Whether you’re responsible for managing youth sports programs in schools, community centers, clubs, or other private sports organizations, you know that attracting new and retaining existing young athletes every year can be challenging.
Nevertheless, your sports program’s financial success and sustainability depend on your team’s ability to efficiently manage its enrollment process by applying smart management, marketing, and outreach practices.
To assist you in this effort, here are six strategies you can use to boost your youth sports sign-ups.
- Focus On Your Program’s Value
- Take Advantage of Social Media
- Promote in Your Local Community
- Offer an Incentive for Signing Up
- Make It Easy to Register
- Get Feedback on Your Program
Focus On Your Program’s Value
Focusing on the value your sports program provides to children and their parents is essential for attracting more potential participants and getting more registrations.
In other words, your sports program should be managed and advertised in ways that communicate its value to two parties with somewhat opposing interests—children and their parents.
In essence, children are typically interested in having fun while playing sports, and their parents tend to prioritize their children learning valuable skills and having a positive experience.
Therefore, it’s important to highlight both the fun and the learning opportunities your program will provide, as in this example.
Source: Chicago Kids
As you can see, they emphasize the specific skills that children will learn and also highlight the fun factor.
Of course, it’s essential that your sports program, training practices, and events deliver on this promise, as word of mouth generated by young players and their parents satisfied with the program is still the best way to boost sign-ups.
Building on that, you should showcase your coaching staff’s knowledge, skills, experience, and accomplishments, as this will help establish credibility and trust with potential participants and their families.
For example, Austin Sports Academy (ASA) advertises that its founders and full-time trainers are former professional athletes with extensive coaching experience.
This builds the academy’s professional credibility in the eyes of newcomers and their parents, and that credibility extends to other coaching staff they hire.
Naturally, this doesn’t necessarily have to be so high-profile, and any sporting accomplishments and/or coaching experience of staff members can be used to communicate the value of your sports program effectively.
Another way to do so is to provide social proof in the form of testimonials of satisfied users published on your website, social media, and marketing materials.
For example, ASA provides them both as text and video.
Source: ASA on YouTube
Testimonials are a powerful marketing tool because potential participants and their families can learn what others have experienced, what they liked, and how their sporting and social skills have improved.
In conclusion, focusing on communicating the value of your sports program in ways that appeal to both children and parents, highlighting the credentials and experience of your staff, and showcasing user testimonials will help you grow your enrollment numbers.
Take Advantage of Social Media
Next to having a user-friendly website, promoting your youth sports program on social media is a great way to reach your target audience and increase the number of sign-ups.
It’s simple. Both children and parents—your target audience—spend more and more time on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, to name a few.
Therefore, using popular social media sites to promote your program by posting engaging content increases the likelihood that children and parents will find out about your sports program.
Of course, you should consider which social media channels are best suited to share your program’s goals and values and participants’ stories with a broader public.
For example, Ofcom’s 2022 report on children’s media use in the UK revealed that the video-sharing platforms YouTube and TikTok are the most used social media sites among children aged 3-17.
Here are the results of their survey on what online platforms children are using.
Ignoring the second-placed WhatsApp as the most used messaging app, YouTube and TikTok lead the way among children but are also used by parents, particularly YouTube.
Therefore, posting short, engaging videos about your program on these channels can help you reach a wider audience and attract new participants.
However, there are other kinds of social media on this list that are used by children and parents alike, and that can be used to promote your sports program, such as Facebook and Instagram.
As you can see, Instagram is great for posting images and videos that can be commented on by children and parents, thus providing potential participants and their families with first-hand insights about your sports program.
Overall, taking advantage of social media to promote your sports program with carefully planned social media postings and/or ad campaigns can help you spread the word about the program among your target audience and boost sign-ups.
Promote in Your Local Community
Maybe because everything is now online, promoting your sports program in the local community by using more traditional advertising methods may bring even better results than before.
First, that’s because many children and parents are increasingly becoming indifferent to the digital ads they’re bombarded with daily.
Second, community-based promotional activities are more effective in creating a personal connection and trust in your sports program, than online advertising.
To achieve this, you can consider setting up booths to promote your program at local school events like open houses and career fairs, other youth-focused events such as science fairs, and local community fairs and festivals.
Source: Santiam SummerFest on Facebook
Of course, all these community events can also be used to distribute flyers, which can be done on other occasions that do not allow for booths, such as community parades, youth sports games, and tournaments, religious and other neighborhood gatherings.
For example, you can incentivize your current and former participants—who have first-hand experience with the program, the coaches, and the practices they implement—to hand out flyers and share their stories with potential participants or their families.
That way, you’re creating personal connections that increase the chances your program will be their preferred choice.
Finally, the most traditional but effective promotional method is posting flyers or leaving them at places where children and parents are most likely to see them.
These locations include local schools, libraries, museums, farmers’ markets, community centers, and other venues where the events mentioned above are held.
These flyers can be designed with community-based images and specific details about your program to help build a sense of familiarity and competence for those who see them.
In addition, you should find local sports programs and organizations that offer sports outside your purview and offer some cross-promotion options, such as handing out your fliers and you doing the same for them.
Overall, using promotion methods that aren’t internet-based in your local community can allow you to reach your target audience, build relationships with families and local organizations, and boost the number of new registrations.
Offer an Incentive for Signing Up
The next strategy you can employ to increase your sports program registrations is offering incentives for signing up, which don’t need to be expensive to be effective.
For example, a 5-10% discount can be offered for early bird sign-ups, which is a great way to motivate parents to register their children early and secure financial resources ahead of time.
More importantly, this also helps you manage the program to operate at full capacity, potentially create a waiting list, or expand its capacity based on the number of participants.
Of course, there are many other sign-up incentives that cost even less or no money at all, such as a free T-shirt offered for online registrations on this basketball camp flyer:
Source: North Marion High School
As you can see, they also offer another common sign-up incentive, namely a discount for families with multiple children who want to register for the sports program in question.
Registrations can also be encouraged by giving free or discounted registration to members who bring in new program participants.
Another method is to partner with local businesses, such as restaurants or sporting goods stores, where families who register for your program can get a discount.
This creates a win-win situation for you and the local business owner, opening room for affordable compensation arrangements.
Overall, sign-up incentives do not have to be expensive or complex and can help you increase the number of participants registering (early and otherwise) for your sports program.
Make It Easy to Register
A long and complicated registration process can discourage children and their parents from signing up for your sports program, thus wasting all the efforts put into promoting it.
Therefore, the process of signing up for your program should be effortless, which nowadays means moving the entire registration and payment process online.
A seamless online sign-up process would involve simple and concise online registration forms and convenient options in terms of online payment methods and different payment plans.
This can be achieved by using online registration software, such as Regpack, which allows parents to fill out the necessary registration forms for their children and pay for the program in a user-friendly and secure environment.
Regpack will ensure a quick and easy registration, followed by an equally convenient payment process, where parents can select their preferred online payment method and different payment plan options (if any) to pay for the program.
On the management side of your sports program, Regpack allows you to create customized registration forms for any program and securely process online payments directly from your website.
In addition, you can set up personalized payment plans for families, establish waitlists, quotas, and electronic signatures for easy sign-up, and automate sending of emails, invoices, and payment reminders.
Overall, making the sign-up process easy by using a family-friendly and secure online registration and payment software can be that last touch you need to wrap up all the other efforts put into promoting your sports program and increasing registration numbers.
Get Feedback on Your Program
After your youth sports program, be it a sports league, camp, clinic, or after-school program, is finished (e.g., for the season/year), getting feedback from children and parents is critical for increasing enrollment numbers in the future.
Simply put, understanding what young athletes and their families like or dislike about the program will give you insight into what improvements can be made to increase registrations in the program’s next cycle.
For that to happen, it’s crucial to collect feedback from your program participants and their parents, consider their suggestions, and make the required changes.
Today, feedback can be collected in different ways; for example, by sending a survey to parents by email or asking them to fill out an online survey on your website.
For instance, here are some questions from an online survey for parents or guardians whose children attended one of the sports programs provided by All Kids Play.
Source: All Kids Play
Whatever method of surveying you opt for, it’s best to ask parents to fill out a survey right after the program is completed while their child’s and their own impressions are fresh in their minds.
Although children and their parents are your target group, don’t neglect regularly surveying coaches and other staff about the program, as their feedback can also provide valuable insights into what improvements should be made.
If your employees are reassured that the survey is anonymous and confidential, you’re more likely to get straight answers that can be turned into improvement ideas.
Overall, getting feedback regarding your program is crucial because it can be used to make changes that will improve the program and attract new participants.
As said in the opener, boosting the number of registrations for your youth sports program from year to year will depend on your and your team’s ability to clearly understand what motivates your target audience—children and their parents.
To meet their identified needs, you can consider, combine, adjust, and apply the six management, marketing, and outreach strategies described here.
When done properly, these strategies can help you enhance the children’s and the parents’ experience, boost sign-ups to your sports program, and ensure its financial success and sustainability.