Administration 101: The Complete Guide to Running a Youth Sports Organization

Running a youth sports organization takes a lot of work. There are forms to collect, bills to pay, policies to lay down and schedules to maintain — just to name a few! 

Whether you’re setting up a new league or program or stepping into the role of youth sports administrator at an existing club, the role can feel overwhelming. Although your exact responsibilities will depend on how your role has been defined, the core responsibilities of an administrator are the same across the board. Understanding the basics of your job can help you decide how to set up the organization’s structure, who to hire and what tasks to assign to which team members.

In this guide, we’ll cover the essentials of setting up and running a youth sports organization — from establishing your club as a legal entity to hiring coaches and registering players. You’ll also find tips and tools you can use to make life easier along the way. 

Here's what we'll cover:

But before we dig into each area, let’s briefly look at what sports administration is.

What Is Sports Administration? 

Sports administration is focused on keeping any sports organization running efficiently and to its highest standard. That may include anything from ordering equipment to scheduling events to managing promotional materials. Sports administrators often work alongside a board of directors or committee who oversee the activities of the organization and make high-level decisions, though the structure of each organization differs.

If you want to become a certified youth sports administrator, you have the option to complete a course at a specialized academy—for example NAYS (National Alliance for Youth Sports) have a training academy and NCYS (National Council of Youth Sports) run courses in partnership with GWU. While professional requirements differ depending on the job, having a certification is a credit to your resumé and a great way to gain the knowledge you need for the job.

Your exact duties as a youth sports administrator will depend a lot on the size and type of organization you work for. Some admins focus more on the marketing and promotions side, others on the financial and human resources side and others on the development of the team or program. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the key areas a youth sports admin may be responsible for in setting up and/or managing a league, club, camp or other youth sports organization.

Establishing a legal entity 

One of the first things to determine when setting up or joining a sports organization is its legal status. Sometimes, youth sports groups fall under the umbrella of an existing formal legal entity, such as a 501(c)(3) or an LLC. If that’s not the case, you have the option to establish one. 

(Note that even if a program has existed for a while, it’s worth checking if it was set up as a legal entity. If not, you should consider establishing one.)

Why should you establish a formal legal entity?

If you don’t operate under an existing legal entity and you choose not to set one up, your group will stay classed as an unincorporated association. This can save effort and administrative costs in the beginning but can pose significant problems down the line. 

When an organization is not incorporated, individuals can be personally liable if something goes wrong, putting your personal assets and funds on the line. With the right type of legal entity, you can transfer liability to the organization as a way to protect your personal assets and limit damages in a lawsuit.

Should a sports team be an LLC? 

Organizations can take several different forms. Some, such as corporations and LLCs, protect you from personal liability while others, like sole proprietorships and partnerships, do not. 

A limited liability company (LLC) is a common choice for sports organizations because it offers liability protection and is flexible for tax purposes. It also allows for profits and losses to be distributed however members want, unlike corporations where dividends must be distributed to shareholders based on the number of shares they own.

If you’re starting a non-profit sports team, you may choose to form a 501(c)(3) instead to get tax-exempt status from the IRS. As part of this process, you’ll need to elect corporate officers and apply for a tax ID number, among other things. 

Talk to your tax or legal advisor to find out which option is best for you. 

After You’re Established

Once you’ve established your legal entity, there are some other important steps to ensuring your organization is protected and set up for success. Three things should be at the top of your to-do list: getting insurance, managing your budget, and creating a code of conduct.

When it comes to insurance, there are a variety of types to choose from. Be aware that youth sports programs require more than one type of insurance to protect both themselves and their players and coaches. Some common types of insurance include:

  • Accident insurance
  • General liability
  • Property insurance
  • Equipment insurance
  • And more

You’ll also need to have some skills with managing your organization’s budget. This often goes beyond just a P&L sheet to planning purchases, creating strategies to reduce costs, and learning how to effectively allocate resources. Many administrators use specialized tools or software to help them manage their money.

Finally, you need to establish a code of conduct for your coaches and staff, players and parents. Everyone should be aware of your expectations from the get-go to ensure proper behavior at games and practices. This not only protects the players from potentially dangerous situations but also ensures every game is fun an enjoyable for everyone involved.

make meeting compliance standards easy

Getting Insurance

Insurance is an absolutely critical part of running a youth sports organization. Just be aware that there are various types of coverage and you’ll need more than one.

Some types of insurance applicable to youth sports programs include:

  • Accident Insurance. This covers medical expenses related to injuries during a game.
  • General Liability Insurance. Covers lawsuit expenses if someone is injured or property is damaged due to negligence by the league or organization.
  • Directors and Officers Liability Insurance. Protects against incidents not covered by general liability insurance.
  • Crime Insurance. Helps protect the organization against financial losses in the case of theft or embezzlement.
  • Equipment Insurance. Covers the loss of playing equipment and uniforms due to vandalism, theft, fire or other disasters.
  • Property Insurance. Required if your organization owns larger structures like office buildings or storage sheds.
  • Auto Insurance. Any vehicles should be covered as per state regulations. As well as vehicles you own, coverage can be for hired and non-owned vehicles driven on behalf of the organization.
  • Workers Compensation Insurance. This may be required by law depending on your location and the size of the organization.
  • Sexual Abuse Liability Insurance. Provides additional coverage specifically in the event of sexual misconduct.

Yes, it’s a long list! However, you may not need all of these. At a minimum, all youth sports organizations should be covered by accident insurance, general liability insurance and equipment insurance—although crime insurance and directors and officers liability insurance are also highly recommended as a baseline. 

Check the needs of your organization and ensure you get the coverage that’s right for you. Also, be sure to check regularly that your insurance policies are up to date.

Managing a Budget

Every youth sports program needs to have some degree of budgeting and financial management in place. This helps you to allocate resources, meet your financial goals and also determine how to structure the organization’s roles and operations. 

Your budget should provide an estimate of revenue and expenses, divided into line items such as:

  • Equipment
  • Staffing
  • Training
  • Insurance
  • Rental expenses
  • Marketing & communications
  • Etc. 

Once your budget is established, you should track all spending in each area to monitor how well you’re staying within it and identify any areas where you could be saving money. 

You can track spending via a simple spreadsheet, however, using a financial management software tool will definitely make the process easier. Many of these allow you to collect payments, manage invoices and track budgets all in one place.

Establishing a Code of Conduct

Much of what makes a good sports program has to do with how the participants behave and interact. And to ensure the right behaviors, you need to lay down your expectations from the get-go.

What do you expect from coaches, players and parents? What behaviors are unacceptable? What is the mission at the heart of the club? All of this should be put down in writing in your team’s Code of Conduct.

The Code of Conduct isn’t just about creating a positive environment; it’s about setting firm parameters that apply to everyone equally and that you can refer to if someone acts inappropriately.

You should distribute your Code of Conduct to all players, coaches and parents at the start of the season and get them to sign it to confirm they’ve read and accepted it.


How to Make Writing a Code of Conduct Easier

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to your Code of Conduct. You can make life easier by looking at existing codes and copying the parts that apply to your organization or league. 

Here are a few you can check out:

Becoming Compliant

Compliance means adhering to any applicable laws and regulations dictated by federal, state and local governing bodies. Compliance’ is critical because it protects both the athletes and the organization. 

Some laws exist at a federal level meaning they apply to every state, like the Safe Sport Act. Others are dependent on the state. For example, each state has its own return-to-play concussion legislation and some states have their own background check laws. 

To ensure compliance, you need to check which laws and regulations apply to your organization at a local, state and federal level and then put the necessary policies and procedures in place to ensure those requirements are met. 

Our Compliance Guide for Youth Sports has more information about compliance, including a checklist of the key areas to cover. 

How to Make Compliance Easier

A great way to cut down on compliance-related headaches is to use a compliance management solution. This type of tool is specially designed to manage all your compliance needs in one place. Ankored has integrated national background checks, abuse prevention training, waivers and more to ensure that you meet requirements at every level.

Registering Players

You can’t have a sports team without the players, and to get them into your organization, you need a registration process. As part of this, you’ll need to collect things like:

  • Registration forms. These include details like personal information (name, date of birth, contact details), emergency contact information, clothing size (for uniforms), etc.
  • Health forms. To collect information about health conditions, allergies, and so on.
  • Waivers and release forms. Players must sign to show they consent to the risks of the sport and will not hold the organization liable for injuries. You might also ask them to sign a media release form giving permission to the organization to use images and videos they feature in.
  • Registration fees. These can be collected as cash or via online transaction. Accepting payments online is preferable as this cuts down the risk of loss or theft. 

Registration is also a great time to ask parents if they’d like to help out. Include a question on your registration forms about volunteering to give them the nudge they need to offer their assistance. 

Information Security and Privacy

With any kind of personal information, it’s imperative that it’s collected and stored in a way that’s private and secure. A good starting point is to look at HIPAA guidelines (we covered this in more detail in our Compliance Guide for Youth Sports). While HIPAA is not a legal requirement for all types of youth sports programs, it does serve as a best practice and can help you keep a high level of information privacy.

How to Make Registration Easier

The days of carrying around clipboards and checking off names are long gone. There are many systems out there to assist you in taking registrations so you don’t have to do it all by hand. Look for industry-specific tools that handle player registrations and payments in one place.

Hiring Coaches and Staff

Ultimately, the success of your youth sports program comes down to the human element. You want to hire people with traits and skills that align with your organization’s mission and values. You also need to ensure you comply with legal requirements surrounding things like tax information, background checks, training, etc. 

Your hiring process should follow these basic steps at a minimum:

  1. Lay out your requirements. Determine what skills and qualities you’re looking for, including any qualifications and certifications. This can feed into a formal job description that lists the tasks and responsibilities of the role.
  2. Put out the call. This may be through word-of-mouth and local community networks, newspaper ads, job seeking platforms, etc.
  3. Conduct interviews. Once you have your applicants, go deep on interviews to ensure the candidate you choose meets all your requirements.
  4. Run background checks. Having a background check policy in place is a key part of compliance and a safeguard against future misconduct. Your policy should cover what to do if something concerning shows up on a background check. You can easily run and track background checks using a compliance management solution like Ankored.
  5. Do the necessary paperwork. When you’re ready for onboarding, you’ll need to collect paperwork including employment contracts and payment and tax information. Employment laws vary by state, so check with your state’s Workforce Commission to see what applies to you.
  6. Arrange any training. Make sure the staff member has completed any necessary training, including abuse prevention and first aid training. 

Engaging Volunteers

Requirements are a little different for volunteers than for paid staff. For example, you won’t need an employment contract, but you should still put a volunteer agreement in place. 

Any volunteers interacting with minors, whether they’re coaches, referees or staff, should still be subject to background checks and abuse prevention training to protect the athletes and maintain compliance.

Next Steps

With your legal entity established, compliance regulations met and staff hired, onboarded and trained, you can start the fun parts of youth sports administration! 

There are plenty of things to do day-to-day to keep your program running, but in our minds, two of the most important are scheduling and marketing. Scheduling is the key to keeping all of your programs on track and ensuring everyone gets a fair shot at the championship. Marketing, on the other hand, is how you get the word out about your program and encourage new athletes to join your teams.

The tasks and duties assigned to you as a youth sports admin will be many and varied—and the above list is by no means exhaustive. But, hopefully, it helps give you an overview of some of the key responsibilities that go into running a successful youth sports organization. 

If you’re not quite sure where to start or how to manage all these competing priorities, we want to help. Reach out to us to see how our platform can support your needs as a youth sports administrator.


Once your youth sports club or athletics program is up and running, scheduling will be an ongoing part of the day-to-day admin. You’ll need to manage a busy calendar of board and coach meetings, try-outs, training sessions, games and social events like fundraisers.

How to Make Scheduling Easier

It goes without saying that, these days, all our calendars are managed digitally. Your club’s schedule should be no different. You have plenty of digital tools to choose from, from general calendar apps to sports-specific scheduling tools.

Just be sure to shop around for the best platform for you. Some features you might look for include website integration, score tracking, automatic round-robin scheduling, ability to export data and attendance tracking. Make a list of the features you need to help narrow down your options. 

Marketing & Communications

Marketing is another area of responsibility often assigned to youth sports administrators. If it’s your job to get word out there about your club or program, you might be tasked with things like running the website and setting up mailing lists. 

Setting Up and Managing a Sports Club Website

These days, setting up a website is pretty simple thanks to the countless templates and tools available at your fingertips. While some of these tools are free, it’s a good idea to allocate some money in your budget for registering your own domain name and paying for some type of hosting plan or subscription. That way, you can ensure you get the professional result you’re after. 

You might also choose to hire a web developer or engage a volunteer to help develop and/or manage the website. 

Your website will need to be kept up to date with things like schedules, policies, registration information and so on. 

Building a Mailing List

Collecting email addresses (with permission) is also a great way to enhance your ongoing marketing and communications strategy. Not only does a mailing list allow you to keep players and parents up to date with schedules and other important information, but it can also be a crucial marketing tool for fundraising and sponsorship efforts. 

Once again, leverage the tech tools at your disposal for the most efficient and secure system—there are many great e-newsletter tools available. Some well-known options include MailChimp, AWeber and MooSend—though you may also find newsletter functionality built into another system or platform you’re using.

* The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal, financial, or professional advice and should not be construed as such. The content of this blog may not be accurate, up-to-date, or applicable to your specific situation. Always consult with qualified professionals or experts for advice relevant to your circumstances. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is at your own risk.