Guest Column - March 2013
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Sports Fields

Tips for Leagues That Must Maintain Their Facilities

By Paul Zwaska

I've spent the past 10 years helping a Little League in Wisconsin improve their facilities. In doing so, we have greatly strengthened the health and the organization of the league. Much of what we have done can easily be replicated by most any organization. But it all comes down to having a board of directors interested in making the league and its facility the best it can be. It requires people with good organizational skills, good operational skills and at least one person who is the dreamer. Someone to look out into the future and imagine what is possible for an organization to achieve.

Good Leadership

Too often, leagues are run by boards that are pretty transient. Board members come and go frequently as their kids become involved but then grow out of the league. Many times, some of these members are only serving on the board for their own personal reasons, i.e., their own child. But a board must serve the common good for the entire league. What I have found to be most successful is having the majority of the board made up of people who no longer have kids in the program. They provide stability in the organization as they serve more for the community than for their own child. They tend to stay involved for longer periods of time, making it easier to stay on course with long-term planning. It is OK to have a percentage of that board made up of current parents of players, but if possible, I would recommend trying to keep that level at 50 percent or less.

Get Organized

A league must be run like a business. And a good business knows where its money is coming from and where it is going to. If your league doesn't have a budget yet, then it is time to get busy and make one. Without a budget, it is pretty hard to plan for future upgrades to the league and its facility. The more detailed the budget, the easier it is to plan for the future. Our league was not operating under a budget when I joined. Now we have full control of costs and can clearly plan expenses. A couple of budget lines we find useful are emergency funds and facility upgrades. We can put defined revenue into the proper budget category, thereby helping it to become reality.

Have a Long-Range Plan

A long-range plan sets the tone for the organization. It creates targets to aim for. As you achieve each target, it gives the organization a sense of accomplishment. It proves to the membership that the organization is moving forward. And as you achieve each target, that project is crossed off the list and you begin to set your sights for the next target. The long-range plan should be a three- to five-year living document that is revisited once a year to ensure that priorities are in proper alignment. These targets can be moved as priorities or needs change. This is a crucial steering document for an organization. No more flying from the seat of your pants.