Sports Facilities Sharing: Building Relationships & Reaping Benefits
Sharing sports facilities gets easier when you become acquainted with your partners and the bevy of minor issues and concerns that come with sharing playing space. Two people who have had years of experience with field sharing are Alex Bearman, executive director of District Sports, a nonprofit adult soccer league in Washington, D.C., and Bryan Brazil of HGR Lacrosse, a youth league centered in the Boston area,
Both The First Impression and Long-Term Are Important
“The more you can state your case for why you’re a worthy partner, the more you can show value to the community, the more they’ll want to work with you,” says Bearman, who works with a number of schools to secure space for over 300 teams. To open the discussion with potential partners, he has a one-page impact report that explains “who we are, why we’re a positive organization, why you want to consider working with us.” Bearman adds that sometimes you need to “be persistent. If they don’t answer an email, don’t give up.”
District Sports players are doing great things on and off the pitch.
Take a look at how you're contributing to DC youth and how we're connecting DC through soccer. pic.twitter.com/XKkfCUvZsN
— District Sports (@DistrictSports) April 9, 2018
Bearman also says it’s important to develop long-term relationships, something Joanna Johnson, a former facility manager for NXTsports, agrees with. “There’s a lot of work that goes into it –so a one -off one hour practice or game is not appealing to the facility,” she says. “If it’s recurring, you can develop a rapport, get them comfortable and then it can kind of go on auto-pilot..”
“We’ve developed really good relationships with all of our schools to the point where it’s pretty clear when we’re going to be there, we know when summer football practice starts,” says Bearman, “There are variables we can account for because we’ve been doing this long enough.”
Make Sure Everybody Wins
However, once you have the space, things shouldn’t just go on autopilot. “We have really made an effort to sort of embed ourselves in the school. We’ve gotten good at forming partnerships.” Crucial to any partnership is both sides seeing a benefit, and Bearman does his best to make sure that happens. “What we pay [for facilities] goes into a general fund… the schools don’t see any direct benefit from us being in the schools. So we’ve really gone out of our way to work with other organizations that can provide services to the schools,” he explains. “Helping them get coaches, helping with other activities, finding ways to be a part of a school community so we have kind of a seat at the table.”
Show Players The Future
“What it all comes down to in the end, he says, is to “show that you can take care of things and be a good neighbor.” “With everything, it’s communication and building a personal relationship,” says HGR’s Brazil. HGR has its own facility, but also uses space at Merrimack College, a combination that he feels well serves the league’s players.
SPECIAL HGR-love going out to Reading HS @RMHSGirlsLax for such a special season & AMAZING run in tourney!! The Rockets – HGR's own Hannah G, Nancy O, Caroline S & team face Chelmsford in D1 North Final Friday! Good luck. Keep on rolling Rockets!! #hgrpride #wemissyou #DreamTeam pic.twitter.com/pNBaJDTULA
— HGR Lacrosse (@HGRLacrosse) June 15, 2018
“If you can get some sort of genuine relationship going with a college program, it benefits both the college program and the club programs,” he says, pointing out that it helps those who are hoping to one day play in college to see what it’s all about. “They’re around the school a lot, they are exposed to the school… they get to see what that level of commitment and intensity look like. If they’re in 4th or 5th grade, it’s a very different experience than if they’re a junior or senior, but that’s just going to ramp up all the way through.”
Sell What People Can See
Offering that experience is one of the things that Brazil feels sets HGR apart. “Between our town facility and our affiliation with Merrimack College we’ve got these incredible facilities, and facilities are pretty much the only product you can point to outside of the coaching service,” he explains. “Essentially, those facilities and the uniforms are the only sort of solid products we have.” It’s an idea that Joanna Johnson, a former facility manager for NXTsports, endorses. “It can be a differentiating factor for your program, if you operate at an elite facility with great amenities … parents consider that when deciding on a program for their child.”
“It’s a constant peacock battle between all the programs,” says Brazil. “You never want to steal another kid from a program, but if what you’re doing looks professional and successful, they may be interested.”
In the end, facilities sharing can be a benefit to your program, not a hassle to your schedule. It all depends on how you look at your situation and how your deal with your partners.
- Be clear on who you are and how being there is good for the facility.
- Build long-term relationships, not one-offs.
- Be aware of possible opportunities for synergies between groups that can benefit players.
- Remember that facilities can help sell your organization to players and parents.