Each year, nearly three-quarters of American children sign up for a youth recreational sports. Most of them won’t play professionally, but a growing group of those young players continue their athletic careers into adulthood.
Roughly one-quarter of American adults play sports, finding teammates and games with recreational sports leagues hosted by local companies or organizations. In a 2017 report, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that both men and women were more likely to play sports in 2015 than they were in any other year after 2003. It’s a growing industry, and one seemingly set to continue its expansion. Research indicates that millennials are twice as likely as other adults to participate in team sports.
As recreational sports have become more popular, managing teams and planning schedules and games, all while collecting league dues, has become a complicated full-time job for organizers. Greg Ludke, general manager of sports organizations at TeamSnap, a recreational athletics payments and management platform, believes online and mobile platforms can ease those pain points.
In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Ludke explained how recreational sports leagues are typically run by enthusiasts. Consequently, recreational sports leagues can turn to platforms like TeamSnap for assistance in enabling online registration, creating schedules, communicating with players and even collecting payments.
“The mission of our company was really to let [organizers] spend less time organizing, and more time playing,” he said. “People who are in the sports world are not in it because they love managing or organizing teams or organizations or being administrators. They’re in it because they love sports. So the question for us becomes, how we can help them spend more time on the thing they love and less time with the administrative overhead that comes along with it?”
TeamSnap offers recreational sports leagues a range of features that help with every step of league administration and management, from getting leagues off the ground to making sure everything runs smoothly on game day.
The platform includes tools like a website builder, an online registration portal, and invoicing and payment acceptance features. It also features integrations that allow leagues to distribute and collect waivers from players and register their rosters and participation information with national, state or local governing bodies like U.S. Lacrosse or Hockey Canada.
These tools prevent organizers and administrators from wasting time dealing with the hassle of legacy registration methods. Most leagues hold in-person registration dates, where organizers would sign up dozens, if not hundreds, of athletes in one afternoon, but with TeamSnap, registration can be completed online, saving time for participants and organizers alike, he said.
“The amount of headaches, overhead, time and investment that is required to run registration is huge, and there are still people out there who are doing it on paper,” he said. “We help simplify that.”
TeamSnap initially had its own proprietary payments engine, Ludke said, but eventually decided to partner with payment service and integration provider WePay. This gave leagues and their players access to a wider range of payment methods, including bank account transfers and major credit and debit cards. Leagues and organizations can use the platform to automatically send invoices to players in order to remind them to pay their dues, and accept payments. This doesn’t just make payments easier, but it also offers users a better experience, ensuring that organizers no longer have to hound players for payments.
“We’ve had a payment experience within the product for a long time, because it’s really a core component of what we offer,” he said. “We wanted payments to be easy and a pure value-add to the product.”
Planning and executing games or tournaments without a hitch can also be a massive undertaking. Leagues need to make sure teams are scheduled for the proper number of games against the correct opponents, that enough space is available for all the teams playing and that each game is staffed with the necessary officials.
“The biggest challenge people come to us for is organizing the people on a team or within an organization, to make sure they show up at the right place and at the right time, wearing the right uniform,” he said. “That’s the primary goal they’re looking to solve.”
As a result, platform providers in the space provide features to make sure that game day goes smoothly. In TeamSnap’s case, that includes automated scheduling, along with features designed to help leagues communicate with, manage and pay officials.
As more generations who spent hours on the junior gridiron or mini baseball diamond grow up, adult recreational sports leagues are likely to continue their rise in popularity. If those tasked with making sure these organizations run smoothly can succeed, online platforms with payments inside may become industry all-stars.