How to Build a Youth Ultimate Organization (Part 1)

Could you be an ultimate organizer? Answer these questions to find out, and follow these steps to start strong.

Ari Nitikman and Danie Proby of Elevate Ultimate have cultivated tremendously successful youth ultimate programming. Now they want to share the lessons they’ve learned in building a youth ultimate organization from the ground up.

Ultiworld was compensated for providing this content.

At Elevate Ultimate, we coach over 10,000 kids a year, teaching them the beautiful game of ultimate while also teaching values such as conflict resolution and sportspersonship. Through this series, we will help other ultimate coaches and budding entrepreneurs start a youth ultimate organization in their own community. We’ll help you refine your decision-making process, focus on the things that will help your organization thrive, and keep you from burning out.

When we started Elevate in 2016, we had no idea what we were doing. We had zero business experience; Danie was a full-time teacher, and Ari was a business school dropout. We’ve learned a few things along the way and are now offering licensing opportunities with Elevate, providing curriculum, marketing, and systems to hire and train coaches.

However, there is nothing stopping you from starting your own organization by yourself. Here are four steps to get started:

  1. Figure out your why
  2. Assess your situation
  3. Start small
  4. Scale

1. Figure Out Your Why

Starting an organization (business or non-profit) takes money and perhaps your most valuable asset: time. There are a million things you could be doing right now. If you aren’t doing something that lights you up and aligns with your core values and life mission, it can make life pretty miserable.

There are some helpful reflective questions we recommend asking yourself:

  • Why do you want to start an ultimate organization for kids?
  • What about that excites you? Is that reason something you’d be willing to work hard for?
  • Would you be willing to spend your money and time on getting kids active and healthy?

While there aren’t exactly wrong answers, there is a reason why this is the first step. If your ‘why’ is just about making money or just because you love playing ultimate, those might not be strong enough to get you through the inevitable tough and stressful days of running an organization.

2. Assess Your Situation

Take stock of your current situation now that you know starting an organization takes time and money.

  • Do you have time and money?
    • Are you taking five classes in university right now or working from home as a freelancer?
    • Do you have a bit of savings in the bank or are you living paycheck to paycheck?
  • How willing are you to get loans and grants?
  • How much time can you afford to spend to get the organization off the ground?
  • What is your network like?
  • Are you a well known ultimate player or coach in the community that parents and kids could get excited about? If not, do you know people that are?

Lastly, assess your entrepreneurial spirit in the past.

  • How well do you follow through on projects?
  • How do you work on a team?
  • How much do you like the creative process
  • How well do you persevere through hard times and failures?

The odds that you have the exact perfect scenario — ample money and time, amazing network, previous entrepreneurship experience — are fairly low. But you can’t wait for everything to line up because there will never be a perfect time to start your own venture. This step in the process is about creating awareness around the challenges you may face which will give you more clarity on your next steps. If you’re the type of person that is self-motivated and willing to figure it out as you go, you’re in good shape.

3. Start Small

The #1 mistake you can make here is trying to get 200 kids into your program before you get five, or even one. Start small to hone in your curriculum, style, and communication processes. Organize a few private lessons for kids in your community. Those private lessons can eventually be converted into semi-private lessons. Those semi-private lessons can turn into a 10 week program, even with eight to ten participants. Start small and learn what it’s like to get paid to coach ultimate. Don’t worry, in the second part of this series, we go into much more detail about how to get your first 10 paying customers.

4. Scale

We would recommend reaching the milestone of at least about 80 to 100 athletes in any given season (i.e. four to five summer camps with 20 or so athletes each) before you consider scaling up operations and marketing. You’ll have ample parents and athletes to gather feedback and gain referrals from, and will be armed with enough data to start spending money to grow.

Take roughly 10% of your predicted revenue and put it into marketing. Buy small ads in popular parenting blogs, hand out brochures in parks, create referral programs with existing customers, and talk to schools and community centers. Don’t be afraid to do some free demos to get the word out!

Depending on your profit, look to hire a part-time manager that can start to take some of the day-to-day operations – such as customer service, coach scheduling and managing, ordering gear, and counting inventory – off your shoulders. The less time you’re spending in the weeds of the venture, the more time you’ll have to make strategic partnerships and build your team.

Do those steps feel doable and more importantly, exciting? If so, this just might be your calling. It isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. While these four steps are simple in theory, the implementation in steps three and four are where the challenges (or fun, depending on your entrepreneurial spirit and outlook) come into play.

If you would like to skip over the hundreds of mistakes we made in the early years and have our support in marketing, sales, and curriculum, check out our website and make sure to download the free business report which includes:

  • Elevate’s vision, mission, and values
  • Our business model
  • What parents have to say about us
  • What resources are included in the license
  • Costs to consider when starting a youth ultimate organization
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