From the JVA Office: 4 Ways to Attract the Right Players to Your Club

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Depending on your location, there could be several clubs within a driving distance of 20 to 60 minutes of your club, and for the right product, parents will drive their child even father if it means he or she will have a positive experience. Prior to tryouts, clubs are essentially performing in a tryout of their own as they try to attract players to their club. Is your club targeting the right kind of player for your program? Here's a look at what some clubs are doing to enhance their pool of tryout attendees.

Know Your Niche

While team and club culture is extremely important when educating your coaches and athletes, so is attracting the right kind of athletes to fit those philosophies. Be transparent about what your club's vision and motto is, and what type of players/families you are looking for. Also, clubs need to be truthful about your club's niche. Rather than trying to be something your club is not, find what your club does well and build on that theme.

"The best thing we've done to market ourselves (other than our tournament results) is running summer camps and youth programs that emphasize our club's values during those sessions. Creating the culture in camps and youth programs prepares those athletes for the transition to club and allows those that aren't quite the right fit to choose another club. This also allows us to identify those that we may need to watch a little more intensely or talk with before selecting to a team. Our best culture kids generally end up being our best youth and camp instructors, whether they're current juniors and seniors or returning college athletes."
~Will Stein, Tidewater Volleyball Association and Coastal VA VBC

"This year we have been very transparent about what our vision is, the motto for this year and what type of players/families we are looking for. "
~Evan Berg, Wisconsin Juniors Recruiting Coordinator

Wisconsin Juniors recently sent an email to their contact list that defined the clubs' vision and theme for 2018 in order to share the type of people the club hopes to attract and retain this year. Below are excerpts from that email:

Vision: "Provide our families with a culture that inspires, educates, and promotes character-based leadership for life, our sport and the world-at-large. So for 2018, following our Vision with Character at its center, we will have "CHARACTER MATTERS" as our club theme."

The email ends by encouraging the players and families that believe in the vision and theme to attend tryouts. "I hope this is something that inspires you and is something you want for your club volleyball experience. Join us in making "Character Matters" a theme that will fuel every member to be better and enjoy more success."

Inform and Engage Your Customers

Pre-tryout meetings are an essential part of informing those new to your club about the training, philosophies and cost structure of your club program. In addition they are helpful for establishing a face-to-face relationship with a parent and gain trust. Pre-tryout clinics are a great way to develop a face to face relationship with a player, allow players to get a feel for what your training environment is like, and get to know the coaches in their respective age group.

"We are very much a right fit kind of club. As part of our process, we use a series of one day clinics to engage with prospective players and families. These give us an opportunity to work with the players and to speak with the families about what our club is about, and answer their questions. It gives the families a chance to "try us on", to see how we train and experience the culture in our gym. We promote our (E.L.I.T.E.) core values, which are Excellence, Leadership, Integrity, Teamwork, and Enjoyment, along with our training and developmental philosophies. We use the clinics as an opportunity to market the various facets of our club; including our all inclusive pricing, recruiting program, mission and vision statements, and details of how we do things that differentiates us from other clubs.

As we move closer to the tryout date, we start to narrow down our list and really get a better feel of who is the right fit. So, rather than depending on a one day tryout with 100 kids in the gym that may not be a good culture fit , we head into tryouts with a smaller group, that are identified as a good fit and let them compete for their spot on the team." ~Jason Kozak, Virginia Elite President & Recruiting Director

"Our staff engages with the athletes, instructors, and parents at the end of the (clinic) session so the parents see we're all on the same page. The interested families always stay and ask questions and we really lean on our returning athletes to engage the prospective families."
~Will Stein, Tidewater Volleyball Association Executive Director and Coastal VA VBC

Community Outreach

Don't assume parents and players know your club exists because of bumper stickers, signage and t-shirts worn around town. How many programs is your club running off-site and how many third party programs are you running on-site? The more your club can connect to other local organizations, the better your brand recognition is and more attractive your network.

"We host the VA State Games for Special Olympics and the "Backyard Sports Club" Dodgeball league. We've hosted camps for the Girl Scouts of America, YMCA, public school system teachers, and have 'Groupon' type deals out on volleyball social events. We also tie some of our events to other organizations and charities in the area. By partnering with groups like the Special Olympics and Girl Scouts, we're marketing our support of giving back to the community, work ethic, and sportsmanship."
~Will Stein, Tidewater Volleyball Association and Coastal VA VBC

Make sure your club staff and coaches are active and visible in the community, especially to the players you had in your program last year. This involves putting together a grade school and high school volleyball schedule of all the matches that play near the area and assigning coaches and directors to attend those matches. While you are at those matches, engage the coaches of the teams, talk to some of the players you've coached in the past and give the coach your brochures to distribute to the rest of the team if they are willing.

"We also talk to a lot of the middle school coaches about coaching club for us that upcoming year. We count on acquiring at least 10-20 new coaches each year so this part if vital to our success."
~Evan Berg, Wisconsin Juniors Recruiting Director

Emotional Tug

Social media is an excellent way to capture an emotional connection with potential and current players and parents. The images you share are a direct reflection of how your club is viewed to a new volleyball family so it's important to share images and messages that drive the emotions of the culture and atmosphere your club portrays. If you're promoting that your club is a family, you need to make sure you're sharing examples of a family culture already in place (former players as lifelong friends, coaches staying in touch with former players, new members to the family, etc).

Find the stories in your club that mean the most and celebrate them - athletic, academic, and extra-curricular. Ask your players if you can publicize their success no matter how mundane. Don't exploit them - not everyone wants the attention, but praise them publicly. The KIDS always love the praise and the families love when you praise the kids...because its all about the kids in the end!

"We include in our marketing subtleties that reinforce how the kids can make lifelong friendships from playing the sport at this level. Since the season is so long they tend to bond quite a bit. We've seen kids be bridesmaids and best friends for many years after meeting early on in the club scene."
~Sean Gritzman, Top Flight Volleyball Club

"We have 7 boys teams, so we're always looking to pull those athletic young boys from soccer, baseball, and basketball. We have great relationships with other local sports events where our coaches can sit at a table and hand out flyers with tryout information and business cards. We like to celebrate our athletes' successes year round - athletic AND ACADEMIC. I love our posts about Academic All-Americans. This week, George Mason University did us a huge favor posting on Facebook about one of our former boys on their men's team who is also a Resident Advisor. #repost? YES!"
~Will Stein, Tidewater Volleyball Association and Coastal VA VBC

Wisconsin Juniors, Virginia Elite, Top Flight Volleyball Club and Coastal VA VBC are all members of the Junior Volleyball Association. To learn more about the value of a JVA membership for your club and coaches, click here.

For related reading for Club Directors click here. For related reading for Parents click here.


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