teammates and coaches? A child who is having fun is going to have a full “emotional tank,” which creates a more coachable and optimistic player who will see increased levels of development.
By keeping training sessions fun and not over-focusing on game results, coaches can go a long way in creating a good value in the eyes of the parent-customer – and at the end of the day, the buying decision comes down to value.
There are a few areas that clubs can address to further create value:
- Offering “programs” outside of the standard team sessions such as topical clinics, nutrition education, injury prevention, and even tutoring or school support
- Offering “field trip” type events such as group outings to a local professional game, as long as any added cost is seen as affordable by the parents
- Bringing in professional players to the club to work directly with the youth athletes – creating great memories, unique experiences and role-model relationships
- Appearing, in every way, as an organized and professional club will go a long way in creating credibility, trust, and value
As the founder of an organization called ProConnect Sports, which brings a lot of these benefits to youth soccer clubs, I’ve spent quite a long time on the topic of providing value. I’m convinced that enhancing the value of a club comes down to a series of steps which are all completely within that club’s grasp. Often the hard part for club leaders is taking the time to step back and look at where they need to fill gaps in their product offering. Clubs should the time to invest in themselves as organizations. This will pay off in both registration numbers and player experience.
Photography Credit: Carey Schumacher