So you want to start a recreational hockey team, eh? You have the time, you have the money, and you have enough friends interested to start a hockey team. But what really goes into managing a recreational league hockey team? I’ll go over some tips and tricks that I have learned over my past few seasons of recreational hockey league play.
Start preparing ahead of time
Starting to prepare your team early is very important, especially if it’s your first time doing this because it will give you breathing room in the event that some of your potential teammates bail last minute. For example, for my summer hockey league that started in May, I started preparing my team in January. That sounds like a crazy amount of time to prepare, but your teammates will probably need it. Some individuals will appreciate the time to allocate some money to the side over time rather than one lump sum. Another reason for this is that it gives potential teammates time to mull over playing for your team. In January of this year, I had my full team of 15 players tell me they were going to play. However, when it came time to pay deposits in March, I had 5 guys tell me they weren’t interested in playing anymore. Luckily, word spread among my friend group that I was starting a hockey team and already had a few individuals on a waiting list.
Get your team’s jerseys done ahead of time
Creating your team’s jersey can be one of the more fun experiences of managing your recreational league team, but if you don’t put that order in ahead of time, you could be showing up to your first game empty handed with disappointed teammates. At the very least, order your jerseys at least a month in advance. you should also verify with your desired custom jersey shop on how long it takes them to deliver your jerseys. So have some fun and consult your teammates for team names and jersey designs, take a poll and roll with what most people think is best. Also, choose quality jerseys over cheaper jerseys! Nothing is better when your teammates walk in and are blown away with the quality of the jerseys.
Use a team management app to manage money, attendance, and more!
Once you have a team of dedicated individuals, tracking the payments from the individuals can be a stressful experience. Between league dues and jerseys, you may be managing several thousand dollars’ worth of cash. However, this year I started using a team management app/website called BenchApp (Click here to read my review of BenchApp) which has built in finance tracking. BenchApp also has other team management features like text message game check-ins, team stats tracking, and more! Seriously, I went from always stressing about having enough players showing up to my game and team dues, to not even worrying about them at all once I started using BenchApp.
Buy Pucks, Water Bottles, and a Speaker
Each of your teammates are spending several hundred dollars to play on this team, so try to do your best to improve the overall experience for your teammates by buying 3 simple items: pucks, water bottles, and a set of speakers.
Do your team a favour and run down to the local Canadian Tire/Sports store and buy yourself a dozen pucks for $0.99 a puck. Trust me, 15 players trying to do warm-ups with 3 chewed up pucks that came from the bottom of someone’s bag is not a great way to start the game.
While at that Sports store, pick up your team a set of water bottles, there may be even be one with a puck holder for all those fresh pucks you just bought! You may not think you need one, but chances are your teammates will forget their own bottles every now and then. A set like this was able to keep my team of 15 men hydrated for the full 60 minutes, just make sure to wash the bottles after each game!
This accessory is optional, but I highly recommend it. The guys on my team seemed to really enjoy either listening to my playlist of pump-up songs that I created, or throwing on their own songs. I bought myself this speaker, which was nice because it was small enough that I could just throw in my hockey bag, has Bluetooth connectivity so that anyone could connect to it, and battery powered so that I don’t have to look for that one plug in the change room.
Host a Beginning-of-Season Party
Whether you are playing with a team of friends, or a bunch of random people that don’t know each other, hosting a Get-to-know-each-other/start-of-the-season party is a good way to start off the season. It allows everyone on the team to get to know each other, and if everyone already knows each other, this just gives you an excuse for all of you to hang out and talk hockey for a bit and get excited about the season.
Regularly hang out afterwards
Since you are already out there, try to hang out with your teammates afterwards. Your night is already dedicated to playing hockey, and going to a restaurant, bar, or even the tailgate of someone’s truck in the arena parking lot is great way to getting to know your teammates better.
To some degree, we all play hockey to be a little competitive and to keep enjoying the sport we love. However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s all in good fun. So as a team manager, do your best to alleviate the stress on yourself so that you can just focus on playing the game, and at the same time, improve the experience for your teammates!
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