Next time you talk with your coaches, ask them if they’d rather spend more time at their desk updating the website or more time on the practice field preparing for next week’s game. You likely already know their answer.
While parents, distant family, alumni, and prospective families all want (and need) to see all the latest athletics content coming from your school or district, the limited hours in the day means your coaches, trainers, and athletic staff are hard-pressed to find any extra time to help keep the athletics section of the website up-to-date. Wouldn’t it be nice if updating the website was streamlined enough to the point where your athletics department could lend a hand (despite their busy day)?
A fully integrated, streamlined, and all-in-one athletics section enables your coaches to automate much of the website maintenance and content creation process. When all platforms are integrated, coaches make updates in as few places as possible — even from their phones when out of the office for away games, so content is always fresh and accurate.
Does it sound like your athletics department needs this kind of simplicity? It can be achieved in four simple steps.
Step 1: Build Well-Organized, Informative, and Beautiful Athletics Pages
Your athletics program needs a base of operations — a central hub for your community to see all the information posted each week for each sport. This can be an athletics section within your website, or a microsite.
Blair Academy in Blairstown, NJ uses a mega-navigation to make athletics content easy to find in one click. The left-most column contains quick links to some of the other high-traffic pages, such as Schedules & Scores, Livestreamed Events, and the Coach Directory. This effective navigation experience minimizes the amount of time or clicks a person needs to make to find the content they want to find.
Blair’s Athletics homepage includes scores from recent games, a quick quote callout that emphasizes the impact of their programs, a grid featuring the latest athletics news, upcoming events, and social media feeds that automatically populate the page with content pulled directly from the school’s various social media platforms.
The simple layout and colorful presentation makes navigation a breeze and keeps visitors engaged with multiple content offerings and a regularly rotating lineup of new information.
2. Keep Website Information Up-to-Date
A successful athletics section depends on up-to-date content. Who would visit a website or app if they knew they couldn’t find up-to-date scores?
Blair (like many Finalsite clients) keeps their Athletics pages up-to-date with fresh content and minimal effort thanks to Composer, Finalsite’s content management system (CSM). Composer automatically adds new information to the scoreboard, upcoming events, latest news, and social media feeds whenever new content is available or old content is updated thanks to Composer’s Create Once, Publish Everywhere (C.O.P.E.) functionality.
Take for example the Recent Scores element on Blair’s Athletics homepage. New scores are automatically added to the top of the list when new information is added to that team in the Athletics Manager module.
Athletics Manager serves as both the conduit to display information and the tool your staff will use to make updates to all the athletics information on your website, including the ability to manage teams and roster; post and updates scores; and schedule, cancel, or postpone games.
Each new event added and managed through Athletics Manager allows website admins or coaches (with permission) to micromanage individual teams, times and dates for games, opponents and locations, and add any additional transportation details for away games.
Changes made in Athletics Manager are automatically reflected live on your website wherever that element is located once you hit save or publish. Going back to Blair Academy’s athletics section of their website, they have the same rosters and scores posted on multiple pages. How much extra time would it take to update those same elements with manual updates across three or four pages if they didn’t have Athletics Manager? A lot.
In addition to those standard updates — sometimes changes happen on the fly. When constituents subscribe to events on the website, they can receive an email and/or text alert notification whenever an event is modified in any way. Instantly and automatically connecting with each subscriber whenever a change is made, no matter how big or small, keeps your school community informed, engaged with your athletics program, and coming back to your website to check for more content, even if it’s just to find more information about the update.
While your constituents may not make it to every game throughout the school year, your coaches can connect with them moments after the game ends by posting final scores and recaps from the sidelines through tools like Coach Mobile in Athletics Manager, on their phones or back at the office on the computer. Getting those scores and recaps up as soon as possible is a great way to incentivize people to check your website for new information right after each game.
Coaches can also view recent events, upcoming events, calendars that show events on specific days, and a teams tab that shows all upcoming events for each team through Coach Mobile.
3. Send Email Communications
An all-in-one approach to your athletics section doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to end with the website itself. Instead, send weekly emails to your subscribers with all the latest news, previews, athlete interviews, and highlight reels from the past week to keep your constituents engaged in ways that drive traffic back to the website, generate excitement, and supply your recipients with content they want to receive.
For larger games or events that require weeks or months of build-up, consider using automated Workflows to build a chain of emails ahead of time that are then automatically sent out to your constituents over time. Spending a little more time in the beginning to build every single email frees your schedule weeks down the line to focus more on building content for your website or gives your coaches more time to refine their game plan.
Step 4: Live Stream Every Game
But what about all those parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and alumni that absolutely have to know everything about every game the minute it happens? We all know they exist, my family included.
In this virtual era, providing a live stream link to your team’s home and away games is one of the biggest ways to welcome more fans to your games without the restrictions of tickets or seating limits. For boarding schools, families can be halfway across the country or world, so providing a link to the action lets online communities tune in and feel like they are at their student's game.
While we can nerd out about the technical details all day, the real beauty of streaming every home and away game comes from your school’s increased ability to engage parents and alumni with instant access to each game they may have missed otherwise.
Streaming each game, event, and presentation allows your marketing and communications team to curate dozens of hours of video content streamed and recorded each week to share over social media to connect with your current followers and reach new ones. Sharing recorded streams also has the added benefit of boosting SEO performance with additional video search results whenever someone searches for your school or athletics program.
Step 5: Give Your Visitors Reasons to Keep Coming Back
Your athletics section should be more than just a page with a collection of scores, recaps, and rosters. There’s a person behind every number, each with their own unique and interesting story. Round out your pages with stories, player highlights, and alumni deep-dives to build an ever-growing library of content that naturally connects your visitors to the school and gives them additional reasons to check back for engaging reads.
Take a peek at ESPN’s website and you’ll quickly notice that their homepage, and most landing pages for each sport, have a nice balance between quick information dumps for scores, recaps, and previews, and longer, in-depth stories about athletes, coaches, teams, and historic games. Sure, visitors will always come back to glance at last night's scores, but these longer pieces are what is going to keep them engaged and on the website for more than a moment or two.
In addition to the usual team schedules, scores, and rosters, Whitfield School in St. Louis, MO creates weekly athletic content to keep constituents engaged, such as their Athletes of the Week highlight, Warriors in the News headline and feature story round-up, and focus on Whitfield alumni who have moved on to find success in college or professional sports programs.
Whitfield gives their regular visitors a choice of additional content they can read through that’s completely unrelated to the standard scores and recaps. Even if someone chooses to only read one or two of the different options a week, that visitor is still spending an additional 10 to 15 minutes on the website. That added time spent is invaluable for creating school loyalty and an engaged visitor that will reliably come back to read more each week, with the hope that they are more inclined to donate in the future or enroll their child or children if they’re a prospective parent.
Durham Academy in Durham, NC also highlights their athletic alumni and writes a weekly wrap-up to cover the games of the past week, but the school also features information on their fitness and sports medicine program as an extra incentive for any potential applicant interested in their athletic program. St. George’s School in Middletown, RI even has a prospective students page where an applicant interested in playing sports at the school can find the contact information for each sport.
Another way to keep information up-to-date is by integrating social media. Embedding your social media platforms on your Athletics pages adds another valuable touch-point as they not only engage your visitors with additional content (including constituent-generated content), but promote and encourage visitors to follow you on social media.
Sacred Heart Greenwich in Greenwich, CT embedded a custom social media feed on their athletics homepage that automatically updates whenever a new Instagram post is created. This collage quickly highlights athletics events happening around the school and promotes upcoming games in a visually-appealing fashion that’s more unique than the standard column-layout schedule.
The first step in building well-organized, informative, and beautiful athletics pages starts with ensuring that all of your information is up-to-date. Finalsite can help streamline that process.
But if you really want to go that extra mile, filling out your pages with supplementary content that expands on the value of your school, highlighting the successes and personalities of your student athletes, giving your constituents multiple avenues to connect, and empowering your coaches to assist with website updates will all lead to a stronger athletics section that organically keeps visitors coming back for more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite’s Product Marketing Specialist, Andrew writes blogs and creates videos to share information about all the latest and greatest Finalsite products. Andrew has more than 10 years of video production experience and a journalism degree from the University of South Carolina. He has an incredible passion for movies, television, reading, and writing fantasy and science-fiction.