Aint Nothin Soft - By Tiffany Brooks - No League? Build Your Own! Part 1 of 2
By Tiffany Brooks
As I write this column, the last few snowflakes of the Spring are drifting lazily down, my "Spokane Women's Fastpitch" banner is on the UPS delivery truck, and we're gearing up for our Spring Training kick-off to the first adult women's fastpitch league in Spokane in the past two decades. The kick-off to the season can't get here fast enough! It's this next weekend, and we're expecting around 40 women, a local news crew, and some 60+ degree weather. There will be a lot of smiles and laughter, friendships renewed, a bit of weat, and the next day...yes, some sore muscles! We need to recruit about 20 more adult women players to make the minimum goal of our first -year league (4 teams of 15). If we can get about 80 more, we can have two divisions – and although that would be great, it's probably more realistic for year two. The more I've thought about this process, and the fact that women's recreational fastpitch has been absent from Spokane for so long, I thought I might share the steps of the process in case, as you're reading this, you're thinking "I wish WE had women's (or men's or co-ed) fastpitch in MY town!"
So...for this month, let's walk through the first four steps of the (fairly) easy 10-step process:
1) RECON -- First, you need to take a look around and make sure there isn't already another fastpitch program that would compete with yours. Look at city, county and private rec programs like the YMCA. If you are (or have been) a fastpitch player, you likely know if there's anything out there. It's a good idea to double-check, though.
2) GAUGE INTEREST – Start in the fall, the year before you want to start. Go out to slow-pitch games (tournaments are especially easy) and talk to players you know... especially former fastpitch players you know of. Are they interested? Or are they happy with slow-pitch? If you have at least 5-10 players who are interested, then go to --
3) RECRUIT – 5-10 players aren't enough, but if 5-10 talked with you and showed interest, then chances are good that you can recruit enough for a league! I know that sounds weird, but many leagues have started with just 10 players! What you need are 10 enthusiastic players who WANT to play -- they will be your best recruiters for the first of at least four good methods of recruiting:
? Word of Mouth – Just as in the advertising business, word of mouth is still the best!
? Flyers – Get on your computer and generate a short (and I mean no more than 100 – 150 words at most), easily readable, exciting description about what you're doing – starting a great league! Print a copy, then go to Staples, Office Depot, FedEx Kinkos or wherever and get 100 copies made on a high visibility color. I spent $3.00 on this I think. Then...go to those slow-pitch games, and distribute them. Talk with people! Stress the flexibility of what you're doing as you talk with people. Ask what days and times would work best? How many games would they like? How much cost is too much? Put your contact info on the flyer, and make sure to get back to people QUICKLY with answers.
? Advertise for FREE on Craigslist or similar sites. Be warned... do not give your actual e-mail address or phone number in the ad, unless you have to. Trust me, you will get enough spam as it is.
? Local media – They are your friends! If there hasn't been fastpitch in your town in a long time, make sure to mention how long it has been and what niche you hope to fill in the community. Local news stations like local sport stories and short "filler" pieces they can plug into newscasts. The few brief seconds and video they give you (with your contact info) will be invaluable! Plus, once the season launches, they'll likely want to do a follow-up.
4) CREATE YOUR CONTACT LIST – Create an easy to use e-mail address on a good, easy to use program. I use Gmail, but there are many options. Make sure to maintain the list! As people ask for more info, add them to the list...as they leave, remove them – but only after you make sure they really want off. Some players get cold feet. I usually ask them, even if they think they're too busy to play would they like to stay on the list so they can get e-mail updates? Most say "yes," and since people's circumstances change, you may get that player after all...or maybe the following year. Make sure to communicate often and with purpose – give updates as you are organizing, and ALWAYS ask for feedback.
I hope this helps any of you who may be thinking about starting or re-introducing adult fastpitch in your communities to get started! You CAN do it! In the next issue, we'll finish our "walk-through" of the process, with Steps 5-10.
Please feel free to e-mail me any questions you might have.
Until next time, get started on forming your new adult league, and knock off the "rust" -- cuz even when you're in your 20's, 30's, 40's or more...there "ain't nothin soft" about it!
Tiffany Brooks is a ballplayer and gives lessons in Spokane. She would love to hear your comments and column suggestions. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.