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How to Keep Your League Members Incentivized

by Michael Waterloo | @MichaelWaterloo | Featured Writer
Jan 21, 2020

So you went through the trouble of setting up a fantasy league. You dealt with everyone’s schedules to set the draft day, got their insight on the perfect scoring settings, and had to hound them again and again — and again — to get them to pay their league dues.

But now, it’s late-July, and the bottom two teams of your league have stopped paying attention, which can throw off the entire shape of your league.

Being a commissioner is a thankless job. It’s an issue that we hear about all of the time, and at some point in your fantasy career, you’ve probably run into it. What can we do to incentivize the members of our league to stick around throughout the year?

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Play head to head
Listen, I get it. I know roto is the traditional way to play the game, and I hear it from those on their high horses all of the time. People complain and moan when they have the best record in the league, but they lose in the first round of the playoffs.

“Ha! That’s why you should play roto.”

Every. Single. Year. The thing is, in my experience, I’ve seen more teams quit when they realize they are out of it in July in roto formats than I have in head-to-head leagues. It’s not roto specific at all, but when you don’t have that weekly matchup against someone in your league, and you’re just chasing someone who is light years ahead of you, it’s easier to fade out.

I will 100 percent trade a first-round exit in a head-to-head league if it keeps everyone involved.

Consolation Bracket
This is a lot easier if you’re in a dynasty or a keeper league. If you are, you simply have a consolation bracket for the teams who didn’t make the playoffs, and the winner of the bracket gets to pick their slot in the next draft.

I’ve used this tactic in my home league for years, and we’ve never had a problem with teams not trying anymore. It allows teams to tank during the season and trade their assets for draft picks if they want to, but if they don’t field a competitive team in the consolation bracket, their chances of getting bumped early and stuck with a mid-round pick are higher.

But what if you aren’t in a keeper or dynasty league? What if it’s a simple redraft, and you want to make sure everyone stays active? 

I would add a monetary item to keep people incentivized if it’s a head-to-head league. If you win the bracket, you get half of your entry fee back. It’s not a ton, but it’s at least something to keep people occupied and aware.

Last-Place Punishment
Here’s where we can have some fun. We’re assuming you’re playing with friends here, so you aren’t going to do anything too extreme like the Tattoo League that Matthew Berry has discussed at length in his book “Fantasy Life.”

But you can get creative. If you finish in last place in your league — regardless of the format — here are some different punishments that you can implement:

  • Stand on the corner and sing until you get $20 worth of tips.
  • Go to a Waffle House for 24 hours, but for every waffle you eat, an hour gets taken off.
  • Last place gets removed from the league.
  • Last place has to pay the winner’s entry fee next year.
  • Last place owes every other player in the league one favor of their choosing.
  • Last place has to change their profile picture on every form of social media to the winner’s choice (keep it appropriate).
  • The loser has to buy the winner the bulk beverage of his or her choice.
  • The loser has to cook a full-course meal for the rest of the league (if proximity allows).
  • The loser has to do a photoshoot of the winner’s choice.
  • The loser has to display a last-place trophy in his or her living room for the entire offseason.
  • Anytime the loser is with another member of the league and they run into anyone else, they have to say “Hi, my name is (fill in the blank), and I suck at fantasy baseball.”
  • The loser has to get waxed, “40-year-old Virgin” style.

Oh, if the loser refuses the chosen punishment, they are out of the league. Plain and simple. I prefer to take it easy and just implement the consolation bracket reward to give the people something to play for that way, but the punishments seem oh so sweet.

I’m interested to hear what kind of punishments you have in your league or ways that you keep everyone invested throughout the regular season. Hit me up on Twitter @MichaelWaterloo with how your league addresses this issue.

Redrafts are hard to keep everyone invested throughout the year, so the easiest way to remedy this is to add some type of keeper element to your league, and always have the members pay their dues for the next year instead of the current year. That way, if they decide to leave, the person who takes over the abandoned team isn’t totally screwed. 

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Michael Waterloo is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @MichaelWaterloo.