Community Focused: How to have an absolutely thriving recreational sports group

Five easy principles that will make your sports organization so good that players are waiting by the edges of their seat for your games

Organizing games that I actually get to play in has taught me a lot about players over the years💪

I have recently seen thousands of meetup members switch to the OpenSports platform to serve their sports community better. These recreational sports organizers that are coming on board are the best of the best! Over time, they have built a solid, loyal community by organizing one to several pickup-style events per week, that players simply cannot wait to attend.

Working with more sports organizers excites me because I get to continually learn about the intricacies of being a sports leader and reflect on it as it applies to my own pickup sports groups😊

I want to share with you things that I’ve learned so far, so that you can also run a community-centric sports organization where people pass by and think, 😮How can I be a part of THAT!?”

Being the sports organization that everybody wants to be a part of — Here are the things you need to consider:

1. What does your sports community want and need (besides games to play)?

They want to be the first to find out about your events, and they want to feel special. Personalization and importance!

Sharing smiles and laughs off the pitch 😊 We all feel important.

One great piece of advice I received a few months ago was, “everybody walks around with an imaginary sign that says ‘make me feel important’”. And that really resonated with me. This simple principal is no different for your community of sports players — They want to feel special, and YOU should make them feel that way.

How can technology help you do this? Through messages and notifications that are personalized. Here’s a few examples:

Truly personalized outreach efforts that I have experienced.

Above, you can see two chats, one is between me and a well established personal trainer building his business/clientele in Toronto, and the other is between me and a player on the OpenSports App. Both approaches make me feel special and wanted, and most importantly, connected to the person. The attention that the trainer gave to me was very personalized and I thought his approach and his follow ups were very clever.

After considering the importance of the personalized approach, we applied this philosophy to the development of OpenSports so that communicating with your community of players in a personal way feels very easy and organized for you, while ensuring players feel special. Within one message, you can check in and say hello to one person (or your entire group) while attaching a link to a game that they can join. That is how you make game organization and community management go from ordinary to extraordinary.

2. The best organizers do not fear the competition

There is space in the world for a LOT of great recreational sports organizations.

Sometimes when I tell sports organizers and facility administrators about OpenSports, one of the push backs I receive is, “Why would I want to be on the same platform as my competitors?” and to this I respond, “What are you afraid of?👀👀

The analogy that comes to my mind is: On Airbnb, LinkedIn, Yelp, or any online marketplace platforms, your profile is out there amongst millions of “competitors”, but you will still be successful because those platforms are optimized to ensure that those who are great at what they do continue to be successful. Similarly, via the OpenSports app, if you are a great sports organizer, you will see increasing membership to your group and thus success as an organizer. What’s more, making money by organizing games becomes easy when your sports group has a well established presence. The pattern that I have observed has been consistent: Once a game organizer receives a few five star reviews, that instant credibility drives quicker sign ups to their next game. No more waiting around to fill an RSVP list. See 👇?

Web view of pickup soccer game attendees list: TSC (Toronto Soccer Connection) always fills pickup games that have pre-selected spots open!

Alas, the best sports organizers that I know have an unwavering confidence in the community that they built, so much so that they really don’t mind having their group on OpenSports alongside “competitors”.

3. Community is not just about you, it’s about the people who make it up

Keep connected to your community of players on and off the pitch — they are your best ambassadors.

You can set the tone, set the rules, set the “culture”… but the best community sports leaders understand that the people within the group need to connect for there to be anything lasting and substantial. That connection manifests in various ways… friendly, playful banter during a game; chatter about the Champions league at the side of the field during breaks or after a game; or in more advanced cases, going to a pub for drinks after a game.

The key is that people interact on and off the pitch, and that often means messaging each other after the game to keep connected, via a game chat, or other means of digital engagement. If you want to have an amazing sports community, you can help foster the development of that camaraderie, by having everybody together in one digital group.

The first soccer organization that introduced me to pickup soccer when I moved to Toronto: Toronto Soccer Connection. Fun, passion, community, and family are what I feel when I play with TSC. It is no secret that I feel genuinely happy and connected to this community, and as large part is because of the unbelievable attention the leaders provide to their community, on and off the pitch.
Left: Isaac and Emmanuel helping each other, and myself (the organizer) out, before a pickup game in Toronto! Right: Players giving me last minute notifications that they are running late, and expressing their gratitude after the game. In all of these cases, whether in a digital or physical space, I felt connected to players in my sports community and it felt like a shared experience.

4. Being the best organization you can be means you call the shots

Do not use the platform you’re just comfortable with — use the one that is best for your community.

Do you only want a certain subset of players/friends to know about a new game you posted before opening it up to everybody?

Do you want to open up a specific amount of spots for a certain position or a certain gender to ensure an even balance of players?

Not all platforms have these functionalities. Do not be afraid to experiment and migrate your group over to a new platform like OpenSports! They will be thanking you for introducing them to a fun and fast alternative that helps them make more connections with athletic people in their community, and ultimately be more social and active. Privacy settings will allow you and your group members to control the amount of notifications and messages they receive, so nobody feels like they are being overwhelmed by *shudder* unwanted notifications!

5. You are here because you care

Whether organizing games in the middle of the winter (left), or at 9am on a Friday morning (Right), never stop showing that you care.

You are here, reading this article, because you care about your sports community are are taking the time to invest in becoming an unstoppable sports organizer. You are here because you want to learn more about people, sports management, and ultimately, how to do things more efficiently so that you can save time doing mundane things like probing every site on the internet to find people to play in your game, and spend more time actually connecting with players. I run pickups myself, have observed many different organizers run pickup groups, have spoken to hundreds if not thousands of players and organizers, observed thousands of hours of behaviours, and I know, first hand, that it is connectivity between you and your group, that will ensure success.

Final thoughts…

You should not let automation take the genuine connectivity and authenticity out of being a sports organizer (Click here to see what Meetup is doing to wipe out organizers and robotocize game organization). By understanding what makes players feel special and connected, OpenSports develops magical little solutions to ensure you have tools that help your sports organization fit the needs of players.

How do you start?

Take a quick minute to create a group and create your first event. Start off by inviting a core of your members to see how it works out. After you get a few events under your belt, it might be time to invite the entire group by cross-posting events and then eventually bringing your entire pickup group on board.

We’re here to help you every step of the way. Contact me, alicia@opensports.ca for more info!

❤Your friends in sports and community, Alicia and OpenSports