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Pick Up, Drop In, or Open Play: Which is it?

Welcome to the heart of the action where the thrill of the game meets the pulse of community engagement. In this blog, we dive deep into the nuances of pick-up sports leagues and open-play initiatives, exploring the strategies that turn casual sports events into thriving community hubs. We hear from Mitch and Greg of KC Crew to share the good and the bad from their experiences facilitating open-play sporting spaces.  From the first dribble to the final buzzer, we dissect the elements that contribute to the success of these events, offering valuable insights for facility managers, sports enthusiasts, and anyone seeking to create a community-based sports culture. For more from KC Crew, check out their episode on Running Adult Sports Leagues.

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Guide to Greatness

Embark on a journey through the exhilarating world of pick-up sports leagues and open-play initiatives this week on the Facility Ally Podcast. From the vibrant community dynamics to the logistics of running successful events, this blog unveils the secrets to creating engaging sports experiences for enthusiasts of all levels. Discover the strategies, anecdotes, and key takeaways that will transform your approach to hosting pick-up leagues.

Covered in This Episode:

  • Defining your Play
  • Broadening Sports Horizons
  • Finding Your Champion
  • Pricing Strategy
  • Beyond the Court

Highlights and Key Moments:

  • "Open play is more than a game; it's a platform for creating lasting community connections."

  • "Strategic staffing ensures a smooth and enjoyable experience for all participants in pick-up leagues."

  • "The impact of pick-up sports goes beyond the court, fostering health, well-being, and a sense of belonging."

  • "Inclusivity is the heartbeat of successful open play – making everyone feel welcome on the court."

  • "If you have a certain group of individuals, a friend network, or a company that's looking for an activity to do, you have the space, you are their solution."
  • "Make sure you know the crucial things that you need to do, so have your structure, have your staff, have your game plan."

Drop In? Pick Up? Open Play?

The distinctions between drop-in play, pickup, and open play lie in their structure, organization, and participant engagement. Drop-in play typically refers to casual, impromptu sessions where individuals can join a game without prior commitment or scheduling. It is characterized by its spontaneity and lack of formal organization. Open play typically consists of simple environment where individuals can drop in any time and play, regardless of other participants. Pickup, on the other hand, involves a more structured approach. Participants gather at set times, form teams on the spot, and engage in games. One of the best ways to play is a "King of the Court" system, relying on a rotating forum where winning teams stay on the court to make sure players can continue playing towards teams of a matching skill level for the best playing experience. Open play encompasses a broader concept, incorporating both drop-in and pickup elements. It offers a flexible schedule for participants to come and play, but it may involve a more organized framework, such as set times, dedicated courts, or even leagues. This allows the flexibility many modern players need without sacrificing the experience. At the end of the day the three terms still get used interchangeably. 

Broadening Sports Horizons

Creating a positive open-play experience that encourages participants to return and ensures a level playing field requires careful management and organization. One key aspect is fostering a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere where individuals of varying skill levels feel comfortable participating. To prevent team stacking, organizers can implement a rotating team selection process, ensuring that players mix with different teammates regularly. This approach levels the playing field by preventing the concentration of highly skilled players on a single team. Moreover, embracing a self-officiating culture can empower players to take responsibility for fair play, reducing the need for formal referees. Another essential element is flexibility, allowing participants to try out new environments without long-term commitments. Providing introductory sessions, equipment, and guidance enables individuals to explore different sports, contributing to a diverse and engaging open-play environment that caters to everyone's preferences and skill levels.

Finding Your Champion

Selecting a dedicated champion to oversee the pickup play experience is crucial for creating an environment that participants not only enjoy but actively look forward to returning to. This individual acts as the face of the event, embodying the spirit of community engagement. Their role extends beyond mere logistical support; they play a crucial part in ensuring that participants are always well-informed and comfortable. The champion is the go-to person, eliminating confusion by providing clear instructions and guidance, so participants are never left guessing about what to do or where to go. This constant engagement goes beyond the organizational aspect; the champion fosters a sense of community and camaraderie, making every individual feel seen and valued. Friendliness and approachability are key attributes, as they contribute to shaping the pickup play into a social, interactive experience where participants feel connected and part of something larger than themselves. The champion becomes the linchpin in transforming a casual sports gathering into a vibrant, community-driven affair.

Pricing Strategy

Determining the pricing strategy for pickup play involves thoughtful consideration of various factors, and ensuring a fair yet profitable model is crucial. To establish an appropriate fee structure, start by considering the facility costs, equipment, and any additional services provided during pickup play. Aiming for a 30-40% profit margin allows for sustainability and future growth. However, it's vital to balance affordability and revenue generation to attract a diverse player base. Offering package deals or memberships for regular attendees can foster loyalty and guarantee consistent revenue. Additionally, flexibility in pricing models, such as discounted rates for off-peak hours or group bookings, can further enhance accessibility. Regularly reviewing and adjusting pricing based on participant feedback and market trends ensures that the pickup play remains both financially viable and appealing to a broad audience.


Beyond the Court

Pick-up sports can have on community bonding, health, and overall well-being. Beyond the court, open play becomes a catalyst for positive social connections, fostering a sense of belonging among participants. It can also be a more casual and natural opportunity for networking where the primary focus isn't what one can do for another.  Stay ahead of the curve and understand how open play can continue to evolve, leaving a lasting and positive impact on individuals and communities alike.

Subscribe to the Facility Playbook Podcast

Thank you for joining us on this episode of Facility Playbook! We hope the knowledge shared serves as a valuable resource for facility owners and managers seeking to thrive in the ever-evolving sports industry. Stay tuned for our next episode, where we will continue to bring you expert tips to help you navigate the dynamic world of facility management

As we conclude our exploration of pick-up sports and open-play initiatives, we invite you to apply these insights, transforming your sports events into epicenters of joy, competition, and community building. Whether you're a sports facility manager, a passionate player, or a community leader, the journey doesn't end here. Keep the ball rolling and continue creating memorable sports experiences for all.

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