Ten Years – What We’ve Learned

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

The release of today’s issue of OnDeck marks the anniversary, almost to the day, of our CoachDeck launch ten years ago. When that very first, small batch of decks came from the manufacturer we didn’t know if we’d still be sitting here ten years later looking at them in our warehouse. But then we started sending them out to youth leagues around the country and right away we knew we were on to something.

The feedback we received was 100% positive, overwhelmingly so. We immediately got to work on our soccer title, followed by basketball, softball and football. Now, as we head toward a milestone of over four thousand youth leagues using our products we look back on some of the things we’ve learned and changes we’ve seen.

First, the reported demise of youth sports is exaggerated. Not only do statistics show a rebound in participation numbers virtually across the board, all one has to do is take a walk around city park fields on a spring day to see that organizations catering to recreational sports are still alive and well. As long as there are active young children, there are going to be games played among them on weekends.

It is true that the landscape has changed. Travel or competitive sports have seen explosive growth in the past ten years. More and more players, or perhaps their parents, are opting for this avenue of athletic participation. There is much debate about the effect travel sports are having on the kids they are gobbling up, as well as their families. Regardless of the pros and cons, travel sports are not going away anytime soon and it will be interesting to see what the next ten years brings on this front.

We’ve learned that, by and large, volunteer coaches and league administrators are really good people. The comments we’ve received from articles we’ve written through the years, the conversations we’ve had with league board members, shows us again and again that there are a lot of wonderful, self-sacrificing folks who share our core mission which is to see to it that children have a safe and fun environment in which to play the sports they love. We can’t show our appreciation to each individual who has touched us with their passion, kindness and good intentions over the years. So we would like to say a collective “thank-you” to everyone we’ve gotten to know and to those we haven’t, who do their unpaid jobs quietly without the expectation of any reward other than the knowledge that they made a difference.

And we know that these coaches love our product. Since our inception we’ve seen coaching books, manuals and DVD’s that were supposed to be the “next big thing” to help coaches. Online services promising to help parent-volunteers run professional practices with the click of a mouse or a swipe of your screen are now voluminous. So why, through all this, has CoachDeck continually grown and become the number one resource for coaching drills in North America? We believe there are many reasons. First, a deck of cards is fun. Leagues tell us they love to hand them out at preseason meetings. Coaches love cracking the seal and fanning out the cards, looking at the illustrations, imagining themselves recreating them on the field.

Next, less is more. Using our product couldn’t be any easier. If a league tells their coaches to go to a website for drills and practice plans, it is the rare volunteer who gets excited about this prospect. They spend all day on the computer for work. When they finally remember they even have practice today it’s time to get in the car and head to the field. At this point there is only one tool that will allow them to get all the information they need to run a fun and effective practice in a matter of minutes. And unlike other resources, they won’t forget about CoachDeck because it is tangible and always with them.

We’ve had a great time over the past decade and we know, based on the feedback we get and the number of organizations who re-order our product year after year, that we’ve done a lot of good in community youth sports. When those humble first baseball decks came off the truck all those years ago we couldn’t have imagined what this would become, the friends we would make, the stories we’d hear. So here’s to the next ten years and beyond. We’re grateful and proud you’ve trusted us to help your players and parents, and we hope to always be that little coach in your pocket. Happy New Year!

Brian Gotta is a former youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels and a baseball coaching book which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

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