A club’s ability to recruit new players is essential to club growth and sustainability. But before we can look at how to get new players to the club, it’s a good idea to think about what could be stopping someone from registering.

These reasons could include:

  • Lack of knowledge on how to play
  • Lack of time with school, work or other sport commitments
  • Registration is too expensive
  • Friends play other sports 
  • People don’t want to give up weekends to play AFL

While some barriers may be difficult to address, it is important to get creative with ways to overcome them.

Let’s look at some ideas to help with player recruitment.

First impressions

The first thing a club should do is ensure the club’s website, social media platforms and printed materials are up to date and include easy to digest information. These platforms are often the first place someone will go to find information about the club. If the website is out of date and hard to use, it can leave the impression that the club is disorganised and unprofessional.

Use of positive language is also critical - Change “we hope to offer an Under 15 team” to “we offer an Under 15 team”.

Its also a good idea to consider your phone and email etiquette. Answering the below questions will ensure first impressions are positive.

  • Do you have a ‘rule’ on time frames to return emails/calls?
  • Do you answer the phone politely and introduce yourself?
  • Do you use positive language?
  • Do you keep it simple?

Consider who is selling your club and if they are doing it correctly. These people could be your president, club committee, coaches, team managers and players. Are they ‘selling’ your club in a positive light? Are they presenting the image the club wants to be?

Boost their Confidence

Lack of confidence in ability, being a novice amongst more experienced players and lack of knowledge about rules can be significant deterrents for newcomers into AFL. A weekly “Kick to Kick” or AFL9’s program with sessions that are instructional and self-paced offered specifically to beginners might be attractive to new players. Be sure to emphasize the social and fun side of the club.

Demographic specific programs may also help remove barriers to participation as people are playing with people who have similar interests or needs e.g. female only programs or disability inclusion games.

Hosting a “Come and Try day” is a great way to introduce new people to the club before they make the commitment to register. Come and try days will help alleviate any hesitation about what the club and sport is about and is a perfect way to showcase the great job the club is doing. Use social media, local community notice boards and school newsletters to get the word out about the “Come and Try” day.

Summer Sports

Forming a partnership with a summer sport is another way to get new people to the club without competing for memberships. The club could run an AFL skill session at the end of a summer sport season to attract new players to the club and in return, offer the opportunity to the summer sport to run a similar session at the end of the AFL season.

Be sure to have a chat with your local Little Athletics, Surf Life Saving, cricket or touch football club to float some ideas on how the clubs can work together to share members.

Committee Make-up

With a quickly diversifying population, it is important your club not only welcomes diverse participants, but also that your committee is somewhat reflective of the population. As a starting point you should look at your local community and assess which diverse groups are prominent. You should then actively seek to appoint a committee member from this population whether it be a mainstream committee role or a specific community liaison role. This person can then be a connection point between your club and a local community and can open up a significant market for new participants to play at your club.

Word of Mouth

There are plenty of ideas and ways to attract new members to your club however word of mouth is the most effective recruitment tool. People are more likely to get involved if their mates are encouraging them to do so.

If players and members enjoy being at the club, they will encourage other to get involved! The club doesn’t want to do all the hard work to get people to the club to lose them because they didn’t enjoy the experience. It is vital that the club offers a positive and inclusive culture to keep new players joining and existing players coming back.