Best Practices for Selecting Vendor Partners for Youth Sports Organizations

vendor agreements youth sports contracts

Several years ago published an article titled “How to Choose the Right Software Vendor”, which offers some valuable insight to help organizations decide on some of the most important relationships that impact their daily workflow.

The article breaks the decision-making process down into several important areas, which we further shed light on below, especially as it relates to the growing youth sports industry:

  • Figure out what it is you really need – Before talking with any potential new business partners, get your team together internally to discuss any current hurdles or challenges, along with desired improvements to your workflow. As Steven A. Lowe, Principal Consultant at ThoughtWorks indicates, “If you know what you want, ideally separated into a must-have list and a nice-to-have list, it will be much easier to figure out if any given solution fits your business–and to resist ‘shiny’ things.” In simple words, make sure the solution you’re considering actually meets your needs.
  • Check the software provider’s credentials and certificates – This is especially important in today’s volatile youth sports technology market. With the amount of consolidation, acquisition and unfortunate failure; it’s crucial to understand the foundation of the companies you’re partnering with: How long have they been in business? How has their technology grown over time? What types of partnerships do they have? Are they PCI Certified? How sound is their infrastructure? What is their data model and how will they protect your member data?
  • What do other customers have to say? This may likely be one of the most critical questions. Ask for references and find out how long they’ve been a customer, how their technology needs are being met, and how supportive, responsive and knowledgeable their team is. Chat with other organizations in your network to find out what the company’s reputation is.
  • Can it scale? This is an important question as it relates to future growth and emerging technology; has the company shown the ability to scale over time to meet market demands and to grow with your evolving needs? Malcolm Cowley, CEO of the Performance Horizon Group, hits the nail on the head when he said, “The last thing CIOs and other technology decision-makers want to be faced with is the need to re-evaluate and invest in a new solution two or three years down the road, when the existing system can’t handle the company’s emerging needs.” Before talking about price, first make sure the solution will meet your needs, both now and according to your growth plan. If the solution doesn’t meet your needs, cost is irrelevant.
  • Check for hidden or additional fees. Make sure you understand the full financial impact of the partnership:
    • Evaluate setup fees, recurring fees, and usage fees such as per player/per team fees.
    • If you’re processing online transactions, it’s imperative to calculate the total cost of credit card transaction fees – not only the various percentages across card types, but also per transaction fees, monthly gateway/account fees, etc.
    • Review the fine details of the agreements’s termination clause. Are you locked in for multiple years? Are there any early termination fees?
    • Equally important is to understand any additional fees you may incur due to any software deficiencies you uncover. Will there be any third party costs you’d have to incur to fill any gaps? Will there be any extra hard or soft costs due to lack of integration across platforms?
  • Who gets custody of your data? Most especially in the world of youth sports where member data has turned into a perceived “gold rush” of the current decade, it’s important to remember that your organization owns your member data (or at least you should). Be sure to find out before you enter into a new vendor agreement what they will do with your valuable member data while you’re a client, as well as after you leave. These are crucial questions to ask to ensure protection and privacy of your members.
    • What is the vendor’s privacy policy?
    • Will they use your member data for financial gain?
    • Will they market to or sell off your data?
    • How easy will it be to get access to your data after you move on?
    • Will there be a fee to obtain your data once the partnership is over?
  • Take a test drive. Now that you’ve had a chance to identify with your team what your must-haves and nice-to-haves are, make sure the software you’re considering meets your needs. Go through a full demo of how the tools will address your specific needs. Ask the vendor if they will provide access to a demo site, or if there’s a free trial option that will allow you to test the system before you commit to pay.

Navigating the waters of vendor research can be cumbersome and even frustrating at times, but these steps will guide you to help ensure you’re making the best decision possible, given the specific needs of your organization.

Demosphere has been serving the youth sports community since our humble beginnings in 1990, and we commit to bringing experience, authenticity, integrity and a strong sense of community to the conversation. If you’re interested in evaluating integrated solutions to help solve some of your complex technology needs, we invite you to contact us today!

Demosphere’s mission is 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.


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®


Protect Your Organization from Email Scams

A few years ago, Demosphere posted about the topic of Email Scams and how to protect yourself. This issue has recently re-surfaced with a few of our clients reporting being the victim of email scams.

In one recent situation, the scam involved an email being sent “from” the President of the Club to the Club’s Treasurer, asking for money to be wired into a specific bank account. Unfortunately, the wire transfer was processed and the money has thus vanished from the Club. Local authorities are working to uncover the source, however it’s improbable that the funds will ever be recovered.

These situations are real and it’s important to learn what you can do to prevent them. Below are some recommendations to help protect the Demosphere community:data privacy

  • Keep passwords secure:  It’s important to keep your passwords safe to avoid unauthorized use of your accounts. Check out our previous post for some tips on managing password security.
  • Verify all financial transactions: If someone in your organization asks you to transfer funds, always question and verify the validity of the request first. In this case it truly is better to be safe than sorry.
  • Don’t post personal email address on your public website: Demosphere recommends using one generic contact email address for your organization on your public website, such as Keep board member, administrative and coaching staff emails private.
    • Demosphere’s WebWriter® CMS  product allows you to create protected content pages, so you can ensure your members have access to the info they need, without exposing your organization to potential phishing scams.Data Privacy
  • Protect your member data: Be sure to review the Privacy Policy of your database provider(s) to ensure contact info, such as email address, are kept private and secure.
    • Part of Demosphere’s mission is to maintain an ethical approach to data privacy to protect the privacy of the children and volunteers in our youth sports community.

Have you had a related experience? Post a comment below and let the Demosphere Community know what to watch out for!

Youth Football Participation Surprises Once Again

youth-footballHorror stories circulating about football participation have been perpetuated with a constant flow of research studies, media coverage, and backing from professional athletes speaking out about the long-term ramifications of their careers.

It came as no surprise when Pop Warner youth football participation reportedly experienced a decline of almost 10 percent in 2015.

But a new study released by the Physical Activity Council and Sports Marketing Surveys USA contradicts the overwhelmingly negative outlook on youth football participation.

After surveying 30,000 Americans age 6 and older, the study found that youth football is currently the fastest growing sport. The number of participants in football grew, while most other sports declined.

The game’s no-tackle, flag football option showed the biggest increase in 2015, growing 8.7 percent among children ages 6 to 14. Tackle football increased by 1.9 percent in the same age group.

Similar results were found in the 15 to 18 age group. Flag football increased 10.5 percent and tackle football increased 2.5 percent. Flag football, tackle football, and basketball (1.1 percent) were the only three sports to experience an increase in the 15 to 18 age group.

Football programs are attributing their current growth to the way the sport has embraced coaching education and teaching smarter, safer ways to play the sport in response to the safety concerns among players and parents.

Ironically, this study was released the same day an NFL executive confirmed a link between football and CTE, a chronic brain disease.

Surprised by the survey results? Let us know in the comments below if you think football will continue to increase despite safety concerns, or if you think next year’s results will paint a different picture.

What’s Causing The Decline Of Youth Sports?

Youth SportsParticipation in sports – competitive, casual or spectating – has always been an important socializing experience in US culture. But recent statistics show that fewer children are playing sports, leaving the future of athletics unclear.

The four most popular sports in the US – baseball, football, basketball, and soccer – are experiencing a sharp decline in participation among children 6 through 17 years old since 2008.

Baseball: A recent Wall Street Journal article declared that participation is diminishing for youth baseball, forcing leagues to play teams from surrounding areas, merge with nearby leagues, or disband altogether. No matter the choice, participating in youth baseball becomes less easily accessible to the casual player.

Football: Once an integral part of American culture, youth football participation has experienced a decline of almost 10 percent due to safety concerns.

Basketball: According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, over the course of the 2008-09 season, high school basketball participation fell approximately 1.8 percent.

Soccer: Even Soccer, which has seen significant gains in popularity in recent decades, has now begun to experience stagnation in youth soccer participation between 2008 and 2012 according to the US Soccer Federation.

Although the explanation behind these rapid declines is unexplained, experts have begun accusing everything from costs to increasing social pressure.

Missing The Element Of Fun

Executive Director of the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute, Michael Bergeron cites lack of fun as the main culprit. “We have to be aware of single sport specialization, overuse, overworking kids searching for the elite athletes; all of these things are causing kids to leave youth sport and not return.”

Today, millions of parents hope to prepare their young athletes for college scholarships, encouraging them to specialize in one specific sport at an early age. But by specializing too young, athletes are at risk for not only future physical overuse injuries, but also emotional and psychological consequences. Focusing solely on one sport can cause young players to put immense pressure on themselves to excel at that one activity, potentially leading to psychological burnout, depression, chronic fatigue and more.

Rising Costs

The cost of participating in youth sports has been spiraling out of control over recent years. Nearly two thirds of middle school and high school students participating in sports paid to do so in 2012. In addition to participation costs, the price of equipment has followed suit and increased from 2013 to 2014. Lacrosse equipment alone saw a projected increase of 5.7 percent in one year.

According to the New York Times, spending on sports has grown to almost 10.5 percent of gross income. Although some families may be able to handle the additional financial burden, low income families are being forced out of the game.

Safety Precautions

Media coverage and research studies have begun highlighting the long-term impact of concussions for not only professionals, but youth athletes. Over 70 former professional football players were diagnosed with a rare brain disorder as a result of head injuries from their pasts.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that emergency room visits for concussions among young athletes ages 8 to 13 has doubled, and concussions among teens ages 14 to 19 have risen 200 percent in the last decade alone. As a result, worried parents are pulling their children from the sport in favor of safer alternatives.

Competition Isn’t So Friendly

The Associated Press declared youth sports an “athletic arms race,” increasingly competitive yet lessening in popularity. Although kids might be interested in participating in an activity, roster spots are exclusive. This leads to an increased competition, especially at younger ages. As a result, more kids will give up a sport sooner because they fear not making the team or missing out on playing time as they get older.

Is your local sports organization encouraging higher rates of participation?

Share in the comments below what mechanisms you’re using to combat the shrinking participation rates!