By Jim Fornaciari
In today’s digital environment, people have become accustomed to receiving information as quickly as possible. There is no doubt that the use of the Internet has enhanced the information made available to those interested in high school athletics. High school coaches around the country have been using the Internet to enhance their programs for more than a decade.
Despite the positives of the digital age, coaches would be wise to produce a traditional “snail mail “program newsletter. By taking the time to produce and mail a program newsletter several times a year, coaches and their programs would experience several significant dividends.
Although creating a high-quality newsletter is not done in a matter of minutes, the time spent to produce one will help promote the school’s program and mission very effectively. Today's students have many choices and opportunities, which makes it all the more important for a coach to market his or her program effectively.
As a school’s program begins to experience success, sharing those stories is vital to its continued growth. Coaches should use the newsletter to reach out to local youth league coaches, parents and players. These groups will be pleased to hear about the success of the school and its athletes. If the team has a player named to an “All-Area” or “All-State” team, these would be ideal items to highlight in your newsletter.
Allow the local community to share in the program's success by including them on the mailing list. The newsletter can also be used to provide simple but valuable information on such items as dates for upcoming camps or clinics. By making the newsletter available to local youth coaches and parents, a coach is really recruiting future parents as well as future players. Keeping the community informed of the program's success and its future plans is an excellent way to get kids excited about participation in the program years before they arrive at the high school.
Not only is the newsletter an effective tool for communicating the program's success, it can also be used to sell the program's mission. The baseball program at Glenbard West was designed to use baseball as a vehicle to produce energetic, competitive young men eager and ready for the challenges that adult life would bring.
As part of this mission, our staff put great value on athletes succeeding in the classroom. We also greatly encouraged our athletes to participate in more than one sport. The newsletter served as a great messenger of this program philosophy. Players who excelled in the classroom were recognized just as players who participated in another sport were recognized for their efforts. By publically recognizing these athletes for their efforts off the baseball field, there could be no doubt that the baseball program really did encourage academic success. This type of academic recognition also might draw positive attention to a player who receives little recognition for his or her athletic contributions.
In addition, by recognizing a player's success while playing another sport, it goes a long way to promote positive relationships with other coaches in the building. Fellow coaches will appreciate the fact that the newsletter recognized their sport, which promotes a more trustworthy relationship within the athletic department. This can serve as a very positive message.
Despite the fact that Glenbard West athletes enjoyed the special recognition that they were provided through the newsletter, they were especially appreciative of the fact that newsletters were sent to local colleges and professional scouts. Both of these groups found the newsletter as another important piece of the recruiting process. Many college coaches who received newsletters were interested to learn that an athlete they were recruiting was also recognized as an honor roll student the previous semester.
The newsletter always included information on players who decided to continue their athletic careers in college or professional baseball. By highlighting the successes of alumni playing college baseball, the newsletter helped to make college baseball more realistic possibility for current players and their parents.
The newsletter can also be used to help improve players’ level of play. Current players and their parents can receive important information about upcoming college camp opportunities that might exist. The newsletter can also provide information on private off-season instruction that might be available in the local area.
Our newsletter also included information on equipment vendors who might sell baseball gear to parents at a reasonable rate. In today’s difficult economic environment, parents greatly appreciate any effort to make things more affordable.
The newsletter can also be used to provide parents and program followers with very practical information. Aside from providing game schedules, newsletters can provide information on college entrance exam dates, athletic fee schedules, practice dates and physical exam deadlines. Although this might not make for exciting reading, the program’s followers will appreciate this kind of routine information.
The program newsletter can also be used to communicate a program’s “wish list.” Most high school programs have a long list of needs that rarely are met through the school budget. Despite a lack of funding, most high school coaches are constantly trying to improve their program’s equipment and its facilities. Perhaps your school’s softball coach would like to have batting cages constructed on campus. The newsletter can serve as an outstanding tool to keep this message alive and on the minds of program followers.
By clearly communicating and frequently updating your program’s wish list, your vision of batting cages will stay alive. In order to realize a program’s vision of improved facilities, many coaches have to devote time to fund-raising efforts. These efforts can be clearly communicated and improved through the newsletter.
As our program grew and became more successful, an alumni database was created. We were careful to be sure alumni and their parents received a copy of the newsletter. Just as coaches want to reach out to future families and players, it is just as important to keep in touch with alumni and their families. Over the years, we received a number of donations from the families of baseball alumni who had long-since graduated. Keeping in touch with these families through the newsletter played an important role in generating these types of gifts. Of course, the effort to keep alumni involved in your program cannot simply be limited to fund-raising. Alumni will appreciate your program’s efforts to keep them involved of your success and future plans.
Coaches can determine how many issues a year fit their program’s needs. Once the first newsletter is completed, the follow-up issues will be easier to produce. Coaches often enlist valuable assistance from both parents and players in the production process.
Most high schools are proud of their athletic programs, and the newsletter can serve as an excellent tool to communicate and sell the program to the local community. There is little doubt that today’s digital age can be a great asset to athletic programs. Having said that, the production of a high-quality newsletter will pay significant dividends to any program willing to take the time to produce one. By utilizing the newsletter concept to sell a school’s athletic program and its mission, the coach can impress all interested parties and keep them invested in ythe program and its vision for future success.
About the Author: Jim Fornaciari is a teacher at Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. He coached high school baseball for 24 years at Naperville (Illinois) Central High School and Glenbard West.