Diverse State Population Prompts DAs in Georgia to Forge Association Aimed at Cultivating New Leagues, Growing Participation
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Feb. 15, 2011) – Nearly 10 million people live in the state of Georgia, and during the spring and summer of 2010, nearly 28,000 children played Little League. Charged with taking the program to areas of the state where there is no Little League, and broaden the opportunities for all of their existing leagues, each of Georgia’s 10 volunteer District Administrators are crisscrossing the state in support of a coordinated, collaborative information and recruitment campaign.
“This state-wide league development committee has been in the making for a long time,” Linda North, Georgia District 4 Administrator and a former member of the Little League International Advisory Board, said. “A little over three years ago we started making it happen.
“We started thinking about areas of the state that did not have Little League and what were some ideas on how to get the program into these areas,” Mrs. North said. “We had some DAs say ‘It wasn’t going to happen,’ when we started talking about putting together an organized effort, but I think now we’re at a point where we are moving forward to a new age and our efforts at educating new areas about the benefits of Little League are paying off.”
Mrs. North and fellow District Administrator Jeremy Haley (Georgia 7), were of one mind behind the concept of the Georgia DA association taking a proactive role in league development. The duo then began formulating a plan on how to get other DAs on board. The state association’s league development committee is still a work in progress both said, but Mrs. North sees great potential.
“This is a learning process for us,” Mrs. North said. “Jeremy and I, along with the other DAs, hope this effort will become a state-wide initiative within the next few months. Not every DA is comfortable with going out and talking to people and not everyone has a good consistent presentation to give.
“Working with Dan Velte and Sam Ranck in the League Development Department in Williamsport we’ve come up with a presentation,” Mrs. North said. “We intend to get the rest of the state involved and decide who wants to be on our committee. We’re asking all Georgia DAs to be supportive and communicate with their leagues to retain leagues and grow new ones. Currently, we track all inquiries from both League Development in Williamsport and our DAs to identify trends and who we have talked with over the course of multiple years.”
Traveling throughout the largest state (by area) east of Mississippi is no easy task, but it is vital to educate people in their environment, so a league can be developed that best serves its community and offers long-term viability.
“The Southern half of the state has vast rural areas with no Little League affiliation,” Mr. Haley said. “Our ad hoc committee is concentrating on league development in these areas.
“We’re going head-to-head with other baseball organizations,” Mr. Haley said. “We’ve kept in constant communications with youth baseball leagues not part of Little League and realized these leagues were looking for new affiliation. That’s when we started to see that those leagues were buying into a ‘no pressure, but here are the benefits of our program,’ approach when were presenting Little League.”
Creating a consistent message, yet one that is adaptable to different areas, allows presenters to relate to what any given community perceives as its unique situation and circumstances. This approach has allowed Mrs. North, Mr. Haley and other members of the Georgia DA Association to move forward with their extensive plan for community recruitment.
The committee concept within the association will continue to be a work in progress as new DAs are elected. Open lines of communication with existing leagues and collective support of DAs will help to balance the load throughout the state of Georgia.
Such a coordinated effort has already provided the infrastructure and information necessary to speak with local officials with ties to the Georgia Recreation and Park Association (GRAPA), which is one of the largest organizations in the state offering organized youth baseball and softball for children.
“We spend a lot time researching what these leagues are already doing,” Mr. Haley said. “We need to know our strength against what is already there, because we already knew many areas had begun to disassociate themselves from the state’s parks and recreation programs.”
“We are making sure to look at each local program individually,” Mrs. North said. “Every area has particular wants and ways of doing things. In the next three months, we expect to introduce a state-wide plan clinic to pool ideas, get an update from throughout the state, and make plans for the 2011 season.”
The diverse rural and metropolitan areas throughout Georgia make it imperative to go where the leagues are, or could be. Mr. Haley said Georgia’s recent World Series success (two Little League Baseball World Series championship and two Little League Softball World Series Championships in the pastfive years) has made and impact in selling the program to would-be Little League areas.
“Little League’s exposure on television at the World Series speaks for itself and lends to the branding of our program on its own, but what we’re talking about with prospective leagues are the retention and establishment of regular season programs to be successful in the local communities,” Mr. Haley said. “Our consistent message is, ‘We won’t charter you for a tournament experience, which will only set you up to fail.’ We don’t want any of our leagues to disappear in three years, so a total program is our goal.”
Mrs. North and Mr. Haley cited the creation of a 10th district in Georgia, and five new leagues in the Savannah area (District 9) as evidence that the collective initiative is already producing positive results.