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Community Service - Partnering with Professional Sports Teams for a Community Service Bonus

31 Mar, 2012

By: Amy Lewkovich

In a day and age when professional sports stars earn more money and more respect than the average person could ever dream of, it’s always nice to hear stories about athletes and teams that get out into their communities, embrace their fans and make an impact of peoples’ lives. Such stories may not be talked about as often as they should be, but there are numerous ways for fans to connect with their teams. Sometimes it just takes a little research.

Connecting with a professional sports team is an outstanding way to raise the profile of your own team, to boost its morale, and to give your athletes some new role models. Just about all sports teams have some level of community involvement; unfortunately, not everyone knows how to take advantage of it. Those who take the time to explore the possibilities are often lucky enough to take part in a never-to-be-forgotten first-hand experience with some of their favorite athletes.

 

Photo courtesy of Steve Mikros and Kathy Tirocchi

Sports fans who live in or visit Baltimore during the cold, dark winter months don’t want to miss the opportunity to watch the Baltimore Blast in action at 1st Mariner Arena. The Blast, Baltimore’s professional indoor soccer team, have won five championships in the last nine years and play a fast-paced, action-packed brand of soccer. Off the field, though, is a different story. The team provides an invaluable community service, with numerous appearance, clinics and educational programs.

Community leaders and teachers in the Baltimore area today likely are familiar with the Blast, but might not know how to go about setting up a community project with this team -- or with any other. The process is relatively simple and can start with a call or e-mail to the public and/or community relations department. Requests should always be as thorough as possible and should include too many details, rather than too few.

 

Photo courtesy of Steve Mikros and kathy Tirocchi

It’s important, when contacting a professional sports team, to keep in mind that teams receive hundreds (possibly even thousands) of appearance and donations requests and that every request cannot be accommodated. Quite often, sports teams have pages on their websites that are dedicated to appearance and donation requests and which provide step-by-step guidelines for making such requests. Every team is different, but looking for a community page on team websites is a great start. It also never hurts to follow up your initial email with another e-mail or a phone call (especially if the community relations “department” consists of just one person).

Youth teams can partner with professional sports organizations to great advantage, as can other organizations and entities. If a team, school or organization is looking to raise money, it should also be noted that while not all teams will agree to monetary donations, many teams do offer fundraising opportunities worth exploring. For example, the Blast offers a ticket-selling fundraiser to various organizations including but not limited to schools and religious groups who are attempting to raise money. Other groups probably do as well; don't be afraid to investigate.

In the case of the Blast, discounted tickets are offered to the group, and the group can then sell the tickets for the full price and keep all the money above the discounted price. This program has proven very successful with various groups in Baltimore and can be extended to PTAs, youth groups and sports teams looking to raise money to cover travel expenses for new jerseys or a far-away tournament.

In addition to fundraising programs offered by teams, professional athletes are also looked upon to serve as role models for young athletes and are often willing to make guest appearances in schools or perform clinics for youth sports teams.

While the MISL season is underway, from November through March, the Blast players are every bit as busy off the field as they are on the field. Several times a week players go straight from the training field to a school for one of countless Hope4Life school assemblies. Hope4Life is the team’s school program, founded by assistant coach David Bascome, that strives to reach as many young people as possible through schools, community groups and youth groups.

Bascome and the players have teamed up to speak to young people of all ages about diversity, sportsmanship, teamwork and the importance of saying no to drugs and violence. What makes the Hope4Life school program so unique and appealing to local elementary, middle and high schools is that Bascome will coordinate with each school before the scheduled appearance so he is familiar with each school’s need and how to best reach that day’s audience.

When not playing or visiting schools, Blast players can be found on indoor and outdoor fields throughout the state of Maryland, coaching young players, teaching soccer tricks and positively impacting students of the game. Additionally, summer sports camps are a way for professional teams to groom young athletes as well as maintain life-long fans. Summer camps are targeted to youth athletes, typically ranging in age from 5-18, and can range from three-hours a day, five days a week to a week-long overnight stay. Campers are usually broken into groups based on age and ability and are a win/win for campers, parents and the host sports teams alike. Everyone wins when youth athletes improve their skills and sportsmanship values, and teams gain new, young fans.

Many professional sports teams go to great lengths to honor their young fans on game nights. A long-standing tradition at Blast games that is also common at numerous ball parks, hockey rinks and soccer fields across the county, is to have groups of young people participate in a pre-game “parade of champions” on or around the playing field. The opportunity to step onto the field where the pros play is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for many kids, as well as some adults, and is offered in varying degrees by all levels of sports teams. At Blast games, all groups who order tickets through the Blast office are offered the opportunity to take part in the pre-game parade; some teams charge extra for the opportunity and others offer it to fans who ask. Whatever the team’s policy, an on-field activity is a great way for local fans and out-of-town visitors to experience something special and feel like part of the team.

In a time when families might be cutting back on their entertainment dollars, a sporting event might be just the thing for a family night out. It can raise awareness of your own youth team and boost morale as well. Sports teams offer locals, as well as visitors and tourists, the opportunity to bond together on a fun and exciting day or night out. In return, sports teams quite often are there to thank fans, for their long-time support and loyalty with various community programs and incentives.

 

About the Author

Amy Lewkovich

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