Category Archives: My Local Club

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!

Steve Pallas - Sports Community

Quick Notes from SCME 2013

On a glorious Sunday in November, I trekked into the city for the first ever Melbourne Sports Club Management Expo. The main reason I went in was to see the sort of information that is available to the ambitious local club volunteer or manager and find out more about what clubs need and the position they’re in.

After a little bit of a wait to get in, I was able to meet some of the people running the stalls, including Club Bid, Team Bus, Fan Fuel, All Sports 4 You and Sports Community. Soon enough it was time for the workshops, which were more like mini-lectures as there wasn’t really any discussion or interaction.

Here are some slightly disjointed notes I took from Steve Pallas’ talk about Sponsorship and Membership:

  • When asking anybody for money, their immediate response is no. It takes communication and relationships.
  • One of the main reasons why people join a club is to socialise and find a community to belong to.
  • When looking for funds, clubs need to broaden the fundraising circle from those who have been immediately related to the club through previous relationships to the wider community. Steve believes clubs can build relationships with those not even in the same locality, just like the world’s biggest clubs.
  • One of my thoughts: The Brandiose approach of making a local minor team famous is key to this. Having a clear and confident personality along with a big vision will help people to relate and connect to the brand – as long it is bigger than the locality (though this is a key ingredient).
  • Social media: Clubs don’t often think they have enough content they can post to facebook etc. It couldn’t be further from the truth. From player suspensions to game results to upcoming games and other milestones, there is plenty to keep the social media accounts ticking over.
  • Re: Sponsorship: Clubs often rely on 1 or 2 sponsorship managers to get or sell sponsorship packages. Spread the load, create a sale force from players and members.
  • Clubs can do more to look after members, they’re the club’s most important resource.
  • For Membership packages, one that is often overlooked is a past players membership. Past players can be an amazing source of revenue for any club.
  • When applying for grants, clubs need to be specific – what will the grant pay for? Grant applications that use videos (they don’t have to be high-end videos) are creative and will stick out amongst all the other grant applications.
  • A great way to build a local following is by creating traditions and rituals. Much like the Anzac Day AFL game gets a massive following, create your own traditions and rituals, tying into something seasonal will be more easily remembered.

Steve’s 10 favourite fundraising ideas

  1. Past player memberships best idea
  2. Player sponsors – player driven
  3. Photo books, cards
  4. Helicopter drop pin
  5. Mobile phone recycling
  6. Outdoor cinema
  7. Past players reunion
  8. Ladies dress up events
  9. Pre season tournament
  10. Crowdfunding

I hope my notes have been helpful for you if you’re involved in a club! If you’ve got any great fundraising ideas let us know in the comments below!

Dear Grassroots Clubs: Why Businesses Don’t Sponsor You

Today I want to discuss about how grassroots clubs approach sponsorship, not from the perspective of someone who has experience as a sponsorship manager but from the perspective of a small business owner.

While I was at the Sports Club Management Expo here in Melbourne, I was chatting with Avner from Centre Square Development and he said something that was right on the mark: most businesses see a sponsorship not as a partnership but as a donation.

Donations generally happen as a result of a positive relationship with a non-profit or club. In a sporting club sense, the business owner/donor may have been a previous player, committee member, fan or related to a player. Their donation is rooted in altruism. It’s no wonder then that local clubs struggle to gain new sponsors – the circle is so small and it changes so infrequently that the same businesses are always hit up for more cash.

I was also chatting to a real estate agent about this issue and he said he’d spoken to a lot of small business people who “hate sponsoring clubs and schools because they take the money and don’t genuinely support the businesses”. It’s no wonder these people never invest in sponsorship again.

At the SCME, Steve Pallas from Sports Community outlined 4 different reasons why a business would sponsor a local club (by the way, if you’re a volunteer or manager of a local club I’d highly recommend going to Sports Community). Only 1 of those was for business benefit. So how do we make a solid business case for those local small to medium businesses to invest in a sponsorship?

The main change in mindset needs to occur at the club level – it’s not a sponsorship, but a partnership. What does that mean? It means both parties are working hard for each others’ benefit.

How do clubs approach this at the moment? They offer sponsorship packages where small to medium local businesses can put their name on things like signs, uniforms, events, newsletters, Facebook, the club website etc etc. This type of marketing is called brand awareness marketing, and the problem with it is that it only really works for big companies with big marketing budgets. Brand awareness marketing for most small to medium local businesses is a bad move and in most cases does not result in sales for the sponsoring business. This means that most sponsorship investment by businesses are an unwise move.

There are 2 ways to approach this problem:

  1. Improve: Increase brand awareness marketing effectiveness.
  2. Change: Allow for greater depth and creativity of marketing campaigns through a varied partnership program.

IMPROVE

Both Internal & External sponsors (external sponsors in this case are ones that have had no previous affiliation/connection to the club) can find some improved success with club sponsorship by engaging with the club and its members and by encouraging members to participate actively in club activities. What does this mean? For the local fish and chip shop it might mean putting up club fixtures in the shop window and decking the shop out in the club colours during finals weeks.

The problem is that most sponsors don’t know how to improve the rate of purchase intention as a result of sponsorship, and it’s up to clubs to educate them – they’re the ones asking for the cash after all! It’s not enough to mention the sponsors on facebook once a year, thank them at the end of year speech and whack their logo on a ground sign or scoreboard.

Clubs should be producing a booklet with ideas on how sponsors can improve their chances of increasing sales as a direct result of their connection to the club. Otherwise, you may even run a sponsors information session at the start of the season to discuss these ideas.

The other main area to improve is communication with the club members – rather than just putting the business names on newsletters and websites, clubs can really help by strongly and repeatedly encouraging members to use sponsors in all communications. A creative way of achieving effective communication in this area apart from saying “These are sponsors so go buy from them” could be having other members reviewing sponsors products, or allowing sponsors to write helpful articles in your newsletter. The possibilities are endless – get inspiration from the nature of your club and the nature of the sponsor’s business and the right idea will show up.

CHANGE

Moving the focus away from brand awareness marketing may mean less signs on the fence, but a lot more money in the club account! This approach allows sponsors to start their sponsorship investment at a lower level, then growing that investment when they see the results.

The approach is this: investing in a sponsorship allows the door to the member database to be opened to the business, and the level of sponsorship allows for different levels of marketing campaigns by the business. Allowing the business to take control of their in-club marketing allows them the chance to develop creative campaigns that increase sponsor retention rates (where members can remember the names of sponsors).

A couple of ideas:

Basic Level (perfect for dipping the toes in the pond):

Membership Discount Card – used for discounts at all local sponsors – accompanied with a professional booklet listing all the discounts. When I surveyed one group of fans, most couldn’t name any minor sponsor, apart from one that had a fantastic discount. In fact, most could only name the 3 or 4 major sponsors for the year, and had trouble remembering the major sponsors of previous years. It works with an economy of scale – a lot of smaller sponsors can add to the bottom line.

Medium Level:

Sponsors Rounds – Sponsors set up a stall selling their products and services at the game, also handing out flyers. It gives the sponsors a chance to get to know the fans and get associated with the club. Costs practically nothing for the club.

Sponsor Networking Meetings – Host regular meetings (or host them at a sponsor’s venue) expressly for the purpose of sponsors finding a useful referral base for word-of-mouth marketing. This can be used to set up a local business trading group. Willing sponsors pay for the meal/drinks and can potentially make connections worth thousands of dollars for their business.

Higher Level

Round Sponsor – Allow a major sponsor to run a Family Round at your ground, supplemented by direct marketing to the member database in the fortnight leading up to the event. This allows them to hand out marketing materials.

Creative Activations – At this level you can get really creative by matching with businesses that relate to parts of club life. For example, micro-breweries seem to be popping up everywhere in Victoria and they often make seasonal, short-run beers for the micro-brewery beer enthusiast community.

Clubs could partner with the brewery to create an exclusive beer for the club which earns the local brewery loyalty to their brand. Each beer sold makes money for both parties and generates a pride for the locality. The beer could then also be sold to local bars, restaurants and supermarkets with profits split between brewer and club.

Another example is a local kids playcentre hosting sports related games and activities at your venue for kids who aren’t participating in the on-ground sport.

The Key

The key for all of this is to make sure that club sponsors are remembered and doing it in a way that encourages members to use their services or buy their goods. If a club is really intent on creating relationships with the local community and helping the local businesses that help them, they need to either pull themselves away from the addiction to pointless naming rights and signage and move toward a real partnership structure or improve the current brand-awareness-heavy packages by educating sponsors. By doing both your club will make your sponsors happy and they’ll keep investing in your club. It’s a win-win!

The Question

How are you going to ensure all your sponsors end the year saying “There’s no way I wouldn’t sponsor the club again next year!”?

If your club has done something great for local sponsors – let us know about it in the comments below!