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How to Keep Players Coming Back in Youth Football
Player Retention Tips in Youth Soccer
When you’re coaching youth soccer, part of your “mission” should be to keep players. While youth football may not be right for some kids, for others it just takes a little time to grow on them. At the end of each season, some of the kids on my team may have decided they’re not going to come back for another season. But at some point in the process, they had a change of heart and wanted to come back and have a great season that changed their view of the game forever. While I am happy to see my team play well, execute our football flawlessly and win titles, there is even more satisfaction in having my players finish the season and come back for another year of youth football.
In the 60 days after the season ends, here are a few things I like to do to help change the minds of some fence sitters:
Season DVDs are always a hit. I made one that included funny subtitles, all our achievements, and we set it to Christian music. You don’t know how often your kids and their families watch these DVDs, and several of my parents have said their kids basically “worn out” it from playing it so often. Heck watching so much might even help kids play soccer better. These DVDs keep your child fresh about the game and make you stand out from other youth soccer teams he could be on. It might also keep you away from other sports like football or the dreaded fall baseball.
I always send these DVDs to the kids as Christmas presents in December along with a letter. In this generic, generic letter, I detail my gratitude for this season, parents and children. I’ve also included a personal message about what Christmas means to me and my family. Dave Dimmond is a friend of mine from Florida who has been sending personalized letters to his kids for a long time. He talked about how much he appreciates the players’ contributions to the team and talked about very specific events and attributes about each player. While this may seem time-consuming, Dave reports that the letters were treasured by his children, some even having them framed. This is what I will be doing with each of my players this year and for the foreseeable future.
Most teenage soccer players just need a little public encouragement to get them excited about the game, and that includes your star players. You never know which kid might feel a little inadequate in their efforts. We all have kids who aren’t starters and we know they’re going to develop into good players over the next year or two. Unfortunately, some of these kids don’t understand that after one year of hard work, they will be the “stars” of the next year. Without proper encouragement, some of these kids lose interest and quit soccer altogether. If we believe that youth football teaches life lessons, then our goal as coaches should be to keep all kids, regardless of their ability. I’m going to keep stars, future stars, and never be stars. Some in the uninformed think it’s a mutually exclusive deal, but it’s not, you can play kids, keep kids and win, even in the most competitive youth football leagues. I’ve done it, and so have many others.
Take the time to do something like this and your retention rate will increase. Guys like Dave Dimond are guys kids love to play for, and he’s the kind of guy who gets mobbed at the gas station by his current and former players. He told me that the emails he receives usually start with:
My name is John Smith and my friend Mike Jones has been raving about your youth soccer team for the last year. He brags about how much fun his son Jimmy has had playing for you, and how your team went 11-0 last season with the offense that John keeps bragging about. How can I enroll my son on your team? Have you left any spots?
I also love having the kids take home the team trophy for a week. We then had them take the trophy to school and pass it on to the teammate who saved it for the week before passing it on to the next player on the roster. This keeps your team name fresh in the minds of school and impressionable little ones, while giving your players something to show off to family and friends.
If you’re coaching youth soccer and your team is consistently competitive, you get emails like this too, we all get them. Encourage your players and get creative, keep the football fresh in their minds and not only will you get better retention rates, but you won’t hurt new players either.
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