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How to increase regular player numbers your club?

Mumbles119

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I saw a similar thread to this on another forum, and my club is going through a very similar challenge right now.

If you could share any ideas or your experience when dealing with this challenge, all ideas would be greatly appreciated?

Our club has three Mens senior playing sides, Vets, U18s, a newly starting young Ladies team, and all the kids age groups. Decreasing player numbers have been an issue for us over the last 5 or so years, but this appears to be the case for all clubs across the county (Kent) too.

We struggle to fulfil the 3XV league fixtures, and the 2XV teams can occasionally be under powered due to the more regular 3XV players stepping up. We probably have about 70 regular players, but after researching this a bit, it appears that to successfully run three Mens senior sides, you would need nearer 110 regular players to manage the season comfortably.

We have just changed coaching teams, with last coach not having the best relationship or reputaiton regarding communication and clarity of game plan issues and selection disagreements. So our new coaching team should be one thing that could help.

One of the common issues seems to be Senior 1XV team players retiring at early thirties and not continuing to play. Along with the club environment changing a lot, as previous generation players used to be a bit older and family types, whereas most of our players are young millennial types.

Another issue is our clubhouse; years ago Eurotunnel built the Channel Tunnel over our old knackered little shed of a club, and rebuilt a huge excellent club house with four pitches as a replacement for us. The clubhouse has excellent facilities but is also a heavy chain around the neck of our very limited financial resources. This has led to the clubhouse at times prioritising event sales over club access for player members to get the cash in. As players we have started to book our club out, and run a few player nights which have been successful. But really we need to naturally have more people around as regular members, not just for advertised events.

Any ideas or actions you yourself have successfully taken in your own experience would be very appreciated?

Thank you
 

Mumbles119

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Just a little bump...

Any ideas or suggestions are very welcome?

How would you increase the number of regular players at your club?
 

BPM

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It's a tough one. On paper, my club has 1st, 2nd and 3rd XVs as well as Vets and Minis but in reality, we have a 1st XV and a very over-subscribed 2nd XV.

We're in that awkward in-between stage where 2 teams isn't enough, but regularly fielding 3 isn't really doable on a weekly basis. That means players who aren't getting a game some weeks, which means you're always at risk of losing those players when all you really need is 4 or 5 more reliable souls.

We also have the issue of lots of local competition with another 6 clubs within a 10 mile radius all at the same/similar levels.

In my experience, it's rare that new players just rock up. Almost every new player we've acquired is a friend or acquaintance of existing players.

Other clubs locally have gone as far as billboard posters and free club merchandise but as crap as it sounds, the most reliable way to recruit if you're not in a position to pay players is word of mouth.

The other important thing IMO is to make training good as possible as often as possible. Obviously it benefits you on the pitch but also from a PR point of view for any new players. Our coaches are good but it lets everyone down if a new player turns up and there's 12 players training on a wet Tuesday in November - it doesn't inspire confidence!
 

curtbob7

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My club is in the exact same position as you BPM. While our 2nd's have just been promoted we were at times reliant on some players who probably would prefer to play for 3's/socially.

There's definitely an issue with players retiring and choosing not to play socially and also with more and more lads going Uni there's less Colts coming through to the 1st's and 2nds.
 

Mumbles119

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It's a tough one. On paper, my club has 1st, 2nd and 3rd XVs as well as Vets and Minis but in reality, we have a 1st XV and a very over-subscribed 2nd XV.

We're in that awkward in-between stage where 2 teams isn't enough, but regularly fielding 3 isn't really doable on a weekly basis. That means players who aren't getting a game some weeks, which means you're always at risk of losing those players when all you really need is 4 or 5 more reliable souls.

We also have the issue of lots of local competition with another 6 clubs within a 10 mile radius all at the same/similar levels.

In my experience, it's rare that new players just rock up. Almost every new player we've acquired is a friend or acquaintance of existing players.

Other clubs locally have gone as far as billboard posters and free club merchandise but as crap as it sounds, the most reliable way to recruit if you're not in a position to pay players is word of mouth.

The other important thing IMO is to make training good as possible as often as possible. Obviously it benefits you on the pitch but also from a PR point of view for any new players. Our coaches are good but it lets everyone down if a new player turns up and there's 12 players training on a wet Tuesday in November - it doesn't inspire confidence!
Thank you @BPM

Yes, we are definitely experiencing the difficult in between amount of player numbers for 3 sides, plus the surrounding clubs make attraction difficult. Especially with the sea to the south, and clubs all in higher leagues to the North, West and East.

Completely agree about the training element too. Already seeing the impact our new coaches are having on the boys, short sharp enjoyable and challenge based training segments are really engaging everyone. But it all fits into a clear and understood game plan too. The boys are talking excitedly and have pulled some old faces back along which is great. But as you say, the real challenge will be to keep the numbers in the cold dark wet Tuesday training nights. I think talking to a core group of lads and making them an informal leadership and influencer group will be a good option.

Additionally I think we may focus on ramping up the post match meals too. Because an advantage we have as a club is when players come from elsewhere, they always comment on how we forming, social and enjoyable the club group is. If we could do some proper quality grub that the boys will really look forward to and talk about, I think this would help attract people back more regularly.
 

BPM

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Absolutely. Turning occasional players in to regulars can make a massive difference.

Good training, competitive games and a good social side are all part of it. Good luck!
 

GarethGriffiths

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A friend of mine in London helps to run a non-league football side named Rollers Athletic, and they have used a website called UK Football Finder in order to source new players for their pre-season games in August. 30 newbies currently trialing for them (all from the website) and a few of them have played at levels higher than the one Rollers are in.

Maybe (if it doesn't already exist) a site called Rugby Finder, or similar, could be launched in order to help clubs find new players? Or maybe hold open trials in July/August, and if your club can partner with a local school/college maybe you can use their facilities during pre-season whilst you get your ground ready.

Maybe a tie up/affiliation with the SOHK (School Of Hard Knocks) could be an idea as well? The one that Scott Quinnell and Will Greenwood did some work for a few years back.
 
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