Participations levels in grassroots football are still falling — despite the best efforts of the government, the FA and local associations. If you want to recruit the next generation of players, you’re going to need to reach out.
One way to get young players excited about your club is to hold regular open days. These are casual, fun and interactive events to which everyone of a particular age group is invited. If you can showcase everything your club has to offer, you might be able to pick up some new registrations (and subs) on the day.
Create a Website
Before you plan the details of your open day, make sure you have a decent website. This will let people know that you’re a serious club. You can design your own website in minutes these days with a website building service such as Weebly or Wix.
Make sure you provide details of any credentials and affiliations. Being a member of the local FA, for example, gives your club added credibility. You may also want to include the qualifications held by coaches and administrators in your club.
Once your website is complete, you can use it to promote your open day. Include photos of your players in action, along with an itinerary. Make sure you communicate the date and time of the event clearly. For the highest possible attendance, schedule your open day for a Saturday or Sunday morning.
Reach Out on Social Media
Create a club account on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Reach out to local people via your social media accounts. Respond to queries, and offer advice when it’s appropriate. The idea here is to become a trusted thought leader. Once you have the trust of the local population, you can start recruiting or promoting your next open day.
Reach Out Locally
Tell local schools, newspapers and community organisations about your upcoming open day. You might also be able to get local radio stations to advertise your event. Make a poster, and ask to post it in as many local businesses as you can find.
Organising Your Football Open Day
The main aim of a football open day is to attract new players to your club. And the best way to achieve this goal is to show people what you’re capable of. Standing in front of a group and telling them how great your club is probably won’t work.
Organise your training pitch or event space into sections. The best approach involves splitting up attendees into smaller groups. Doing this allows you to run all of your open day “zones” at the same time. When a session is finished, each group moves to the next zone.
Create a Fitness Zone
Start by creating a fitness training session template. This should involve a 20-minute programme of exercises and drills. Choose some of the less strenuous routines you use during real training sessions — and make sure everyone takes part. Most importantly, make sure everyone has fun.
Set up some drill courses with cones and markers. You can also use hurdles and agility ladders to make things a little more interesting. Try to strike the perfect balance between hard work and having fun. While you want people to get excited about your football club, you don’t want people to think getting match ready is easy.
Create a Skills Zone
A skills zone is somewhere open day attendees can learn about the drills and techniques required to improve touch, control, shooting and passing. Again, take inspiration from your real training sessions. For touch and control, for example, you could hold a keep-up competition. Or you could use a rebounder to mix things up a little. Other ideas for a 20-minute session include dribbling courses made with training cones and shooting practice with portable Samba goals.
Create a Playing Zone
Let’s face it, everyone just wants to play football. Your open day should be a celebration of the beautiful sport, so a quick, short-sided game is a must. Create a five-a-side pitch with markers, and use some Samba fun goals for ease and convenience.
Divide the group into two teams, and impose a no-tackle rule. After all, this is just a taster session — you don’t want people leaving your open day with a serious injury. Keep things light-hearted, and provide constant positive feedback. Remember, however, that attendees will be wearing a myriad of colours. Have a set of football bibs at the ready.
Hold Q and A Sessions
Once everyone has had a taste of what playing for your club is like, gather everyone together for a question and answer session. Start with a presentation, which can include details about the history of your club, the infrastructure and the opportunities available.
Now it’s time to open up the floor to questions. Get people to raise their hands, and answer the questions to the best of your ability. If you don’t have an answer, say you’ll find out and get back to the person asking the question later.
This is an opportunity to gather all your club’s administrators and coaches together. Some questions will relate to training, while others will relate to issues such as subs, safety, first aid and administration.
This is your opportunity to sell your club — to players and relatives alike. Stay positive at all times, and respond to any negativity constructively.
Finish with a Registration Session
Set up a registration table. This is your opportunity to get people signed up, so don’t make them wait too long. If necessary, have several people registering new players. Prepare all the necessary registration and consent forms in advance. Your local FA will provide you with guidance on registration and consent for minors.
A grassroots football open day is all about getting people excited. Try to give attendees a flavour of what your club is all about, but do so in a way that’s both positive and aspirational. If you can excite young people in the short time you have their attention, you should be able to grow your club’s numbers without too much hard work.