What are players looking for in an association website?

If you were representing a state or regional racquetball association, what kinds of things would you be thinking about having on your site so that players would find your site useful?

I would answer that you should focus on the questions that players ask on the internet every week.

1) Where can I play in/near city X?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions on Reddit.com/r/racquetball and in various Facebook groups (Regional, General) and on prior sites like MeetAndPlay and RacquetballWorld. A good map that shows racquetball facilities, their websites & phone numbers, and information about any leagues or number of courts at that facility is essential.

Austin, Texas – http://atxrball.com/courts
Alabama – http://alabamaracquetball.com/courts
Georgia – http://georgiaracquetball.info/courts/

I’ve decided to stop waiting for the national and state organizations to meet this very basic need of racquetball players. You can see how I’ve addressed it at the three links above and at the most complete listing and maps of racquetball courts currently available on the internet, here:

2) What events are happening in/near city X?

Tournaments, leagues, challenge ladders… the more information you can provide and keep up to date for special events, the more likely your site will be re-visited and used as a reference for players that want to expand their racquetball games beyond their immediate acquaintances.

An announcements list/category:
vs a pull from R2 Sports of current/future events:

3) Are there players at college X?

Promote your college clubs and teams. These are the future of the sport and if you want someone to play against in 5 years, then the association needs to be doing everything it can to promote and encourage participation in these programs.

4) What is the rule for this situation?

This question comes up with considerable frequency, but usually with a different set of circumstances. If your association uses USA Racquetball‘s rules, either have a copy of the PDF on your site, or get a link to the online version. If your association uses the International Racquetball Federation’s rules instead, make that clear as well.

5) How do I get better at X?

Another frequent question asked online is “are there videos or other ways for me to improve my game?”. This is a good opportunity for the association to promote their members that are certified coaches and instructors. If you have members that are good at making quick demo videos, then this would also be a good thing to host on the site. If you don’t have people willing to remake the basic videos for grip, shots, drills, etc., consider linking to instructor’s videos that you respect.

6) Which racquet should I use?

Unless your association is specifically sponsored by a manufacturer, this is one question where you will probably want to tread lightly. Endorsing one company can prevent other companies from providing the support your need to make your next event the success that it could have been. I would recommend listing sponsored players that are available to give demos or linking to local pro shops that will let players demo racquets. If you don’t have the information for sponsored players or a pro shop that you can wholeheartedly get behind, consider having links to the racquet demo programs at RacquetWorld and RacquetballWarehouse.

7) How can I get a racquet restrung?

Get the contact information for as many of the racquetball stringers in your area as possible. Driving business to those individuals helps increase goodwill between them and the organization. Consider having them attend your events as well.

8) Can military members find a place to play?

The military is another great source for young racquetball players that can contribute to your association for years into the future. If you can include information about racquetball courts specifically available to the military, this particular niche player will better be able to support your organization.

9) Are there places to play outdoors?

Outdoor racquetball may not be the focus of your organizations efforts. Every racquetball player in your area should consider your site the authority for information about racquetball. So if you can provide information about outdoor facilities where racquetball is played, it is a worthwhile investment.

10) How do I contact these people?

If your organization uses social media, be sure to provide a link to your Facebook group, your Facebook association page, your Twitter, your YouTube, your Instagram, your Snapchat, etc., etc. Do also consider having a form that routes email requests for you.

11) What is this organization about, who makes it up, what are their goals and processes?

Be sure to add some information about what you do, who you are, your goals, and your processes for achieving those goals. People aren’t asking about this on the internet, but if they’ve made it to your site, you should definitely fill them in.

12) Is this organization still active?

One of the worst things you can do with a website is to let it get stale. At the very least, consider some blog posts that congratulate winners of the last event, or that discuss the next event when it is added to the schedule. There are way too many dead and abandoned websites for racquetball. Don’t let the one for your association join that group!

A good suggestion/addition from Reddit user JTurtle: Some clubs also have “introductory instructors” that hold clinics. That may be under “what events,” but events are typically geared more towards active players than people that are looking to start. A “how to get started” section may be useful. A “how to volunteer” section may also be useful for people that want to help/grow the sport, but don’t know where to start.

Some suggestions/additions from Todd Boss of Pro Racquetball Stats:

Here’s what I like to see at a state website.
There’s basically two primary audiences for a state website:
traveling players from out of state looking for a place to play while in town.
Tournament players (whether from in-state or surrounding states) looking for tournament information.
So, that being said, you have to tailor the information to those two primary groups:

first and foremost: a guide to facilities in the state. This primarily includes the site, relevant guest information, number of courts, published drop-in or known nights where challenge court play is supported, and most importantly a POC for the club; the club pro or whoever coordinates the activities and who can speak to them if emailed.
List of upcoming tourneys in the state; dates, times, Tourney directors, R2sports links.
List of past tourney results. I’d love to see past State champs on my state website.

Other programs the state supports: hall of fame, junior programs, University programs, etc.
the standard stuff: state president, board of directors, bylaws, meeting minutes, etc.
Depending on the state… if you’re in a position where it makes sense to also include neighboring state information, then by all means include that into the tourneys. For example, I’m in Virginia, and Virginia players quite frequently travel north into Maryland (where there’s two very active tournament clubs) and south into North Carolina (which has a very active state program) to play. So I’d love to see a full calendar schedule of “drivable” tournaments to the north and south.

A good suggestion/addition from Reddit user SoundKite: A prominent and up-to-date sponsor list. << Definitely a must! Not just a photo of the sponsor's logo, but an active link that the sponsor can track hits on.

Once you have decided on the content that you want your association website to provide, you need to start thinking about technology.

One thing you probably don’t want to do is to pay a non-racquetball playing software developer to setup and program a custom site for you. This will end up costing you money each and every time you want an update to the site and one of the non-negotiables in my mind is that the site must be updated regularly.

The ideal technology to choose for your website is one that is free (as in money) and free (as in open source, so that it is kept up to date). Once the site’s initial setup is complete, you want content and feature updates to be able to be performed by anyone that has enough computer savvy to run a word processing program.

There are many options for content management systems that meet both of those needs. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace are all examples of content management systems with large teams of developers working to keep the difficulty of adding and updating content to a minimum.

You should certainly consult with technologists about which of these will work best for your initial deployment needs and for your ongoing maintenance and additions.

I’m more than a bit partial to WordPress, as it has free plugins that have enabled everything from calendars, to detailed searchable maps, to spam protected contact forms, to Facebook/Instagram/Twitter integration. There are also tons of free, detailed usage videos on YouTube for the main tools of WordPress and reviews of all of the plugins that you may want to add to support the needs of the site.

Once you’ve made your technology choices, you will want to work on having a team that will all contribute to the ongoing collection and reporting of the areas of racquetball that your association website will support.

I’ll be collecting and reviewing state association websites with the 12 questions from players in mind. I’ll be starting with Georgia, Alabama, and Texas. (Disclaimer: I did the work for Georgia and Alabama in 2016, but no longer live near either one, so those associations are looking for reporters to add to the sites.)

Want me to jump ahead and review yours?
Drop me a line on the Contact page.