After playing and helping run leagues over the years. I feel like I'm qualified to give advice on how to run a successful league. It's really not easy to successfully run a league. Most people have no idea what's all involved and that's why I created this guide. I guarantee that if you follow this that you will run successful leagues and people will want to keep coming back.
Step 1: Figure out if anyone is interested in participating
Before you start getting your league or tournament together you should try and gauge how many people will want to participate. It's hard to get players together for that first league. After you run it for a while and your making you’re players happy it will be a lot easier. Try to estimate the demand and possibly offer a discount for signing up early. Figure out the age groups for your league. It is much easier to fill a league for kids then a adult league. There is a higher percentage of kids that want to play then adults, so keep that in mind. I would start by asking around or printing flyers and posting them in an area where people might be interested. Figure out what days and times most people would want to play. Also try to get a estimate of how much they are willing to pay.
Step 2: Find a venue
If your company already has a venue available then it should make your life easier. All you need to do is figure out what days and time it's available. If not then it allows you a little more flexibility on days and times. You can call around to high schools, colleges and park districts and get the best deal for what you're looking for on the days you want.
Step 3: Find refs and people to help
You can't do everything yourself. You're going to need people ref the games, keep score/stats and maintain the court/field. Figure out how much it will cost per game to have these people help. You might be lucky and find people who want to do it for free because they love the game.
Step 4: Look for a sponsor (Optional)
This is not required but it's a good idea to try and find sponsors for your league. It could really help your bottom line and even be a great way to give prizes to your players.
Step 5: Figure out what your costs are going to be and if you are going to give any prizes at the end of the league
Here is where you have to put your math hat on. Put your league into this equation: ([venue costs]+[refs]+[additional help]+[league prizes]+[profit I want])-([sponser money])=total cost. Based on this number you can figure out how much its going to cost for each team. A typical league will probably have numbers similar to this based on 10 teams with a 10 game season. $2,000(venue cost) + $2,000(refs) + $700(additional help) + $800(prizes) + $2,000(profit I want)=$7,500/10 teams=$750 per team.
Step 6: Create rules
You are definitely going to need a good set of league rules. So many things could happen during the course of the season that you will need to have something to go off of. You are going to have to think about what happens to teams that forfeit to many games or players that get thrown out of games. If you’re running kids leagues, your going to have to figure out what consequences argumentative parents and coach's will have to face. It could get really complicated so make sure you have a solid set of rules. You should definitely look at a bunch of other leagues rules first before you start yours. Don't try to write it from scratch because there are so many things you will forget to include.
Step 7: Create registration form
It's time to create your registration form. You can either do this in Microsoft Word or there are a lot of online registration website services out there that will allow you to automate the process. Before you create your form you should know if you're going to register teams or players. If you're running a kids league, it makes more sense to register players. If you running a adult league it makes more sense to register teams. Since kids are just learning the game and trying to make friends its better to hold a draft before the season begins (More on this in the next step). Adults have their group of friends they want to play with and know the game.
Once you have your registration type figured out make sure you have enough room for each players information and signature for a team registration. If they are under 18 make sure their parent signs the form. It's very important to include a "Waiver and Release of all Claims and Assumption of Risk". You don't want to be liable incase someone gets hurt so make sure they agree to play at their own risk.
Step 8: Form teams if necessary
If you decided to do a player registration in the previous step then you have to form the teams. The way most people do this is to have a coach's draft. Set a time for all the coach's to get together and pick their players. This way the teams are fair and the kids will meet a lot of new people. Don't put siblings on different teams!
Step 9: Create schedule
Scheduling could be a huge pain especially if your running a baseball or softball league. If weather can effect your games then your going to need to reserve some time for makeup games. Indoor sports like basketball are a lot easier. Keep in mind that for kids leagues you need to schedule practices. Give each team at least 3-4 practices before the league starts. The big difference between kids and adult leagues is that kids need to learn the game first. There is a lot of software out there to help you with the scheduling process.
Step 10: Post your schedule and league information online
This is a very important step that shouldn't be overlooked. People are used to seeing everything online and their sports leagues shouldn't be excluded. Everyone wants to know what the other teams have done. Also make sure to update everything as soon as possible and provide as many statistics as possible. I know it's hard to track a bunch of statistics but there is no excuse to not post stats like a players points or the number of home runs someone hits. PlayerMania.com has made it very easy to post your league or tournament information with as many stats as you want to track.
Step 11: Have a preseason meeting to go over the rules
It's very important to hold a preseason meeting with at least all the coach's/captains to explain the rules. Make sure you go through everything and answer any questions that they might have. Also make sure they relay this information to all of their players and their parents.
Step 12: Start your league and check on what people like and don't like
Now it's the fun part, it's time to start your league. All your hard work is going to be seen by a fun league that runs smoothly. Make sure your around for some of the games each day to see how everything is being run. Check in with people and see if there is anything that you need to improve.
It really is a lot of work and you won't always get the recognition that you deserve but once you see everything running you will feel a lot of gratification.