Post-NSCAA 2017 Recap

NSCAA 2017

Demosphere attended the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Convention (NSCAA) in Los Angeles last week and we’re still recovering from a whirlwind of a trip! Our team pulled off an amazing feat to prepare for the convention and bring everything together in order to have such a successful experience at a convention that large.

Demosphere has attended the NSCAA for 14 years and this was one of the best yet! Despite the anticipation that a West Coast show would not be as heavily attended, this year’s event was the second-most well-attended convention in the organization’s 76-year history – pretty amazing!

This annual event is by far the best networking event in the soccer community; a who’s who of soccer in the United States, and the growing momentum in 2017 was palpable. The week began with the annual Women in Soccer Symposium where a collection of highly respected contributors come together “to celebrate diversity in the beautiful game as it acknowledges the long road ahead to equality”.

Later in the week attendees had an opportunity to see the live draft for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), as well as the 2017 SuperDraft for Major League Soccer, along with hundreds of educational sessions geared toward soccer coaches, hosted by both NSCAA and U.S. Youth Soccer.

Several award ceremonies throughout the week also honored various members of the soccer community, including one of Demosphere’s longtime friends, Louise Waxler, Executive Director of McLean Youth Soccer and one of our newest friends, Greg Mauch, boys coach at Canterbury School in Fort Wayne, IN; both of whom received a Long-Term Service Award for their contributions and service to both the NSCAA and the game. Tennessee Soccer Club’s (TSC) Ronnie Woodard also took home the prestigious Coach of the Year Award – TSC has been a valued customer of Demosphere’s for many years, initially beginning in 2003, years before their re-brand into the Club they are today.

During our many conversations throughout the week, a few things were clear: soccer in the U.S. is growing at a rapid pace, the community is still trying to figure out how things will evolve (most especially from the top down), and the youth sports market specifically is looking for a more integrated way to handle their growing technology needs to allow them to focus on what they do best: creating and growing programs dedicated to the development of our youth.

Demosphere is dedicated to serving these needs, and our mission is clear:

To provide authentic, industry-leading technology solutions for organized sports, accommodating the needs of all levels of organizations, and all levels of users, with an ethical approach in how to impact the greater community.

Through experience, authenticity, integrity and a strong sense of community, we’re excited to continue serving the needs of youth sports organizations for many more years to come.

Thank you to NSCAA, U.S. Youth Soccer and all the amazing members, attendees, exhibitors and contributors we had the pleasure of connecting with last week!

 

There is a layer of the atmosphere where we all live, work and play…where all global activity occurs, and where together we share in the spectacle and triumphs of participatory sports.

Sports thrive in the demosphere®

 

What’s The Emphasis For US Youth Soccer? Player Development Or Winning?

youth-playersWhat defines proper player development? Wins and losses or players developing their skills?

We’ve covered this topic before – two years ago, in fact.

At that time, a U.S. Soccer spokesperson said, “Our approach is to reduce the idea of winning trophies and concentrate more on the development of the players.”

In a recent interview, Chris Moore, CEO of US Youth Soccer, said, “In the final analysis, the number of wins and losses shouldn’t matter as much to a coach as setting standards for success and, in turn, allowing kids to set realistic, achievable goals for themselves so that they’ll have the inner drive to succeed and win.”

Sam Snow, Director of Coaching for US Youth Soccer, echoes those sentiments: “When the outcome of a match is more important than young players having the chance to perform, then a coach must take a step back. It’s the drive to win at the detriment of the players that is a problem in youth soccer today.”

These thoughts are pretty consistent, and when combined with U.S. Soccer’s new development initiatives, proper youth player development seems to be on everyone’s mind.

US Youth Soccer’s Mixed Message?

Recently, Moore, along with administrators from multiple US Youth Soccer State Associations, attended a conference presented by GotSoccer, a software vendor used by these associations for select administrative needs.

GotSoccer also produces youth team rankings which many parents follow closely. Their rankings tool is one of a half-dozen similar systems.

US Youth Soccer and some of its member state associations put themselves in an interesting situation – promoting proper player development while supporting a software provider with a team rankings system that emphasizes a win-at-all-costs mentality that completely undermines player development.

Common Conversations

Imagine a scenario where a parent wants to win a particular game at all costs to increase their team’s ranking while a coach is more concerned about proper player development.

How many times does this play out nationwide over the course of the year? Thousands?

Is it fair to put a coach in that position?

What do you think? By associating with GotSoccer, are these associations sending mixed messages to its coaches and parents? Is the goal proper player development or a better team ranking?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Youth Sports Transparency – Is There A Problem?

Transparency is a key term in today’s youth sports landscape. We hear stories frequently of board members abusing power and/or stealing funds. Recently, a lawsuit was filed in Maryland against some youth soccer board members for attempting to force through some changes to their bylaws and other issues.

In terms of visibility, US Youth Soccer is one of the major governing bodies of youth soccer in the country. Their 55 state associations sanction play for thousands of clubs and millions of players nationwide – and serve as a model for the clubs within their jurisdiction.

US Youth SoccerState Association Transparency

In light of the recent situation in Maryland, we took the time to review each state association’s website for key information:

  • Board Meeting & General Meeting Schedules
  • Board Meeting Minutes
  • Constitution & Bylaws
  • Current Board of Directors

Unfortunately, only 12 of 55 state association websites provide all of this information and update it regularly.

Other key findings from our research:

  • 18/55 state association websites include up-to-date board & general meeting schedules.
  • 25/55 state association websites provide either outdated or no board meeting minutes.
  • Nearly all state association websites include board of director information plus copies of their constitution and bylaws, but most do not state when they were last updated. For example, without term information for board members, website visitors must assume the information is up-to-date even though it may not be.

Lead By Example

As organizations with higher visibility, these organizations should lead by example. To reduce the number of incidents in smaller clubs, their organizing body should not only be as transparent as possible but also proactively offer tools, support, and advice for member clubs.

Each organization’s constitution and bylaws dictate what they must do, so updating them to require this information be publicly posted seems straightforward.

What do you think? Is your organization transparent? Do you think this transparency in youth sports is an issue? Let us know in the comments below!

Controlling Costs In Youth Sports

Far West Regionals 2013

Participation costs in youth sports are growing yearly – especially at the elite level.

From equipment to registration to traveling to events, parents routinely spend over $1,000 on sports-related activities.

Additional Travel Costs

This week, over 200 youth soccer teams are participating in a regional soccer tournamentin Honolulu. The yearly event brings together some of the top teams in the western part of the United States – from Washington to Colorado to Arizona.

The event translates to significant economic benefits to the host city – $6 to $8 million by some estimates. However, was the location chosen with the best interests of parents in mind?

Some families will undoubtedly turn it into a vacation, but many kids had to fundraise just to take part in the event. For some teams traveling from Phoenix, for example, each player needed to raise $1,500 just to attend.

Some state associations help, too. Cal South, the governing body for Southern California, donated over $186,000 to more than 50 teams to help defer travel costs.

Should Regional Events Be Held in Hawaii?

While there are additional travel and logistics challenges to hosting events out west, should events really be held in Hawaii given the significant additional travel burden?

It would be interesting to know the number of players and/or teams that were unable to attend due to funding reasons.

The Next Step

Keep in mind that the event is only a Regional competition. Teams that win must start fundraising to attend the National Championships in July – in Overland Park, Kansas.

What do you think? Should organizing bodies be doing more to control costs for these types of events?

Youth Soccer Enrollment Declining – How To Reverse The Trend

Declining chartRapid, Significant Membership Decline in Youth Soccer

Today, US Youth Soccer is the largest governing body for youth soccer in the United States. Comprised of 55 State Associations (some states split in half based on population, geography, and other factors), US Youth Soccer registered 3.025 million kids aged 5-19 nationwide in 2011. This is approximately two million more than the rest of youth soccer (US Club Soccer, AYSO, SAY, Super Y) combined.

However, from 2009 to 2011, US Youth Soccer player registration decreased by over 50,0001 and is projected to drop by an additional 164,590 in 20122, leaving an overall total of less than three million for the first time in more than 12 years.

It would be easy to attribute the decrease in registration to economic concerns or even a lower birth rate. However, when you look at organizations like US Club Soccer, they’re forecasting growth of more than 15%2 in 2012. Similarly, other sports like US Lacrosse, the governing body for Lacrosse in the United States, showed an increase in youth registration by more than 35,000 from 2010 to 20113 with further growth expected.

Clearly there’s a problem within US Youth Soccer.

Invisible Marketing

To attract new members and retain existing ones, youth sports organizations at all levels (including grassroots community organizations, state associations, and even national organizations) must actively campaign and market themselves. In general, non-profit organizations dedicate 3% of their annual budgets to marketing and promotional activities4.

Based on our research, many of the 55 State Associations within US Youth Soccer have severely underinvested in marketing in their annual budgets. While some of these funds could be used to promote state-level programs and initiatives, the majority could be going to community organizations to help them increase enrollment at the local level.

In an informal survey of eight associations across the country, none spent more than 1% of their budget on marketing and all but one spent less than half of one percent. “We actually don’t budget for marketing,” commented one State Administrator.

During our research, we even encountered some associations who were unwilling to release any budget information, so it’s probably safe to assume similar figures.

Why are so many youth soccer associations not budgeting for marketing?

The Root of the Budgeting Problem

Budgeting in non-profit organizations is difficult because resources are limited. Staff often think of physical, short term needs like equipment and supplies for event preparation before long term, non-mission-critical items like marketing and promotions.

“When items need to be cut or reduced in the overall budget, the first place people look is the marketing budget,” said one State Association Executive Director.

While marketing may seem like a non-critical investment on the surface, in reality it is an essential tool for success. Shrinking or even eliminating a marketing budget leads to declining enrollment, forcing other budget cuts in the long run4.

Each year, State Association budgets are approved by member vote at an Annual General Meeting. In many cases, the proposed budget is circulated to membership (grassroots youth soccer clubs within that state) less than 48 hours before the vote and is usually approved without much, if any discussion. More often than not, annual budgets do not receive a thorough evaluation from voters to make sure key areas are receiving proper attention.

It’s not far-fetched to assume that leaders of member organizations at the local level use state association budgets as a rough guide to budget for their own organizations as well. As a result, not seeing an emphasis on marketing could lead to similar thinking at the local level.

Not a Priority

In one state, the Treasurer notified the Executive Board that a recent project was completed under budget and allowed the State Association to provide a small amount of money back to their member clubs. While the initial thought was good, the overall result could have been more harmful than good:

  • The fund distribution only came because other projects were under budget – the initiative was more of an afterthought than an initial need.
  • The funds came with no guidance. To be most effective, funds distributed by State Associations to member organizations should have rules for use and recommendations on the best ways to use it within the organization.

Solid leadership is truly essential to ensure State Associations are thinking long-term when possible and any/all marketing investments are geared towards providing the best return.

Wise Investments Make a Big Difference

Associations struggling for marketing ideas can take a tip from the New York State West Youth Soccer Association (NYSW). NYSW created a Recreational Committee that visits clubs in the association to analyze what works well and what could be improved. This information helps drive future decisions about how best to grow the game within the state. NYSW also dedicates a section of their website to Recreational Soccer Best Practices to provide valuable information to member organizations.

In addition, NYSW held a Recreational Soccer Festival along with a tailgate party and tickets to a professional soccer match. Activities like this allow the association to focus on local community awareness. Although promotional events require both time and money, they attract attention.

Recreational Soccer is NYSW’s largest program – 80% of NYSW’s registration revenue is attributable to it. As players get older, many “graduate” to become Competitive Travel players, so efforts to promote Recreational Soccer are very worthwhile.

Even with the promotional activities NYSW has implemented, marketing still accounts for less than 1% of the annual budget, so it is possible to make an impact without breaking the bank.

At the national level, U.S. Soccer realizes that marketing investment is necessary. Despite a projected decrease in overall revenue, U.S. Soccer continues to invest approximately 2% of revenue in marketing.

Light BulbPromotional Tips For All Associations

Here are some other options to consider for organizations at the community (or even State Association) level with a limited budget:

  • Hire a marketing consultant (or even an intern working for college credit) to provide fresh ideas on how to reach your existing and potential clientele. Several State Associations benefit from having staff person on hand. At the very least, having a fresh set of eyes review your situation and challenges could help produce some unique ideas.
  • Commit to maintaining a web presence that makes information about your association easily accessible. Even if you’re not doing as much outbound marketing as you might like, make sure those seeking you out can find the information they need.
  • Become further involved in the community by hosting free (or low cost) clinics. Demonstrate that your organization is accessible and expose yourself to those who may not have seen or heard about your organization.
  • Have parents and/or players volunteer at local events. In all cases, make sure those representing the club are wearing a club t-shirt or otherwise when possible. The more visible you are in the community, the better.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. Many resources are available today for your organization online. For example, HP has a series of free flyer template you can use. Youth clubs can also check with their State Association for published materials. It would also be beneficial to see what other clubs, both in your area and in other areas are doing – you might find a great idea that can be easily implemented!

What ways have you found to successfully promote your youth sports organization? Let us know!

Sources

1. US Youth Soccer Key Statistics

2. 2012 U.S. Soccer AGM Book (PDF link near bottom of page)

3. US Lacrosse Facts and Figures

4. Non-Profit Marketing Tips For Tight Budgets