Fantasy football is a billion dollar industry that continues to grow and adapt during every NFL season.
For those new to fantasy sports, getting involved probably seems intimidating at first, but after playing for a season, you learn quick why people love the game within a game so much.
If you’ve gotten your feet wet with fantasy football and want to take the next step, starting your own league is the way to go.
To help you in this process, we’ve assembled lots of information to get you on the right track starting a league of your own, and doing it right.
When starting your own league, be prepared to answer these questions:
- Who else is playing in the league?
- What site are you using?
- How much does it cost?
- Are you having a live draft or using auto-pick format?
- Are you going to have a live draft party? If so, when?
- How do I play fantasy football?
Learn the Game
First things first, if you are interested in starting a fantasy football league, you need to know how to play yourself. If you don’t know a thing about fantasy football, you can learn all about it here.
No one wants a commissioner that has no idea what they are doing. Remember, as the commish, YOU will be the one players come to if they have a question and no one wants a leader without answers.
What Kind of League Do You Want to Have?
Fantasy football contains endless amounts of rules and formats that can be customized to suit your league style.
You will need to figure out things like if you offer points for defensive players, performance bonus points or if you will have a keeper league.
Will You Charge a League Fee?
Most fantasy league require “league dues” that are thrown into a pot and the winner of the league receives a hefty payout at the end of the year. You have several options as far as price because leagues can be anywhere from free to hundreds of dollars. Consider the income level of your friends and try to be sensitive to certain situations. League dues can be given out as a lump sum payment or as increments depending on how teams finish. Also if you plan on holding a draft party or getting a league trophy, you might want to consider splitting that up between your league to help on costs for you like food, drinks or the actual trophy itself.
Here is a sample of the payout we use in one of my leagues:
- League Dues: $75 per person and it includes
- League Champ: $300
- Runner Up: $150
- 3rd & 4th Place: $75
- Weekly High Score Winner: $20
*Weekly high score payout continues even through the playoffs for all non-playoff teams. Helps to keep things interesting for teams not in the playoffs through 15 weeks
*You should consider common courtesy of old school payouts in that a percentage always goes to the bookie or in this case, the commish. As a commissioner, you have to deal with a lot of BS throughout the year, therefore, you should get a little money for your trouble. Just make sure everyone in the league is comfortable with this and the amount given – people are trusting you with their money.
Decide Who You Want to Play
Because fantasy football can be somewhat time consuming and 12 people are usually needed to play in a league, its important to pick people to play in your league that are genuinely enthusiastic about playing. The problem with people who are hesitant about playing is these people put you at risk of having a sub-par league.
Unenthusiastic people tend to let injured players and guys on bye weeks stay in their lineup, affecting the outcome of games and ultimately the integrity of your league. Sure it may sound good to have someone who forgets to change their lineup to reflect injuries/byes but at the same time, it also hurts the other teams who may be in a playoff race and legitimately trying to win.
I have found its more successful to court players for your league by finding fans that already go to football games. Focus on football fans first and then try to talk some buddies in to fill the remaining slots needed.
Also, be prepared for some players to drop out of the league as draft day approaches. Plan for a couple back up players in case you need a last minute replacement.
Worse comes to worse, you will have to open your league up to the public to fill the remaining slots vs keeping a private league to those who you know personally.
Decide On the Draft Date
Draft Day is the single most important day in the fantasy football season. Because it’s so important, you must hammer out your league details usually about a month in advance to give everyone enough time to plan for the draft.
If you’re holding a live draft party, you need to either find a house big enough to hold 12 people (with laptops and paperwork) or find a restaurant that is fantasy football friendly. A lot of sports bars are now offering food and drink specials for you to hold your draft party at their establishment. When choosing a house or restaurant, make sure the host knows you will need that area for at least 3 hours (depending on how fast you draft). Also consider Labor Day holiday as many people travel out of town that weekend so try to plan your draft around this weekend but before the first real game of the season.
Should you have an auto pick draft instead of a live draft, choose a few days after the last preseason game to have your auto pick selection take place. This gives everyone enough time to pick players who impressed them during the preseason or players to avoid due to preseason game injuries.
Tips for Draft Day
- Consider bringing or making a fantasy football draft board. This board helps other members in league from saying “Who’s taken?” or drafting someone not available. We’ve shared with you before how to make a draft board but you can also upgrade by going digital with your draft board.
- Bring a time clock and use it while players are drafting. Sometimes league players can take a long time to choose a player, creating a longer draft in the end. Using a time clock speeds up this time consuming process.
- Provide helpful documents to your league participants. I created a handy draft day sheet to help the players in my league focus on what they already have and what needs they still have to address.
Find a Host Site
Since fantasy football has pretty much exploded in popularity, there are countless sites that you can play on. But when it comes to choosing the site, it’s best to use one of the big sites such as CBS, Yahoo, NFL, or ESPN as your fantasy sports providers.
I have heard great things about using CBS as a fantasy sports provider but have never tried them out due to their fees. Personally, I prefer Yahoo because I can get almost the same customization that CBS charges a fee for.
Be careful about smaller sites! I used to use a site called Flea Flicker (before AOL bought them) and it wasn’t until after the first game of the fantasy season that I found out their “live scoring” meant that the site was updated after the game and not during. Bad news for someone who has a laptop glued to their side during Jag away-game weekends.
What Kind of Commissioner Will You Be?
Once you have your league and draft details all sorted out, its important to think about what kind of fantasy football league commish you will be.
Tyrant? Over Bearing? Wimp?
None of these terms would be ideal if someone were to describe your commish style.
As silly as it sounds, you want to be a good leader for your league. Some players take fantasy football very seriously either due to pride or money on the line. Therefore its important to have a pep talk with yourself as to how you will rein over your league.
Tips on being a good Commish
- Have everyone vote on major rules. Things can get dicey if someone misinterprets a rule or believes they should have gotten points somewhere. Clear up the rules before your draft so everyone knows ahead of time on things such as bonus points, keeper leagues etc…
- Respond to every communication by players in your league. You should expect phone calls, emails and texts throughout the year when issues arise during the season. Respond quickly and effectively to each player’s concerns.
- Pay attention to other teams and what they are/aren’t doing. Simply put: if someone thinks they can get away with cheating, they will. Watch out for trades that may affect the integrity of your league. You don’t want someone who is out of a playoff race to trade Adrian Peterson for a kicker from a team that will already be in the playoffs.
- Also be on the lookout for someone who shows signs of ignoring their team. Reach out to them, make sure they can at least change their lineups for obvious injuries and bye weeks. Doing so allows for fair competition for the rest of the league that could be battling it out for playoff spots.
Constantly Try to Improve Your League— Year After Year
From improvements to the draft party, host league research, or even getting a fancy trophy, you want to always try to get better at your league. Doing so, keeps the players in your league happy and coming back year after year. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to play with the same core group every year.
After reading this advice, you may thing you have a lot of work ahead of you. That’s sort of true, leading up until draft day requires some time and patience, but once the draft starts and the shit talking starts – it all becomes worth it.
Use these tips based off years of experience and you will breeze through your first time as a fantasy football commissioner.
Photography by Logan Bowles