Commishing the Right Way: 10 Quick Tips

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By Jeff Melbostad (@Jeff_DFW)
DFW Owner, IT Guy, and Senior Writer

Any of us who have been around fantasy football long enough has likely had their fair share of experience as a commissioner. I’ve been commishing leagues since 1996 when I first started with this hobby of ours. All of our experiences vary in terms of reach, duration, and positivity I’m sure.

Being a commish can be an extremely rewarding experience and can likewise be an extremely frustrating one. Let’s face it, commishing is a job — one that rarely pays and is often thankless. But someone has to do it and if you’re going to do something you ought to do it well. So I’ve decided to put together a few quick tips that I’ve used along the way.

Whether these are things you’ve seen before, actively do, or haven’t thought about they can serve as a good reminder of how to make your commishing experience and the experience of your league mates a better one. So here goes:

1. Communication, communication, communication

I don’t think I’d be exaggerating in saying that 90% of being a good fantasy football commissioner is communication. Every league I’ve been in or commished myself could use a kick in the tail when it comes to this fact. There can never be enough of it.

Give updates on what to expect in the next phase of free agency, the offseason, playoffs or any other milestone the league comes across. Whenever a deadline is coming up send an email to the rest of the league a few days beforehand as a reminder. If rules are changing or being voted on be proactive in making people aware. A simple email can go a hell of a long way.

You could even consider sending out bi-weekly or monthly emails in the offseason just to keep in touch and make sure everyone knows what’s going on. I can’t recommend this enough. Everyone wants to know what’s going on at all times. And as a commish you know what’s in your head, but not everyone else does.

2. Organization, organization, organization

Another important aspect of commishing the right way is being organized. Make sure that everyone has access to the information they need at any particular time. Keep your rules up to date and as specific as possible. Keep a calendar either on your site or linked from your fantasy site with important dates and times. Follow up and follow through on dates, promises, and decisions.

It is extremely important that your league mates see you as reliable. If you’ve taken care of these first two bullets you’ve gone a long way toward being a great commissioner.

3. Run the league as a democracy

This is a personal conviction of mine and I know some may disagree with the approach. I feel that a league should be run as a democracy. Nothing builds a sense of involvement and community more than seeking input from each and every owner in the league. The concept that this is “our” league rather than the commissioner’s league can go a long way toward cementing owners as upstanding and longstanding citizens.

No one I know likes having decisions mandated or forced upon him or her. League votes on big decisions aren’t only important, they are necessary. People want to feel involved and that they have ownership and stake in the league. And we as commissioners can only hope for our owners to feel that way. If they’re committed and we’re committed then the league will last indefinitely; the ultimate goal of any dynasty or redraft league.

4. Be adamant about convictions and decisions

Now I know I told you to run the league as a democracy, but there is a limit to that concept. It’s important that you don’t run everything that way. Trade approvals shouldn’t be voted on for example. There is just too much opportunity for such a thing to be exploited. Certain rule changes, payment deadlines, and league decisions must be ruled with an iron fist.

As a commissioner you are looking out for the best interest of the league as a whole and not any one single person. So stand strong in that faith and make decisions based on it. Don’t let yourself be bullied or swayed by a vocal owner. Stand by decisions you make and don’t feel guilty or second-guess them. As stated earlier; commishing can be a rather thankless activity so there’s no reason to ruin a friendship, evening, or even a minute over it. Make a decision and carry on having fun.

5. Consistency, consistency, consistency

Yup, I did it again. I repeated the word three times in quick succession. This means this is really important, so pay attention.

Like anything in life consistency is key. If owners know what they can expect from you and you know what you can expect from them then everything will operate as smooth as can be. Keep your decisions, your communication, your organization, basically everything I’ve talked about consistent and timely. This will make every step of the way easy to predict, unquestionable, and enjoyable. It will put everyone, including yourself, at ease.

6. Keep things fun and interesting

This is something a lot of people overlook when it comes to commishing a fantasy league. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutia and specifics of running a league the right way. But this is one of the more important things to keeping owners involved and happy.

Encourage side bets and get-togethers. Make sure to hold the draft or award ceremony as a live event whenever possible. Have prizes, weekly winners, season accomplishments, and get everyone involved.  Keep up the trash talking and encourage message board or other interaction. The more involved and chummy a league gets the better. This is a hobby borne out of relationships, fun, and competition after all.

7. Make the draft a big event

As I said in the previous bullet big events need to be just that… BIG. And there’s nothing more important to a fantasy football league than the draft. Be it a yearly redraft, a dynasty or keeper startup, or a rookie draft this thing needs to be fun.

Get together wherever possible and keep the interaction at a maximum. This is going to be as much fun as it gets every year so make the most out of it as a commish and as an owner.

8. Have a co-commish

We can’t all be available 24/7/365. And even if we could having someone there to help out is always a good thing. Having a co-commissioner is a good idea for a lot of reasons. If for some reasons you can’t fulfill your duties you have a backup in place. If you’re involved in a controversial trade you don’t have to worry about people thinking you’re pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Getting a co-commish involved in anything you do as an owner/commish really upholds the integrity and trust you develop with your fellow league mates. No funny business can happen because the co-commish is there to prevent it.

9. Don’t tolerate bad owners

All leagues have a guy or two who don’t pay on time. Almost every owner raises a stink about the rules or a trade that went through from time to time. Does this make them a bad owner? Only if it becomes a persistent problem. If it does then don’t tolerate it.

Being a commissioner is not being a babysitter. If grown men can’t pay on time or act civil then they need to move on. If you’re running a good league then you should have no issues finding a replacement. It just isn’t worth your time and theirs to waste it on griping, arguing, or stressing. This is a much harder rule to follow if you’re running a league with close friends but it’s still something that needs to be considered.  Don’t let one bad seed ruin it for everyone.

10. Remember fantasy football is fun

This just happens to be the most important bullet point of this article. We all do this thing for fun and we all love the sport of fantasy football. There is no reason to let anything ruin that for us. Not league drama, a disgruntled owner, or an iffy rule set. The number one thing that owners and commissioners alike need to understand is this thing can’t be taken too seriously. If it is then the whole point of the hobby is lost. So make sure and keep things light wherever possible.

Don’t get too uptight or too upset when things go bad, because as every commissioner knows things will go bad from time to time. Keep your head up and keep on chugging. And your owners will follow suit and do the same.

Now I realize all of this is easier said than done. No one person is perfect. I know I could improve as commish in a few of the ways I already listed. But if we at least try our best to follow these 10 tips then good things will happen and our owners will respect us for it. That’s really all a fantasy football commissioner can ask for. So heed my advice or ignore it, but know that these 10 quick tips have helped me in the past. And I’m hoping they can help a few of you fellow commissioners as well.