Tips for improving your fantasy league: Capturing the community

Fantasy sports are in our DNA at Yahoo, and we know it’s your passion, too. We’re always looking for ways to make our award-winning experience even better and in this case we’re getting help from one of you, our amazing legion of fantasy players, to make leagues even better.

Commissioner’s Corner is a multi-part series meant to provide tips to keep your league engaged all season long and tap even more into the fun that comes with playing fantasy. The author, Justin C. Cliburn, has been the dedicated commissioner of his Yahoo Fantasy Football league the OIL since 2006. While it’s a unique league, each and every one of your leagues is special and brings friends, families and co-workers closer together.

Part 11: Chronicling Your History

One of the many hats a commissioner wears is league historian, and we’ve touched on that before. In our previous installment, we discussed keeping track of your league’s stats and records through a sortable spreadsheet. That’s a big step toward telling your league’s story, but numbers don’t tell the whole story. Without context, numbers are boring. Numbers aren’t what keep communities together, and they don’t tell the story of your unique league.

A recurring theme in our Commissioner’s Corner series is that your job is to make the league feel like a community. While leagues are about competition, communities are all about unity. They’re united by shared history. As far back as recorded history goes, communities have preserved their shared history through stories.

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In short, by telling your league’s story, you preserve its history, foster community, and ensure long-term stability. That’s always been the goal in my league, which admittedly is unique in that it began in Iraq. But the beauty of fantasy is that it turns any group of individual relationships into a collective friendship that grows stronger each year. Whether you’re playing with brothers-in-arms, hometown friends, old college buddies, co-workers, or family, your history matters, and it should be preserved.

There’s no wrong way to tell the story of your season.  A simple blog post, Yahoo Commissioner’s Note, or post on the league message board is enough so long as it encapsulates the previous season and is semi-permanent. You’ll find that, done right, it does wonders for league camaraderie. I learned that after a trying 2013.

Our post-2013 wrap-up post is one of the most-popular articles ever posted on the OIL Blog, and it was my favorite article to write to that point due to its focus on community. What I loved about writing it was that it didn’t just re-hash the championship results (partly because the Dogs of War beat my Arrogant Americans in the 2013 OIL Bowl). It recognized the real-life accomplishments and tragedies our league mates and friends endured: there were promotions and tornadoes; babies were born, and brothers-in-arms were lost; guys made memories on road trips together and others moved away.

Acknowledging what was going on in our members’ lives led to increased communication, a stronger sense of community, and a healthier, more competitive league in 2014. We all recognized that, and I sought a way to continue it moving forward.

Several years ago, my wife and I participated in StoryCorps, which is the largest ongoing oral history project in the U.S. Our conversation was included in a book of StoryCorps interviews, and I realized how easy it is to tell a story by simply transcribing a conversation. That’s how our oral history project, the Book of OIL, began. As a league, we have a collective conversation about each season, and it’s transcribed for posterity. We post it each year on our blog and then publish a book to keep on the mantle.

Our oral history project tells the stories a statistical archive can’t: trade disputes; screenshots of epic trash talk; rivalry stories; draft day mishaps; contemporaneous reactions to season-ending injuries; snarky text messages; and angry group email meltdowns. But it also acknowledges our lives outside of fantasy football to some degree. And that’s important, as we learned in 2013.

But you don’t have to publish a book to tell your story. Just take the time at the end of the season to recount your season. Your league mates will thank you.

More tips for improving your fantasy league:

Starting with the basics
Why bylaws matter
Building franchises
Recognizing the champ
Tapping into rivalries
Fun ways to set draft order
Make your draft memorable
In-season coverage
Communication is key
Creating memories

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