The beginning of the pre-season is fast-approaching, and recruitment of new student-athletes is a priority. Here are a few practical resources and ideas to use to structure and host your recruiting efforts.
Have another one to add? Submit it here and we may share it on the Trailhead, or add it to the NICA resource library!
- Create your meeting plan: Determine what kinds of meetings/events you’ll host. How will you engage with new riders and families to get them interested in bikes? Will you have virtual meetings? In-person meetings? Will you partner with a school or local bike shop/business? Will you have an outreach presence at local bike or community events?
- Straighten out your schedule: Once you’ve determined your plan, it’s time to figure out where you’ll host each session, and what time. Think about the timing of how each session works with other pre-season events, and with your local school calendar. Having your pre-season schedule set in advance means smooth sailing as things start to get busier. This also means you can streamline the info you send to coaches/riders/families to fewer communications: one list of spring events = easier for families to find the info they need.
- Advertise: Hang flyers around town, ask for a note to be included in your school newsletter, and have former/current riders and families help spread the word. Check in with your local bike shop to see if they can help support and advertise. See if you can hang a poster at the local trailhead (be sure to ask the trail steward/landowner first!)
- Host a Try-it-Out: Create opportunities for brand-new riders to give mountain biking a shot in a safe, structured, and welcoming environment. Intentionally planned, coach-led Try-it-Out events can be an incredibly effective way to show how rad it is to join your team! These kinds of events are especially effective with brand-new riders, girls and female coaches, and those who may not already be a part of the outdoor recreation community.
- Create materials for your meetings: Clear, concise communication is key. Too much info can make the idea of joining your team seem overwhelming. Lean on NICA’s mission, vision, and core values as the foundation for your message. When you host your meeting, hit the big topics and keep it positive and fun! Be prepared to answer questions, and consider having printed materials ready to go, or an online resource with more in-depth info available as a link or QR code at the end of your presentation. Consider bringing a bike to your meeting to show new families what a safe and reliable mountain bike looks like. Keep it basic – bringing an expensive, top-of-the line, ultra-lightweight rocketship can make the entry into the sport seem unreasonable/unattainable; an entry-level bike is perfect for this purpose. Last but not least, bonus points if you have an opportunity for riders to register at the meeting (i.e. a computer where you can collect info and send Pit Zone invites on the spot!)
- Recruit coaches: Remember that recruiting coaches has less to do with a person’s skills on a bike, and more to do with their character, attitude, and ability to be a positive part of your team culture. Consider your language: when recruiting for the season, ask if parents want to “ride along” with the team – it can be much less intimidating than asking someone to be a mountain biking coach. Leverage NICA’s coach education: remind possible new recruits that we provide great training and support for how to be an effective volunteer in youth development, so they feel confident and competent in their role.
- Recruit volunteers: Be ready to get families stoked about the possibility of volunteering for your team in many different capacities. Sharing specific examples of volunteer roles can be an effective way to get people to sign up right away, rather than simply asking for “generic” volunteers. Roles like apparel coordinator, social media expert, and team snack master can be appealing to those who may not want to jump into a coaching role.
To help you with the pre-season recruitment process outlined above, check out the resources in NICA’s Coach Education Center.
To access, log into Pit Zone, click the “Courses, Resources, & Benefits” button. Look for the Team Management Resources on the right side of the screen. Within those resources, the following samples/templates can support all of the recruitment strategies listed above:
- Team info letter
- Team Info sheet
- Expectations for NICA team coaches and volunteers
- Letter to families and athletes
- Poster and facebook post templates (English & Spanish)
- Team sign-up form
- Team task and volunteer position roles and responsibilities
- Sample GRiT Try-it-Out Agenda (in GRiT Resources)
Remember that each team has unique needs for recruitment. Factors like your geographic location, the size of your community, the number of coaches you have, and your access to trails all influence how you can approach recruitment.
Focus on the things that will be most impactful for your team, and those that you have time to create/host. Different recruiting strategies may require more time and effort, but have a greater impact (i.e., a Try-it-Out)…others are much less time intensive, but have a broad reach (hanging posters and flyers). Both are appropriate and have benefits and impacts for your team! There isn’t one-size-fits-all solution for recruiting – whatever strategy you use, make your enthusiasm contagious, and share your stoke for getting #morekidsonbikes!
What other strategies and tips do you have for recruiting NICA coaches and student-athletes?