This is Part 2 of a 2 part series titled “Increasing Participation In Your Athletic Program.” Click here for Part 1!
The first two keys are:
1. WIN! WIN! WIN! WIN! WIN!
2. GET YOUR NON-ATHLETES TO ATTEND GAMES
3. CELEBRATE YOUR ATHLETES
If the kids on your campus feel and know that athletics is truly valued, and not just lip service, they will feel appreciated. If they feel appreciated and respected, they will want to play. If they feel as if the school is just using them, and they are just a spoke on the wheel, they won’t play. Do you value your athletes? If so, how do you show them that you do?
One program I started at Capistrano Valley Christian was an Athlete of the Week Program. Again, it was another way to promote the athletic program, while at the same time making kids feel important and valued. Every Monday we would announce an Athlete of the Week from the prior week’s contests.
Coaches would nominate these athletes to me by 9:00 am Monday morning, and I would choose one. Then, we would present them with an Athlete of the Week shirt in our 11:00 am homeroom, right there in front of the whole school. We would brag about their accomplishments from the week before. I would also do a short interview of them and put a profile about them on our website for one week. They would be able to send this to all of their families and friends.
Athlete of Week Sample Profile #2 – I would use this profile to create a document with pictures of the winner!
4. MARKET YOUR PROGRAMS IN THE COMMUNITY
If your community is excited about athletics, the kids will want to be a part of what is going on. If their family is at home talking about your athletic teams and programs, they will want to be a part of it. If your athletic teams and department is respected in the community for pursuing excellence and winning championships, kids will gravitate towards that success. Success breeds success. Once that train gets going in your community, the kids at your high school who aren’t a part of it, will want to get on!
The community at large has GOT to know about what is happening at your high school in terms of athletics more than anything else at the school. Athletics really does serve as the greatest promotional tool you have, and you must take advantage of it.
People hear and know more about athletics than your kids’ math scores and their homework; academic success rates aren’t published on a daily and weekly basis like your athletic scores and results are!
A few ways to market your athletic program in your community:
- Coaches need to make sure they are reporting their scores after every single game to the newspapers.
- The athletic department needs to use social media venues like Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis.
- People want to see three things – people, action and results. Make sure to keep these three things at the forefront of your athletic marketing. People (pictures), Action (pictures and storytelling), Results (scores, statistics, storytelling).
- Use posters and schedules to promote your schedules and teams. One program I’ve worked in the past will PAY you to create a poster and schedule by raising funds from local businesses in the forms of ads on those posters (see below). This is a great fundraising opportunity, and a great way to promote your teams in the community.
- Win! Winning teams receive a lot of free coverage in the newspapers in the forms of stories and stats. The more you win, the more you will be in the papers.
- Community Appreciation Nights at major sporting events. For about the last five seasons, I’ve had each home football game serve as a community outreach event. For instance, we had a lot of military around our area in Temecula so I had a “Military Appreciation Night.” All military and their families got in free to the game, and we honored them at halftime. I’ve had a “Teacher Appreciation Night” where we honored our teachers and invited the media to cover the event. This got teachers and their families to our games who had never been before! I’ve had local football Pop Warner teams come and play at halftime. This gets kids and their parents exposed to your program because they come to watch the game.
- Branding your logo. Logo recognition in the community is a very important aspect of building your athletic program and identity. Think about the images that are burned in your brain. The golden arches, the Nike swoosh, the white coca-cola on a red background, the mouse ears. Those logos don’t change, ever. Is your school logo identifiable? Is it burned in the minds of your community?
I’ve seen some schools have so many logos that people in the community have no clue who they are. Logos, colors and team uniforms should be consistent from team to team on your campus. When people see your logo on a hat, sweatshirt, t-shirt, bumper sticker, they should automatically know what school is represented.
8. Community service projects. Get your kids serving others in their community by helping to take care of it. This will garner an appreciation of what your athletic program and school is all about by those we serve.
5. RECRUIT THE HALLWAYS
Now that your program is: winning, getting kids to the games, celebrating your athletes and making your athletics an important part of the community, the hardest part of the job is done! However, if you don’t get kids out on your teams, you have failed in one major area – that is participation!
I’ve been working with teenagers for the last 16 years, and one thing I’ve learned about them: Teenagers desire to be a part of something larger than them. Most teenagers are thirsting for a group to belong to because they are lacking connection and meaningful relationships in “real life.” They have 800 friends on Facebook yet feel lonely.
However, they aren’t outwardly seeking to belong. A majority of them aren’t going to show and communicate this need to belong to a larger group. Therefore, coaches must reach out to them, and encourage their players to reach out to the other kids in their own hallways. Most often, the kids on your teams will be able to recruit the hallways better than the coaching staff. But they usually need to be taught how to do this.