I am a huge fan and follower of IHC and am grateful to Richard Graham for helping to keep the spirit of our sport alive and giving us an opportunity to be informed and even voice ourselves to the inline hockey community. I am also grateful to Richard for giving his attention and publishing articles and information I have produced and sharing with them with you. Richard fairly gives those same opportunities to others, including in his recent thread An Anonymous Post Worth Posting. I chose to begin this new thread with a more positive twist and so as to separate this and any subsequent content from any negatives, real or perceived, in the aforementioned thread, or with like threads including the reasonably productive Problems with roller hockey...
Anyone who knows me knows that I am an unpaid volunteer and an advocate for our sport, especially for children and the scholastic segment. I know there to be many IHC readers who also share in the spirit of giving, many are volunteers themselves and I believe we can all agree that this sport thrives on the dedication of its volunteers. I also acknowledge that there are many readers of these forum topics who will never post but look to them for information and positive reinforcement. It is for them and those who choose to share through positive and productive dialogue focused on building this sport for the today and the next generation that I write.
Having read numerous good suggestions in IHC threads, I would like to share the following for your consideration. Please feel free to add and collaborate. If it can result on any new children entering and staying with the sport, then our time will have been well-spent.
Connect with Your Community: It's Free. It's Easy!
List your facility (rink) with your State's council on physical fitness and their resources directory. Be sure to be accurate with your entry and revisit to maintain your listings at least every six months. Example: California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports: Activity Guide. The Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports' Activity Guide is an on-line searchable database of sporting activities, youth organizations and parks throughout California that parents, health practitioners and other Californians can use to connect California children and youth with physically active opportunities in their communities. Roller Hockey http://www.calgovcouncil.org/activeg...ler%20Hockey/; Ice Hockey http://www.calgovcouncil.org/activeg...tslist/Hockey/
List your club, league and rink with your local City or Municipality and their directories for children's activities. Parks & Recreation departments and activity directors in many community promote local sporting associations and programs. A great place to engage young parents and their children with Learn To Skate programs, after school programs, special events, and more.
List your facility (rink) with local newspapers and their web sites as an entertainment venue. Most publisher sites have Events sections and being listed as a venue gives you another opportunity to be found. Most give you a section to describe your business and services, and some even offer a free picture - happy kids posing in front of your facility?
Add your events to web event directories such as Eventful (http://eventful.com), the newspaper and community sections. And don't forget to list your major events right here on IHC!
Devise a brochure introducing your facility and youth programs and then distribute to local preschools and elementary schools. While many schools will resist a for profit group from doing this, consider using student-athletes from your middle and high school leagues who may be part of your learn-to-skate program, or invitations to watch the older kids in the neighborhood play roller hockey; maybe even a demonstration event on the playground or basketball court after school.
Road Work! No, not a warning sign to avoid some patch in the road. Rather, consider employing outdoor skate workouts (road work) with players in Club T-Shirts and team jerseys skating through the neighborhood parks, neighborhoods and school yards. Make it a real WOW by having players do stick work with a roller ball while exercising. (Can you imagine the site of a four team high school club skating through the neighborhood?) Be sure to have brochures handy!
Cooperative Marketing: Others Need Help, Too!
Some municipalities, YMCAs and communities have outdoor rinks with minimal or even no supervised programs for their community - a premium opportunity to co-op with them and run a clinic with your staff on the fundamentals to local kids, an evening adult program, stick ball Saturdays and such to then convert their interest to your leagues as as they grow. If not programs, consider signage agreements to advertise recreational activities at your rink while kids practice at their neighborhood rink and cul-de-sacs.
Local sporting goods retailers are always looking for a co-op opportunity and roller hockey can give it to them! Consider conducting a parking lot event: stick ball tourney or exciting demonstration; maybe even tie-in with other roller sports. Work with the retailer and his product reps to sell street or hockey or roller skates and gear they have on hand while participants are instant mobile signs to street traffic and passersby. Don't forget those banners and set up a pop-up tent to promote your facility and youth hockey programs.
2 Cool 4 Ice? Consider the opportunity of cross-promotion with local youth ice hockey leagues... most ice skaters grew up on roller and made the transition, but are they still competitive on roller? A parking lot match-up between ice and roller teams in a fun, fundraising setting could produce funds and get exposure through traffic and through media potential.
Tournaments and giving back to the community. As demonstrated this past year by the NCRHA and Mission Hockey, their Mission Hockey College program used collegiate players as teachers during a one hour clinic session for youth skaters as one way to help give back and keep players in the game by demonstrating the path to the top of the pyramid. How many youth skaters, or their parents, are even aware that there is a collegiate league? There's now a few hundred more after this past season. With the top talent available at many tournaments, promoters have a unique opportunity to work with rink owners and their communities to get the message out and bring in new skaters for a wide variety of grass roots programs. Use the WOW factor of a skills contest following a learn-to-skate session and you've got 'em hooked!
Charities - Give, Give, Give! If you're fortunate enough to be in a market with an NHL team or major hockey league team, work with the Fan Development department to help players who want to produce namesake events for local charities make their way to your facility. It takes a while to mature a program, but community involvement and new interest grows quickly with a hockey blood drive, a contest for cancer or an event to help disaster victims. Even if you don't have a major team, consider how impactful that charity events can be on traffic counts and new media impressions. These events really shine when presenting your facility's resume to prospective sponsors.
Rinks Helping Rinks. This one is not an original, but it's message has been a common one raised in many threads here in the IHC community. Actually, I borrowed this from the motto of the six facilities in Southern California who bonded this past year and created WIHA (www.westerninline.com/) and are actually putting it into practice.
Business 101: Make it Easy to Communicate with Your Customers!
Customers want you to be easy to find, easy to reach and easy to communicate with. Educate your staff in best practices for quality customer service; don't treat customers like rink rats. Make your phone ring through local promotions and let the caller reach a real person when they call. Make your web site kid-friendly! Language (consider those seedy adult league names not being placed on the home page) and navigation should be easy and content entertaining to each age and division. Remember that content is king on the Internet and cheap to produce. Content should be updated regularly, not just the rink schedule and registration (cha ching) dates! If you have some proficiency, consider making landing pages relevant to a specific service. Example: mybirthdayattherink.com which could be searched separately but linked to the rink's main home page. Birthdays and other services are a natural for a multitude of directories in your locale and across the country.
If every rink owner or manager spent just one hour of each business day in marketing their business in some new way they would soon see the results with new smiles appearing on skates and filling their rinks. Then, with simple maintenance and re-marketing techniques, these newbies would be moving up the ranks toward the top of the pyramid. The next challenge will be to build more new rinks!
I am hopeful that your contributions of new ideas and collaboration of concepts will help in shoring the foundation of our communal bridge and reinforce the many positives that makes it fun to be involved with this sport.
Thank you in advance for all you do!