Last year I was asked to be part of a booster club for my hometown high school’s boys basketball team. Having just started blogging a few months earlier, I thought it would be a neat idea to develop a team blog. With buy-in from the club’s leadership, I created the Packer Fast Break Club blog on wordpress.com and did a training session so the parents who would be able to attend the games could take over as administrators. (I had a daughter on the Packer girls’ team, so I set up the Austin Girls Basketball Blog, too.)
For the boys’ blog, the parent group took charge and added some photos, while on the girls’ blog I embedded a few videos from YouTube and Blip.tv. Like this one from last Friday night’s Austin win over New Prague:
Since last year, though, I’ve joined Facebook. I think a Facebook group can be a much better way to build this kind of community around a high school or youth sports team.
The only real advantage for a blog for a high school sports booster club site is that it can be open to anyone on the internet. You don’t have to be a Facebook member to see it. Disadvantages of a blog are that visitors can only comment on posts done by the blog authors, editors or administrators. They can’t start a new topic or upload photos or videos unless they go through the process of signing up for a wordpress.com account (or whatever hosting service you’re using) and get authorized.
A blog is much better for one person or a small group to start or lead a discussion in which others just comment. But for building community in a sports booster club, a Facebook group has several advantages.
- Joining is easy. Facebook has 57 million active users, with an average of 250,000 new users joining each day. Once you join Facebook, adding another group takes just a few seconds. And if it’s an open group, you don’t need permission to join or to invite others. You can join and start participating right away. Immediate gratification.
- Anyone can contribute on an equal basis. Instead of just the blog authors being able to start new discussions, or upload videos or photos, you can adjust Facebook group settings so any group member can do these things.
- Uploading videos and photos is easier for everyone. To embed the video above on this blog I had to upload to YouTube and then put in a special embedding code in this blog post. In the Austin Packers Girls Basketball Facebook group, it was a matter of simply selecting the file and uploading. The rest was automatic. The same is true for photos. This means Facebook groups will have many more videos and photos than a blog would have.
- You can tag photos and videos that include your Facebook friends. This automatically alerts those friends (through their mini-feed), so they can check back on the group page. On a blog, by contrast, the users either need to have an RSS reader and subscribe to the feed (two steps that increase the complexity of notification and therefore drastically reduce the number who will get automatic notices) or you need to send them an email to tell them to check it out. That’s more work.
- It’s easy to post links to web stories. For the Austin Packers Girls Basketball group, I posted links to the web version of game recaps from both of the local newspapers.
- Players, parents, coaches and other fans can all be members. Many if not most high school students are already in Facebook. Their parents’ age group (45-54) is Facebook’s fastest-growing demographic.
- No anonymous comments. Anyone who adds comments on a Facebook group wall or discussion board has his or her name attached. This helps to ensure that comments will be positive and constructive if people have to stand behind them.
- It can build camaraderie among parents that is similar to what develops among team members. Even attending games together, you don’t always get to know all the other parents. Facebook can help strengthen personal connections among people with a common interest.
So what about concerns that by parents joining Facebook it will lose its appeal for high school and college students? Here are two reasons why it won’t.
- Facebook is going to be just another way everyone communicates. See #1 and #6 above, and #2 below. Just because everyone is in Facebook doesn’t mean everyone has access to everyone else’s private information.
- You don’t have to be “friends” to be part of the same group. I’m blessed that my kids are all my Facebook friends, too, but I understand that for some families the kids might want a more private place (and perhaps parents wouldn’t want their kids to see what their fellow flower children from the 60s are writing on their wall.) Facebook groups can be a common meeting place for people with a common interest to interact, without becoming Facebook friends.
I just started the Austin Packers Girls Basketball group yesterday, and I think it will be really helpful. And as always, it’s good to think about how the pattern of this sports booster Facebook group could be applied for other community groups in which you belong. I wrote previously about how Facebook groups could be a replacement for printed church directories.
I would be interested to hear of groups you may form for a similar purpose. What other ideas do you have?