All posts by Ben Newton

How to Start a New Baseball Club: The Grassroots Sport Experience You Never Hear About (Part Two)

After part one, I wanted to ask a few extra questions on top as a follow up. Originally I planned to head down to meet Tim (now the Miner’s secretary) at the club’s first home match at their home ground, however as you’ll read things haven’t been going so smoothly for the club on that subject!

When you first decided you wanted to start the club, how many people did you approach to help? What was the feedback from those people you approached?
At first I did it all alone: if it failed, no one else would have been let down. Once I had a field placing and council approval, I then had a come and try day in which I also advertised the requirement for committee members and managed to achieve a committee to back me up on things I needed help with. The feedback was very positive as they all wanted this club on the field. As it turns out, now we are halfway through the season and have had massive dramas with the cricket club we were trying to share a ground with, and subsequently we have had to move down the road to a new field. It’s meant that the whole committee has had to do a lot of extra work to get funding applications updated so we can hopefully get our field sorted. At this stage all our home games will be getting played at another club’s ground.

Once you had your core support group, what issues did that raise? Was it hard to keep everyone focused on the goal?
I really have had no dramas or issues with the core group of committee or players. Everyone is focused on getting bigger and better while understanding it is going to take time. Our first goal was try and get a win (which we achieved in about round 5) but now it has flicked to getting more consistency in every game we play.

What did you do at your first meeting?
First meeting was at that stage working out numbers for the first game whilst trying to get a juniors program up and running. Also trying to get our field sorted out with the cricket club which has since fallen over. We are now working with a cricket club about 100m away from our original site, and the reaction couldn’t be any more different: they’re very excited at the opportunity to have us at their site. We just have to keep at it and the hard work is almost done.

How did you come up with the name for the club? What were some of the names left on the reject pile?
I really wanted a name that may mean something to locals from the South Gippsland area. Most would know that coal mining is big in the region, so the Miners seemed like a good fit. There is a cricket club with the same name in the region, but I think our branding will set us apart. Some of the names scrapped were:

  • TITANS
  • GIANTS
  • SHARKS
  • GLADIATORS

My fiancee made up mock uniforms to see how they would look on a uniform and how it sounded but none of them seemed to work. I think we made the right decision with The Miners. We recently heard from a guy who had grown up in the area but was now living in Perth and he bought a few playing tops and caps just because he loved the name and logo of the club. That to me is proof that it’s a good name that fits with the character of the area.

What paperwork is required to start a club? Which of those things is the most difficult to complete?
The main document required to be a club is your incorporation, which you cannot obtain without the basic requirement of a committee, President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Once they are all in place, have a meeting and get document signed asap as it can take up to 5 weeks to go through. All the paperwork is pretty easy but can be time consuming. There are companies around that can help (see part one) and they are the best to talk to as they know the exact process you need to adhere to. Once they are on the case it’s really easy.

The main thing I take away from this whole experience is to fight for your club. I have been fighting for this club for 18 months now and got the wind knocked out of my sails by the cricket club making it so difficult for us. However it has lead us to try another avenue which has now paid off – but not without a lot of extra work. I would recommend that you make sure you try and have a good relationship with any sharing club, and get a proper understanding of what you require of the site as far as clubrooms go, and then clarity about what works will be done on the ground. For instance we hit a wall because the cricket club didn’t want to give us access to their kitchen to sell hot food. Their opinion was that we would have to drag a BBQ from the balcony 100m across a wet oval and cook it there.

When we went to primary school with this and they were sided with us, but the cricket club made it that hard to try and rectify it that the fight just stopped being worth it. We felt things started getting more unfair, especially after a request for $1000 a week in hire costs so we started looking elsewhere. As I said earlier, fight for what’s right but don’t give up if one door closes. Keep an open mind and have a backup plan ready to activate if required. I had approached this new cricket club right back at the start and asked them about the possibility of having ground at their facility, so they knew of the possibility of us being there and weren’t shocked when I rang.

Good luck to anyone starting a club!

 

Well that’s the second and last one in this series – I’ll get an update about the Miners at the end of their first season to see how things are progressing. If you’ve got any questions you’d like to ask Tim leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure he knows to get back to you.

The Great Solution to the Big Club Merch Problem: Using Redbubble for Local Sports Club Merch

I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about merchandise ordering in local clubs: people that pre-order but never pay, tales of over-ordering and having too much stock that never moves, the hours of time it takes to nag people to pre-order and for payments, and settling for poor quality merchandise so you can actually make a buck. And don’t even start on the minimum quantity issue!

Looking at the problem as one to be solved, I got to researching and arrived at Redbubble.com. Redbubble allows you to upload a design which can then be printed on-demand (no minimum quantities) onto a whole heap of different products, from mugs to doona covers, to tees, hoodies and even iPhone covers.

As far as pricing goes, Redbubble products will cost more – that’s just the nature of on-demand printing. The upside of the system is that you’re able to set your own margin percentage, however with the fluctuating US dollar the final purchase amount is impossible to predict. The hope is that as a volunteer you’ll save time on getting quotes from a few suppliers and can put the purchasing decision in the hands of the people in your club.

The flexibility it offers is fantastic: think about all those times you’ve ordered Premiers t-shirts only to have boxes sitting in the cupboard a year later.

My baseball club is going to start with 2 designs and I’ll follow up with another article discussing the engagement and take-up within the club.

In case anyone was wondering, Redbubble has no connection with me writing this post.

Take a look at my club’s profile here.

Redbubble Website

How to Start a New Baseball Club: The Grassroots Sport Experience You Never Hear About (Part One)

Among all the stories and advice and blogs you read about running a local sports club,  about running meetings and securing sponsorship, and about managing volunteers and good social policies, there’s a notable lack of information about one very important issue for the growth of any sport:

How to start a new club

It’s not for the faint of heart, and depending on the sport you may not get the level of support you’d expect from a state body. While I’m on a committee of a local baseball club, the club has been around since 1949. I’ve always been curious about what it would take to create a sports club – I mean it’s hard enough to grow a local club as it is!

I recently interviewed Tim Katz via email a few weeks ago. Tim has done a huge amount of work to start a baseball club. The South Gippsland Miners have now just played their first game in the Latrobe Valley Baseball Association however the interview took place about a fortnight before that. My questions are in bold, his responses come after that.

What’s your background in sport and baseball? Are you or have you been a club president before?

I started my baseball journey at the Moorabbin Baseball Club when I was around 11 years old. I have never been a club president before in any club or capacity but did serve about 2-3 seasons on committee at Moorabbin.

What were the main decisions in thinking that you’d like to start the baseball club?

When I did some work in the region I noticed that when you live in a country town you only have the choice of football, cricket, netball and soccer. I love AFL and respect all sports but in winter Baseball can be a great option for everyone, especially if they aren’t keen on the other sports. Also I obviously love the game and have made many friendships over the years through baseball, and it’s relatively low impact so anyone can play.

How many people did you have to support you? Did it affect your family life?

With my ups and downs of trying to get the team on the park, my fiancee Ash has been a constant support, my family has helped wherever possible, and my brothers even offered to play where and when they could. The newly formed committee have been amazing in the way they have got behind the club; really pushing to get us up and going.

The enthusiasm of all the players that have turned up thus far inspire me to keep focused to make this happen for them. It has been a struggle at times with my young family, especially when getting through the first 12 months, but now with a great committee I’m able to spend more time with my family, and for that I’m really grateful.

Were you able to get any advice about starting the club from anyone else with experience?

It’s really very hard to get advice on starting a new club. A lot of clubs have been around for such a long time so the founders are generally very hard to get a hold of. When it comes down to it, I’ve just had to grit my teeth and hold on.

What first steps did you have to take once you decided to start the club?

I spoke to my family to make them aware that it would be a bumpy ride ahead. After that the most important step was speaking to council to find a home, which is a very time consuming step going from ground to ground looking for a good option. Then I approached the LVBA (Latrobe Valley Baseball Association) to see what their thoughts were. Once I had all that figured out the hard work began.

Run us through the decision process and the opportunities available for finding a ground to play on.

In looking for a home I really wanted to pick something with exposure to public view from a main road. This is important for sponsors to get good exposure and to give them bang for their buck. We are setting up in a Primary School, which will also give me exposure directly to juniors which is a huge factor in getting a new club going. Once the field is set up and people can see us playing and making things happen in the region, the players will come.

To get pointed in the right direction I’d really encourage others to work with their local council to make it happen, and also with any other clubs that you may be sharing with. There will be backlash and knee-jerk reactions but stand tough and try to work it out. Even if you have to organise meetings with everyone involved in getting the team in the location, do whatever you have to do. The meeting may need to include the school council, other club committees, council members and your own committee. With everyone at the same meeting, you’re all on the same page and you don’t have Chinese whispers going on.

At what stage did you go public with the news of the new club? What was the reaction?

I put out a media release to local papers once I had the site sorted and gained approval from council, school council, committee and the cricket club committee’s approval. The reaction was very positive from most people. We got a lot of interest, however it can be  very hard to reassure people that we’re not a fly-by-night club, especially without fencing and a field. In the end we will be fielding at least 1 senior mens team and working on an under 13’s team.

What are the most boring parts of the set-up?

All the paperwork and waiting. It seems to never end but if you keep your eye on the prize you’ll be fine.

What excited you the most about the set-up?

Seeing all the excitement and enthusiasm from new comers to the game. There’s definitely a hunger for new sporting options, even in small towns.

Where did you get your first external support (outside of your core group)?

Gene Parini from GippSport has been a godsend! He has been in contact with me throughout the whole process with info on contacts and how to go about setting up the club. Ian Murphy from South Gippsland Shire has been instrumental as well. He was always there to chat with about how things were going and with helpful ideas around processes. More recently, Penny from the grants department within council has been a wealth of knowledge for our secretary, helping us with grant applications and with advice on the best way to move forward. For anyone interested there is also company called “Regional Sport Victoria” whom are a government funded agency who will help you with getting an idea of what it will take and where to start.

Part of Baseball Victoria’s mandate is to grow the game in our state. What has been your experience with the state body? Also how supportive was the LVBA in helping you get set up?

Baseball Victoria’s role has been more behind the scenes, which means they’ve given an endorsement of what we’re doing (as opposed to financial assistance). While I don’t want to offend anyone, I would say the most disappointing thing about the baseball bodies is lack of funding/financial support. I can understand it’s hard to get funding from higher governing bodies, but I would love to see a more sustainable way of having more finances available to new clubs.

In saying that, the LVBA have been a great help in offering us whatever they can to help get us on the park, even offering some financial aid and have always been available to answer my questions. They’re always ringing just to see how we are going and to see if they can help which has been encouraging. All in all it’s a challenge, but if you love the game it will be all worth it when the first pitch is thrown!

What are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome?

The hardest and most frustrating hurdle is around commitment. I had a few players who showed a lot of enthusiasm earlier on, but pulled out very close to the start of the season which is never ideal. Another is the cost involved in the sport. It’s daunting for first time parents with kids to see fees, uniform, equipment all adding up, which adds to the argument for funding.

It’s also hard work to start sharing with an existing club to use their facilities. Don’t be surprised if there is a massive knee-jerk reaction to you entering and using the other club’s rooms. This could be your biggest hurdle and it can be disheartening to the point of making you want to pack it in, but just try to stay calm, stick at it and work through it. Reassure them that you will maintain and keep their rooms pristine and that you’re not there to take over. Don’t be easily pushed over – some people make it hard in the hope you will but if you really want that site, and if everyone else agrees, then fight for in a respectful way.

Another hurdle is knowing where to turn for doing the cut outs around bases for the field. Everything online is specific to what’s available in America so its not overly helpful, plus most things online discuss how to maintain and don’t discuss building from scratch. As examples, stuff like depth of scorier, what type of drainage and overall depth of cut-out and so on.

What are some of the things you would have done differently if you had your time again?

It’s hard to say. The only thing may be to try and have a committed committee set up and ready to go, with all the documents for incorporation in and signed on the sly (so to speak), and then once you’re incorporated to start advertising. From there get people who are keen to sign registration form at come and try days, and then get immediately onto grants. Incorporation can take up to 5 weeks and that is paramount for everything: bank account, grants, being able to be a club in general. None of this can be official without it.

What are you now focusing on as a club to make sure you’re going to be around in the long-term?

To ensure longevity you must have a junior program. Hit up schools as much as you can. The hardest part for me is living in Melbourne and driving back and forth. The best thing to get juniors is to try and involve school Physical Education teachers. I have one currently signed up to play and he is able to speak to kids directly and introduce them to the game at a school level and is coaching them at trainings. Also, make sure the facility details are up and running and in good order for next lot of committee members, so they can walk in and have it all there, ready to go.

Have you tracked the amount of time and money you’ve spent personally and corporately and how much is that (only if you’re ok with sharing that detail)?

I have a company vehicle so I’m very lucky that petrol has not cost me, but it’s a matter of opinion: what is your time with your family worth? If you try go it alone from the get go it’s hectic and family does miss out. I would estimate that if I was to pay for fuel and charge for hours and phone bills and such it would easily reach $5,000. There have been way too many hours to even try and figure out, but if I could put a basic approximation on it, probably hundreds.

What were the biggest costs, and where did you make your biggest savings?

Great question! If you are to get professional fencing companies to do back nets, it will cost between $22k and $44k. These quotes do not include footings being dug or any other permits organised. That is all on you. I have been lucky as I have an engineer and a draftsman playing for us who have drawn up CAD designs to spec and the engineer can help us organise once we start constructing. This has kept our costs under $10k for materials which is the maximum that council grants will outlay. That costing also includes all timber and sheet metal for our dugouts. The earlier quotes from fencing companies do not provide any of that either. In short: the more you can do as a club on your own the better off you will be.

Another expensive outlay is uniforms – suppliers tend to give the impression that they care but are there to make money regardless of what they say. I shopped around for a long time comparing supplier to supplier, and have saved a massive amount on uniforms by using a company called ASA (All Sports Apparel) – Naomi there is amazing! I contacted them in the morning and had sent her all the ideas I had by lunch time, and by 6 o’clock that night she had designed professionally all my uniform requirements and had provided all sizing and costing. Their pricing is similar to one other supplier in Melbourne but her service is second to none and she was always trying to help me keep costs to a minimum due to a start up club. Her designs were spot on, and she was even able to improve on some of the designs which was great. Keeping costs down is imperative, with fees costing quite a bit and with the addition of equipment and uniforms, a first year player has to outlay anywhere from $600 dollars upwards, so be mindful that you will need to do some homework.

Now that you’re heading into your first season, how does it feel looking back to the start?

It still doesn’t seem real as yet because we have not taken the field but once we’re out there as a team, in an area that has never had one before, it could be quite emotional. I will finally see something for all the hard work that’s been done. The next big emotional roller-coaster will be our first home game in the second half of the season on our home ground. Can’t wait!

Easy Wins: Quick Infographics using FF Chartwell

Every designer knows that infographics can take a long time to design, and that the payoff usually correlates to the amount of time sweating over the data and the design. According to this report by the Content Marketing Institute, 40% of B2C Content Marketers use infographics as one of their tactics, and showed the greatest growth in 2014 out of any tactic.

One of the great things about an infographic is that it usually stands well on its own. You can post them to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr and your followers can easily share them. They’re engaging – you’ll get people reading an infographic for longer than your standard players at training photo.

The challenge for a lot of in-house sport designers is the lack of time to produce great infographics. However if you were to spend a little bit of time each week working within a template to deliver a mini infographic each week, the reward will be there for all to see.

For this Easy Win, I’ll be showing you how to use FF Chartwell ($149 for the full family) to create an infographic template that’s as simple as editing text to change the graphs.

Bryce Gibbs Infographic
Here’s one I prepared earlier

Step 1: Prepare your data

Using Excel, bring your data into a worksheet and format it how you need.

Using the Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 9.42.31 pm button, make sure you round any decimals to the nearest whole number, as FF Chartwell doesn’t play with decimals. The graphs and charts aren’t as sophisticated as Illustrator, but they’re a lot quicker. Another thing to keep in mind – the typeface only works with 0-100 whole numbers, so convert numbers to percentages, or divide your data consistently to get a nicer ratio. If you think decimals are the be all and end all, see what difference it makes to your graphs in Illustrator – I can guarantee you won’t need them.

Once you’re happy with your number sets,  save your Excel file as a CSV file, and open in a text editor. Find and Replace every comma and replace with a plus sign (+). When you’re using Chartwell, it reads the + as the break between numbers. For ring graphs, this adds a new line, for line graphs, it adds another point to the line. Chartwell has 7 types of graphs and a number of visual variants on those which you can see below.

FF Chartwell
From L-R: Rose Graph, Vertical Bar Graph, Line Graph, Radar Graph, Horizontal Bar Graph, Pie Graph, Ring Graph

Your final string of data should look like the above. For the AFL Fantasy Points per round line graph, I rounded Bryce’s data to the nearest ten, and then removed the 0:

9+6+10+10+11+12+7+13+11+7+14+11+11+10+8+12+12+9+12+9+11+9

His first round was 93, I rounded it to 90, removed the 0, to get 9. Sure it’s not 100% accurate but we’re talking about a fairly small graph, so compromises must be made.

Step 2: Design and Tweak

Make sure you add your data in first, then colour it, before ‘converting’ it into the graph. Converting is simple, open your Character palette and click the Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 10.07.21 pm stylistic Alternates button to enable the OpenType feature. You won’t lose the ability to edit your data if you do this, which is awesome. Clicking the button again will display the data like before. A quick note: be prepared for the large change in size between the text display and the chart version.

When I added the data for AFL Fantasy Points, the graph looked kinda lame – barely any peaks or troughs, not enough movement. This is because FF Chartwell is always looking at a range of 0-100. If you zoom in to the sort of level of lets say 0-20 for the above string, you’re going to get more movement. To get that effect, vertically scale your text to 1000% (or to whatever amount of scaling gets you the effect you want). This obviously wouldn’t work with the ring graphs as it would lose shape, however it’s a good option for your line graphs.

A great quick feature of Chartwell is the ability to change the graph data colour just by changing the colour of the text. For the ring graphs, the Team number in the string (the string for the third ring graph is 58+67) is using a shade of grey to help differentiate the data.

Step 3: Publish and Promote

Once you’re done, save the template. If you’ve built it with future infographics in mind, you’ll find it really easy to change the player, the data and the text with only a minimal amount of fuss. If you’re going to have a version for Facebook, Instagram etc, the data changes once you get going are still going to be relatively small.

All in all, I hope that it’s a great little idea that you can use in your design world to pump out some engaging content marketing efficiently.