A carefully planned and well-designed indoor practice facility can be a great enhancement to your youth baseball and softball organization. The benefits of such facilities are vast: they are weather-proof, can cut down on field maintenance costs, can be multipurpose, and can even maximize your practice time.
BTF collected some of the best advice from our community partners to share with you:
-Central: Central to the community is ideal
-Promotion: Remind people that you’re there!
-Access: Locate a facility near your field(s) for quick access
Layout and Equipment
-Safety: Always the top concern when determining layout and equipment needs
-Maintenance: Proper maintenance of pitching machines is important for safety and the longevity of your equipment – do not allow coaches or parents to adjust any machinery
-Maximize: Use drop down nets as opposed to securing netting to the floor. This will help you demonstrate fielding techniques and fundamentals more easily
-Divide: Consider dividing your facility into different sections by netting; you can simultaneously use different sections for batting and pitching/hitting, and can also pull all of the sections back for a wide-open space.
-First Aid: Always have the proper First Aid equipment readily available. Post signs throughout the facility to note where it’s located
-Training: All employees should have proper First Aid and CPR training
-Supervision: Always have trained adult supervision
-Enforcement: Establish and enforce safety rules and regulations; post these on signs throughout the facility
Security and Maintenance
-System: Establish a security system and process; employees must be educated on how to open and close the facility.
-Windows: Consider shatter-resistant plexiglass windows, both for keeping unwanted guests out and for protecting against an accidental bat or baseball
Scheduling Facility Use & Establishing Capacity
-Age: Keep in mind that capacities may vary by age groups being served
-Overlapping: Avoid overlapping age groups/divisions in the facility – more techniques can be addressed when serving one specific age
Waivers & Liability Consideration
-Waiver: Everyone using the facility must sign a waiver prior to any participation
-Insurance: Ensure that all insurance policies use language specific to indoor baseball/softball
-Variety: Team registration, try-outs, team photos, community meetings, coaches’ clinics, and administrative and organizational meetings are all great ways to use your facility outside of practice
-Renting: If it aligns with your agency protocol and insurance coverage, consider renting out your facility to add an additional revenue stream and increase community awareness
More tips? Add them in the comments below or please tweet facts and links to @btftoday.
The holidays are upon us! We are in the holiday spirit here at BTF, so we’ve decided to create a wish list (and check it twice) of common needs of non-profit organizations that support youth baseball and softball.
What will make your program more successful in 2013?
- Better field conditions – No skilled field maintenance contact or crew to beautify your field? Download the free Field Maintenance Guide on BTF’s website for a general reference guide for the maintenance of a baseball or softball field of facility. Also, check out the SportsTurfManagement website often to receive solid advice and resources for maintaining fields on all budgets.
- Access to more night games – Did you know BTF provides grants for field lighting? For more information, review the requirements for projects selected to receive grant funds for field lighting here.
- More volunteers and parent involvement – Check out tips from the Girls Scouts of America on recruiting valuable volunteers.
- More equipment and uniforms – Need the funds for more equipment, uniforms and travel exepnses? Guidestar offers 10 Fundraising Tips that might help you raise the dough for next season’s gear.
- Access to coaches training – A knowledgeable coach is a valuable resource for every youth league. For access to coaching resources, sign up and review the Little League Coach Resource Center.
Do you have more resources to share? If so, please tweet facts and links to @BTFToday.
A successful media event is a collaborative effort between the newsmaker (YOU) and the reporters. The newsmaker says something and does something. The reporters must understand what is to be said and what is to be done so they can piece it together for the 60 to 90 seconds of coverage you may get on the news or picture in the paper.
Here you have two challenges. First, some reporters cover everything from fires, to city council, to the circus coming to town. Second, the reporter is not subject to your direction. Still, you can usually get them to cover your story your way it if meets these three requirements:
- Is it clearly explained?
- Does it have news/entertainment value?
- Is it easier than anything else they might do instead?
Remember to explain - Through phone calls, media advisories, and news releases you convey to the reporters what the story is and how you want it told. Your reputation and your relationship with reporters, as well as your skill in the mechanics of media, encourages them to cover your story the way you want it covered. This is the plan for creating a successful media event.
Start with a vision
Before you do anything else, you should decide what image you want to portray to the media through the media event. The vision you develop for the image will be key in helping bring together the rest of the pieces necessary to hold a successful media event.
Know your picture and know your headline
To plan any successful media event, you should be able to describe the picture you want on TV or in the newspaper. You should also be able to write the headline you are trying to get. All your planning goes toward getting that picture and that headline.
Careful advance of the picture
Be careful of the venue you choose for the photo opportunities. It should be consistent with your vision and portray a friendly place. Be sure your organization’s signage is visible and there are no distracting visuals in the background. Also be sure there is enough room for media and participants to be staged to get the appropriate scene or picture.
Although it is more difficult to deal with the many possibilities that real people may present in your media event, you want to try to prepare people for the press and photographers.
Make the most of opportunities
Do a little research on the people at your media event site. Perhaps there’s a special anniversary or birthday or honor being given to someone. You can make the most of this opportunity by incorporating it into your event.
Remarks authentic to the occasion
Make sure your remarks have a direct relevance to the audience, occasion and community.
Holding a successful media event can be almost painless if you do a little bit of planning and a little bit of advance work to ensure that you have everything that you can control, under control.
Media Event Checklist
In an effort to assist your organization to plan a successful public relations event to promote your program, use this Media Event Checklist as a starting point and/or template: Media Event Checklist
For ribbon-cutting, groundbreaking ceremonies and field dedications:
- Oversized ribbon or bow
- Oversized scissors
- Oversized “check”
Microsoft Word or other word processing programs have colorful and helpful free templates available.
If you have a database of e-mail addresses, consider an electronic invitation. “Save the Date” emails and reminders are also a good practice.
- Beneficiaries (i.e. children served, parents,members, etc.)
- Local dignitaries and government officials (Mayor, City Council members, Chamber of Commerce, Superintendent of Schools, Board of Education Members, State Senator, Congressperson, etc.)
- Program sponsors
- Representatives from partner organizations
- Individual donors
- Prospective donors, both individuals and businesses
Check back here weekly for more advice regarding the BTF grant application process and other resource information related to youth baseball and softball programs and facilities. Also, follow BTF on Twitter @btftoday for daily updates and ideas from people and organizations in the world of sports and philanthropy.
How long have each of you been organizing youth clinics?
Ryan Bevans: The Legends for Youth Program has been in existence for about eleven years. I took over the program in August of 2007.
Matt Bennett: Fourteen years. Before working with the Angels, I organized clinics for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s.
How many youth clinics have you organized?
RB: Nationwide, we ran 34 clinics in 2007 and the program will host over 40 free youth baseball events this year.
MB: Approximately 70, between the three Clubs.
How do you promote your clinics?
RB: We send out invitations to individuals on the MLB.com e-mail distribution list. This allows us to control the size of our promotions and focus them geographically.
MB: Through the Angels website and community calendar.
We also pass out flyers at local parks.
What are the basic logistics of a skills clinic?
RB: All participants are grouped by age and go through 7-10 stations covering hitting, batting, fielding, pitching, etc. The on-field activities last for two hours and are followed by an autograph session for the kids.
MB: It depends on the number of kids. We’ve had as little as 100 and as many as 500 or 600. Based on the number, it determines whether it’s hands-on or a lecture. Since our clinics are open to the public and don’t require pre-registration, we are always prepared for both formats.
How to do you keep it organized?
RB: Over the years, we’ve developed a very efficient system for keeping things organized and running smoothly. This is a good thing because I’m usually the only event coordinator present at these clinics. We have also recently implemented an online registration system that automatically logs our participant information for us.
MB: Keep it on schedule. The biggest thing for us is tailor it to the number of kids that are there. We develop a schedule beforehand and we really keep to it.
What do you think is the optimal ratio of children per coach?
RB: We’ve found that a 15 child/coach ration is optimal for our system. It allows for each child to receive personal instruction while also keeping activity at a level that minimizes “down time” in the group.
MB: It depends. For interactive stations, with each child participating in drills, throwing etc, I would say 12 children to 1 coach. For most of our clinics, we work more with speaking and demonstration as opposed to hands on with each child. This allows for a greater number of kids to participate.
What elements are essential to include in a skills clinic?
RB: Fun, activity, and more fun. Keeping the kids active and in a positive mindset is the key to a successful event. If the children have too much “downtime” then the instructors will lose their attention, and it will ultimately affect the flow of the clinic. Keeping them engaged and active in fun exercises is something we stress.
MB: For us, it’s really important to have players attend. It’s also important to keep the instruction at the level of the kids experience.
Do you find that special training equipment is helpful? If so, what?
RB: We have found that some training equipment can be very helpful, if it is available. We aren’t able to travel with much equipment, but batting tees and other batting training tools seem to have the biggest impact on a clinic if available for use.
MB: I’ve found that most of the time we do not do batting, based on the number of kids we have, so we don’t necessarily use any special equipment. We like to use soft practice balls. It feels like a baseball and looks like a baseball, but if it hits someone, it’s not going to hurt.
What is the best way to teach kids at different skill levels? How do you make sure they are all learning something new?
RB: We try to handle this by grouping children by age groups. From there, it’s usually up to the judgment of our instructors as they observe the participants doing the drills. The focus of our clinic program is made very clear from the beginning of event planning. We’re going to focus on fundamentals and we’re going to make sure that it’s a fun event for everyone. With only a two hour window for activity, there’s only so much we can do from a “baseball instruction” standpoint.
MB: The easiest, most effective way is to simply break the larger group up by ages.
How do indoor and outdoor clinics differ? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both?
RB: Indoor clinics don’t allow for as much activity and they’re often far more restricted in space. Obviously, the advantage is that weather isn’t an issue, but our events run much more effectively at an outdoor venue.
Do you have any basic tips or advice for newcomers to youth clinics or for those looking to improve upon existing clinics?
RB: Our advice would be to set up a group of “core values” for your program that correspond with the goals you’re seeking to accomplish. We focus on having fun, practicing good life skills, and respect for the game. We simply use baseball activity to achieve these values because it’s what our members/instructors know best, and is the best way for us to positively promote the game of baseball. If we can ensure that a child is having a fun and positive experience on a baseball field where they receive reinforcement on the right way to do things, then we know we’ve given them something to take away from that and use later on.
MB: Be sure to work with the skills of the instructors. We have involved alumni players to assist current players as many of the alumni are more comfortable in speaking to groups and instructing.
Many organizations are in this situation. However, it’s important to make an educated decision when accepting a donation of wood poles or purchasing a new system. Before assuming wood poles are the only feasible option, it’s important to learn about the long-term costs and dangers associated with wood poles as well as the benefits and long-term cost savings of other types of poles. Remember, if your organization decides to install field lighting, it becomes your responsibility to the players to provide quality, consistent lighting for their safety and confidence on the field.
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is proud to partner with Musco Lighting, Inc. Musco Lighting specializes in the design and manufacture of systems for lighting recreation and athletic fields. Iowa-based with a worldwide reach, Musco is recognized as a world-class leader in sports lighting. Musco’s Light–Structure Green technology reduces by half or more the cost of operating and maintaining ballfield lighting systems, and reduces spill and glare by half or more. More information about Musco Lighting can be found at www.musco.com.
Musco’s publication, Sports Lighting-Answers to 7 Common Questions, includes the following chapter discussing wood poles and other types: Musco – Wooden Poles vs. Steel Poles. No matter what manufacturer or type of poles you decide to install, please read this information before making a decision.
Our friends at Musco are happy to provide free consultation to discuss your particular situation and budget to help you make this important decision. Feel free to call 1-800-825-6030 to talk with a Musco representative.
Invest in a few key signs to help educate and encourage everyone to pitch in. The slideshow above contains a few helpful signs we’ve seen in facilities around the country.
It’s tournament time for youth baseball and softball leagues around the U.S. marking the end of another season. Soon, it will be time to start planning for 2013 (heavy sigh…) Before another season sneaks up on us, we would like to offer a few ideas and resource information about a variety of topics that you might find helpful in the operation of your organization. Some will be obvious and commonly used, but we think everything is worth sharing as a refresher or for those who are new to the team.
To kick things off, let’s start at the very beginning: promotion and advertising.
No matter what methods of promotion and advertising you use, fine-tune the message. Emphasize your organization’s accomplishments, number of kids served, retention rate, number of years in operation, what’s new and improved in the program, what’s new and improved at the facility, why it’s good for kids, why it’s good for parents, why it’s such a great program. Brag a little bit.
The Ever Popular School Flyer
Almost every organization we talk to provides flyers to local schools. Who has better access to kids and parents than schools, right? Don’t forget to give a few flyers to your Board members and volunteers to post around town on community bulletin boards in grocery stores, “big box” stores, coffee shops, restaurants, the post office, apartment complexes, churches, etc.
Support Local Business
Local businesses may have more to offer than just financial contributions. A business might be willing to provide space, coupons and freebies for a special registration day to drive foot traffic into its locations. Kick around a few ideas with your sponsors. Where are the popular places that families go on the weekends? This also might be a good way to attract new sponsors that may want to help your program but cannot offer a cash donation.
While we are on the topic of sponsors, ask your sponsors to include your organization in its existing advertising efforts in the newspaper, radio or on TV (i.e. “Proud Sponsor of …” or “Register today for our favorite league, …!”)
On the Radio (and TV)
Many local radio and TV stations announce community happenings. Don’t forget to provide your registration information in advance. Take the time now to create a database of all local media outlets and contact info for community announcements. Email a brief press release. Keep it simple with the who, what, where, when and how.
Bring A Friend
Offer a discount or small gift to past players who bring a friend who hasn’t played before. Give brand new players and parents a bit of recognition (i.e. a button, sticker or patch) to welcome them into the league and make them feel special.
The New Word-of-Mouth
We all are becoming more Internet and social media savvy (whether we like it or not.) Include email addresses in your player and parent database. Create a Facebook page and Twitter account to help inform your families of registration periods, schedules, practices, clinics, etc. Encourage them to pass along the info to other families. Existing players and parents are the best promoters!
Actively Seeking… Partners
Other non-profits and youth service organizations often look for new ways to engage children with sports and recreation. These organizations might include churches, public housing complexes, Boys & Girls Clubs, after-school programs, etc. Make a list of organizations in your community and schedule a brief phone call or coffee meeting during the off-season. Talk about how your organizations might help each other. What do they need that your organization can help with? Invite these organizations to form a team for your league or invite their membership to a free clinic during the winter months.
Make it easier by sharing a few of these tasks with Board members and volunteers. Promoting the program is a team effort!
What other methods of promotion and advertising work for your organization? Please share!
Check back here for more ideas and info in the coming months.
Fundraising is essential for the successful operation of non-profits. Fundraising can be completed in a multitude of ways — from 5K runs, silent auctions and galas to bake sales, car washes and even cold calls.
Non-profits in Major League markets may also turn to MLB Clubs for support. MLB Clubs support many worthwhile causes including health, recreation and education programs. Each team strives to make an impact on the community in which they are located and most provide fundraising opportunities to local organizations.
These opportunities come in many forms, but the most common is “in-kind donations,” of autographed items, game tickets or team merchandise for use as auction and raffle prizes. Other fundraising opportunities include the availability of an informational booth at the stadium for organizations to distribute information and allowing groups to work at the concession stands to earn a portion of the proceeds.
If you would like to learn more about opportunities with nearby MLB Club, here are the steps:
- Visit your MLB home team’s community page. Easiest way is to Google, for example, “the Boston Red Sox Community.” The Community page will tell you everything the Club is doing within the community: the causes they support, the events they host, and the fundraising opportunities they offer.
- Search. Look for the following key words or sections on the community page: “fundraising opportunities,” “in-kind donations,” or anything of the like. Each Club page and opportunities will be different so it’s going to take a little digging around.
- Locate. Find the opportunity that fits your organization’s needs or criteria.
- Apply! If applicable, fill out the electronic form. Most Clubs will ask for the basics about your organization; EIN (federal tax identification number,) year it was started, the type of organization and so forth. You’ll also need to provide a main contact and their information as well as details pertaining to the type of event you are having. Of course, be sure to read through the specific requirements, rules for application, and guidelines completely before submitting your application.
As challenging and rewarding fundraising is, it’s important to know that you’re not alone and that your favorite MLB heavy hitters may be willing to help you out. Head over to your team’s community page, do a little digging around and submit your organization for an opportunity. Who knows? You may end up with the hottest item at this year’s auction.
Elizabeth here, reporting on an important topic: volunteerism.
This past weekend, I volunteered at a Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) U.S. Regional tournament, in Newark, New Jersey. Each regional tournament determines the softball, junior baseball and senior baseball winner that will represent their region in the RBI World Series, scheduled for July 31st – August 12th in Minneapolis/ St. Paul, Minnesota.
One of RBI’s missions is to increase participation and interest in baseball and softball among underserved youth. The New York RBI team needed volunteers to assist with the weekend-long baseball and softball tournaments happening in metro New York. A blast email was sent out to MLB interns, explaining the tournament, specific needs and asking to fill these roles. Four MLB interns were present on Sunday. I was tasked with keeping score, stocking the dugouts with supplies, and providing directions or instructions for participants. There were countless other volunteers who assisted in their roles as athletic trainers, coaches, tournament organizers and concession stand workers.
Many BTF grant recipients have success through the use of hard working volunteers. Tasks include: field maintenance, game organization, travel arrangements and the many other details that fall upon a sports league. Recruiting and retaining volunteers is difficult, yet valuable. As stated by Katie Ringel, the Coordinator for RBI, “recruiting and maintaining a reliable volunteer corps is crucial to the success of almost any non-profit organization. Utilizing volunteers not only increases the community impact of the organization; it also allows more of the financial resources to be used for the overall mission of the organization.”
Below are a few tips, with some help from The Girl Scouts of America:
- Be specific. Tell people what you want them to do before you recruit them.
- Be honest. Confirm the time and effort the role will entail.
- Define the situation. Provide information regarding any training, supervision and support.
- Identify the positives.
- Just ask – send out a blast email, reach out to your local college or high school, ask your neighbors, post fliers or call those in your address book.
From my own experience, the act of volunteering has always been enlightening. I have gained access to new organizations, met new friends and learned countless lessons. Ms. Ringel continues, “If you are able to demonstrate how volunteers will clearly and directly contribute to the success of the organization, they are far more likely to feel a connection that will give them reason to come back.”
If you’re in need of volunteers, remember the tips above and if you want to volunteer, consider reaching out to a local youth baseball or softball team or organization!