We have mentioned in previous posts that we believe one of the major impediments to the growth of soccer in the U.S. is that of the costs to play. Talented kids have often fallen through the cracks due to the fees associated with the transition/progression from recreational to select soccer and especially those that come from low-socio economic areas.
If the sport is truly going to grow we must promote and develop our best prospects and find constructive ways to eliminate those barriers to entry that see many of those naturally gifted at sport move to Basketball, Baseball and (American) Football in their teens.
Clubs cost money to run and A LOT OF IT and like all organizations and businesses these costs flow down to the consumers/members.
This blog post will therefore look at two options we feel exist as alternatives to the traditional ways of running a community based club with all of the ideas leading to increased revenue for clubs, reduced fees for working families and opportunities to make clubs more efficient and in turn create new avenues for growth.
1. Incentivizing volunteering at our grassroots soccer clubs.
What if the parents were rewarded for volunteering at their kids clubs through reduced fees or free equipment? Not only would clubs no longer struggle with finding volunteer coaches, board members etc but they would also create a new grassroots army that utilizes the skill and expertise of parents to drive new sponsorship, new members and best of all, more revenue.
Tim’s Dad is an accountant. Great – he will make a great Treasurer. Sarah’s Mum is an event planner. Great – she can organize the next fundraising event. The list goes on and on, and utilizing the undiscovered skills at the clubs disposal will lead to increased productivity and free up the club executive to work on future planning and revenue raising processes such as chasing new sponsors.
The potential for new identifying new revenue streams should far outweigh the concerns of giving reduced registration fees to its members and with volunteering rapidly changing in what is a very time poor environment this might go a long way in helping working families find that ideal work/life balance at the same time as playing an active role in their kids social development.
Alternatively how about clubs look at commissions for successful events? For example, what if a group of parents organized an open day in the local community and a percentage of the days profits made went directly to their children’s registration fees? All parties would benefit and the club would get more community exposure and the inherent benefits associated with it (eg more members, sponsors etc).
Failing a sustainable model that saw clubs unable to cover the discounts linked to club volunteerism what if the Associations or event Government stump up the cash as an option. Linking the program to healthy initiatives, social inclusion commitments or even parks and recreation budgets could lead to more kids playing sport outside rather than parents buying them FIFA for Xbox because it’s cheaper.
2. Recruiting Underutilized Talent
It is important that clubs look to connect with professionals in the community that are either looking for work, are retired or are at college by offering them the opportunity to build a portfolio of work and body of credible experience.
Since the Global Financial Crisis hit the U.S. a number of able Americans were left without a job. The recovery has been slow and the market has just not bounced back as expected. People are looking to keep active and continue to seek a continued work history and a competitive edge when heading into future interviews.
Effectively helping both parties out and in some circumstances have individuals carving out their own employment path with a local soccer club.
For all those that are currently running clubs, there are just as many that have run them in the past. We should look to activate retired and semi-retired skilled professionals (with transferrable skills to the day to day running of clubs) to provide mentoring support to clubs and volunteers. A former CEO using his/her business/boardroom skills to train the current executive, a former architect helping with the designs for a new equipment shed etc.
We should not discount what our older Americans have to offer in terms of experience, or their passion for giving back to the community.
Surely there are University students undertaking business, philanthropy, graphic design, audiovisual, and sports management degree options that would benefit from being exposed and challenged by the unique needs of grassroots soccer clubs. Every soccer club should leverage summer internship opportunities. Paying students $1,000 for 3 months of work which they can get credit for is a win-win for clubs especially if they are tasked with revenue raising projects.
As you can see there are a lot of opportunities out there for clubs to increase revenue while directly helping their members work towards reduced registration fees or even future job opportunities. Let’s continue to #GrowTheGame at the grassroots by looking outside the box and realizing the answers to growth are out there if people are willing to open themselves up to new ideas.