There are some highly competitive basketball leagues and programs offered during the summer. These are great when you find them, but sometimes travel, the skill level of the league, or the difficulty of forming teams or finding a roster spot makes programs hard to join.
When I was a young player, that was the case where I lived. There weren't many leagues available. I played a lot on the outdoor courts all day on my own, but had a yearning to play in a league on a team. What did I do? I started my own league! It was not as hard as you might think. Here are some of the things I did to start my own league. Keeping these ideas in mind, you could choose to start a program in your neighborhood.
First, all I needed was a court, permit, players, ball, scorebook, time keeper, and a few volunteers. All of that was easy enough. Obviously most towns and cities issued permits through City Hall or their recreation departments. Equipment was easy enough to find. There were many volunteers and friends available to keep score and time the games. I also had to find a few sponsors to cover expenses and pay a small amount for costs related to timekeepers and officials. Some people might not be comfortable recruiting sponsors, but it wasn't that hard. Here is a list of some of the necessities to give you a few ideas to help you to start your own program.
Players: Start with kids in your family, go to the neighborhood courts and ask kids playing there if they would like to join, put sign-ups and posters in supermarkets (everybody has to go to one of these), seek permission from the school department to disseminate information, meet with the recreation department for their support and resources, utilize social media to advertise, use Public Service Announcements on radio and cable, and submit Press Releases to local news papers. This seems like a lot to do but this is one place where volunteers can help.
Ask a few parents for assistance or go to the local college or high school for
aspiring communications majors or interns. Put an outreach committee together
and you'll have a lot of help finding players. Also, contact spring and winter
leagues to acquire lists of past players
Sponsors: You may not need many sponsors. The easiest way is to find an aggressive, well connected parent or business owner that likes to approach people to help work on this. Are there a number of local business owners who have family members who like to play? Also, meet with the Chamber of Commerce for ideas on sponsor recruitment. Go to the radio station and ask for help approaching some of the radio's sports advertisers. Get a local politician to help you to local businesses and key community members who can help. Finally, are there other local sports programs that might like to get behind this and help start a new basketball league.
One thing to consider is to provide benefits to sponsors and have a Benefits' Package to present to them that explains the advantages of helping support your program. Sponsors are interested in potential customers, opportunities to promote their businesses, advertising, publicity, giving back to the community, and community good will. The larger the membership of your league and the awareness it generates, the more appealing it is to business partners and/or sponsors. Therefore, public relations is very important.
In your Benefit's Package, include a summary of the program, how many players and teams are involved, and such things as the sponsor's right to include promotional fliers at the league site, have their own banner at the site, inclusion in press releases, listing of sponsors on team "tee" shirts, how public acknowledgement of their sponsorship will be made, and an opportunity for sponsors to have direct participation in award ceremonies or opening ceremonies. Summarize this information in your package and present it to potential sponsors. I am not talking about major fundraising. Five to ten sponsors at $100 a sponsor can help pay for a league.
Referees: Finding and assigning referees used to be the hardest task for me. I used to get lists of officials, call referees, and assign them. This would take a great deal of time. What I learned was that there was always a local association of officials or a local referee who would call other referees and assign them for you. The key is that the lead official is empowered to assign himself/herself and get extra work during the summer.
Referees are looking for work and a chance to develop their skills in the summer. Sometimes there are college intramural leagues that can help find referees who have officiated their leagues in the past and might be willing to work now. I usually found referees who did freshman, junior varsity, and church league games. A winter league director can help you as well.
If finding officials is difficult, here's an idea. I coordinated a YMCA league where players called their own fouls. We did not have referees. We would have volunteers settle disputed foul calls, but the players handled the rest. Volunteers would oversee the games and didn't need to be experts to officiate the game. This worked out pretty well. Your level of competition determines what will work and what level of skilled officials you need.
Volunteers: Parents, college students looking to develop their resume, people looking to give back to the community, and past players from the community all can help you coordinate your program as volunteers.
Insurance/Liability: One important thing to consider - before one of your players twists his ankle and is taken to the hospital - am I liable? Tara C. Fappiano, a partner at Havkins Rosenfeld Ritzert & Varriale, LLP recommends that you consult with a qualified insurance broker or attorney about insurance, releases and waivers, and potential liability issues, as these issues differ from state to state. In addition, municipalities will frequently require signatures on indemnity contracts, releases, or waivers as a condition to use of the park, or ask the program to obtain insurance protecting them in the event of an injury.
So get a scorebook, a pencil, a clock, some basketballs, a court, some volunteers, players, and start your league. The more your focus is on recreation and fun, the less you need to worry about a high level of organization. You'll help kids enjoy the game, develop skills, and have a positive place to be in the summer!