Analyzing growth opportunities is one of the most important things that you can do as a club director and business owner. It can be detrimental to your club if you grow just to grow, but it can be equally damaging if you fail to take advantage of quality growth opportunities when they present themselves. Over the last six years, our club has added more club teams, locations, programs, staff, and events. And although it seems like all we’ve done is say yes to growth opportunities, one of the biggest things we’ve learned is when to say no.

Below, I’ll walk through the strategy of how to figure out if a growth opportunity is one to pursue.

In order to run a quality volleyball program, club, or event, I believe there are six components that you must have:

  1. Courts
  2. Coaches
  3. Demand
  4. Resources
  5. Return on Investment
  6. Aligns with Club’s Strategic Goals

I’ll use an example that was brought to us a few months ago, regarding a youth program we run. We currently rent courts in a multi-sport facility for one of our satellite clubs. They contacted us about a new facility they were building about 20 minutes east of them, asking if we wanted any additional space. When presented with this opportunity, we thought about adding our youth program to this new facility, so I started down my list of items to analyze.

Courts

While they definitely had courts available for us, we had to discuss and negotiate to make sure that they could provide us with enough courts, on the days/times we wanted, and for a price that would make sense in our model. In this scenario, it was an easy one to figure out, but that is definitely not always the case. For many situations, finding court space is one of the hardest things to secure!

Coaches

This was a difficult one for us, since this was a new space and a new community for our club. We didn’t have an established group of coaches in this area, so we had to do a little work to figure out how we could provide quality coaches for this new program. Our Youth Director did a fantastic job reaching out to our existing coaches at our other locations, who helped introduce us to coaches in that area that would be great with our athletes and match the coaching needs for our club and program. After interviewing the potential coaches, making sure they approved the background screening, and doing some on-court training, we had a group of coaches ready to work our new program!

Demand

In this situation, we were fairly confident that the demand existed, because we had been getting calls and emails from families in that community asking if we ever ran anything near them. The new facility had also gotten that feedback from the families of other sports, requesting that they add volleyball programming. If you find yourself questioning if there is demand for a certain program or event, I would definitely take the time to talk to people in the community, see what similar programs exist so you have an idea of your competition, if any. If the demand isn’t there, it can definitely be difficult to get a new program off the ground.

Resources

A club director/business owner’s time is extremely limited. Even if you have the courts, coaches and demand, growing or starting a new program will take your time and energy. It is important to make sure you know who is going to handle registrations, answer parent questions, oversee your coaches, market the program, etc. For us, we were planning to run a program we had already developed as this new location, so a lot of the logistics and resources would simply be expanded to include this new program as well. But I find that it is always better to wait until the resources are available, instead of putting out a less-than-quality program.

Once you analyze those four items, you might find that you are missing one of them, and that is ok. Many of the opportunities we have pursued, didn’t start with us checking off all four boxes right away. At that point, it is time to figure out how to get what you don’t have already.

  • Can you find courts or a space for your program?
  • Can you hire and train new coaches, like we did for our youth program?
  • What will it take to create some demand or alter your program to make it fit the needs of those in your community?
  • And how can you ensure that you have the time and resources to make your program succeed?

Figuring this out might just take a brainstorming session with your staff or making some phone calls. And sometimes (as we have found in several instances), one of these things just can’t be found or figured out. We have had events that we would have loved to run, but just couldn’t find the courts for. Or programs that would have been great, but we didn’t feel confident that we had the coaches necessary to put out a quality product. That doesn’t mean that we can never pursue that idea. It just meant that it wasn’t something we should do at that moment.

Return on Investment

There are two main things to consider when talking about return on investment (ROI)… money and exposure. Regarding money, we look to have our cost of goods sold (variable costs) come out to no more than 50% of the total revenue. Our cost of goods sold (COGS) line items are coaching, courts, and apparel (i.e. camp shirts). So, if we bring in $2,500 in revenue for a camp, we’d like to shoot for paying out no more than $1,250 on those three items. Our fixed expenses would include any marketing costs and paying for our staff to set up the camp, add it to our website and social media, answer parent emails, hire coaches, make plans, etc. Typically we like to keep these fixed costs to around 20% of the total revenue, leaving us with 30% profit.

Depending on the program, camp or opportunity, the desired return on investment might not be monetary. There are several things that we do solely to help us reach new families or community, increase brand exposure or encourage participation in other activities. One example of this is our Free Summer Kick-Off Clinics. These clinics are completely free for the athletes, so not only do we not make anything on it, once we cover our costs, it ends up costing us money. However, we run these every year as a way to help publicize our summer camp offerings.

These free clinics allow us to meet new athletes, advertise in new communities and promote all of the camps and training that we have coming up that summer. The way we measure return on investment for these camps, are the number of new contacts we get (email addresses, new participants, etc), as well as the return rate of these athletes (i.e. how many who attend our Free Kick-Off Clinic, then register for a paid camp that summer). We normally write in our loss (the expenses to run this camp) as a marketing expense in our budget, since that was the focus this particular clinic.

Aligns with Club’s Strategic Goals

It is important that you consider your club’s strategic goals when making decisions regarding growth opportunities. Even though this is the sixth component, it is probably the most important. Strategic goals allow you and your staff to stay true to a consistent vision and direction.  If your club is making an effort to grow your grassroots programming, you should be placing opportunities related to 12 and under as high priority. The difficult part is narrowing down the priority list to three short term strategic goals. However, it is important not to spread your resources and efforts too thin. As I mentioned before, one of the most important things I’ve learned is when to say no. When analyzing growth opportunities, I always make sure they align with our club’s strategic goals and it makes the decision process much easier.

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About the Author

Emily is the Executive Director of The Academy Volleyball Club in Indianapolis, Indiana. Emily Hawthorne’s coaching career began in 1999 at Hoosier Heartland Volleyball Club and as a student manager for Indiana University. Since then, she has accumulated more than 100 high school victories, started many successful youth programs, and been named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s (AVCA) 30 Under Thirty list. She is now a serving member on the Junior Volleyball Association’s Board of Directors.