Tips for improving your fantasy league: Starting with the basics

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 take leagues to the next level.

Commissioner’s Corner will be 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 1 of the series: Plant Your Flag

Great fantasy leagues are defined by fierce competition, lively communication, and meaningful participation that continues through the final week of the season. It’s a lot harder to brag about winning leagues where managers quit once they’re eliminated from playoff contention, so your job is to foster the type of passion that keeps managers engaged . . . even after they realize they won’t be winning a championship. And that all begins with establishing a league identity. Simply put, develop an identity and the passion will follow.

Fantasy managers are like anyone else: they want to belong to something bigger than themselves (or their team). If they didn’t, they’d focus more on solo endeavors instead of being part of a community that comes with a season-long league. So, you should devise a league name that reasonably describes the group and gives the managers something to rally behind.

You can name your league after anything that describes your group: where you’re from, what you love, or what you aspire to be. Or you can name it after inside jokes or collective mottos. Just make it descriptive.

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When we started our league in 2006, we were a group of Oklahoma soldiers serving in Iraq. We had been deployed for nine months at that point, and we needed a distraction. So, we started a fantasy football league, and the commissioner named it the Care Bears League.

But that commish relinquished the title before the season began, and I was drafted to take his place. Creativity has never been my thing, but I knew Care Bears League could not stand. I re-named it the OklahomIraqis League (or “The OIL”) until we could decide on something better.

“OklahomIraqis” didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it said a lot about who we were and what united us. The name stuck, and now saying “the OIL” feels as natural for its members as referring to “the NFL.”

But don’t feel pressure to come up with a name as serious as the OIL’s. Although I’m proud of our league and its origins, some of my favorite follows on Twitter are fantasy leagues with more lighthearted identities. The Ron Dynasty League (@RonDynasty) began when its commissioner found a bust of Anchorman legend Ron Burgundy and decided it would make a great trophy. On a whim, he searched for a bust of Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson, and the Ron Dynasty was born with two divisions: Burgundy and Swanson.

Years ago, a group of friends at the University of Missouri played the Mortal Kombat theme song before every intramural sports competition. So, when they decided to start a fantasy league, the Mortal Kombat League (@MKFFL) was born. The 15th Street League (@15StFFL) was started by friends whose rival high schools sat at either end of 15th Street. And the Denver Elite League (@TheDenverElite) uses their home city and collective conceit to unify the league, further fine-tuning the identity by naming its three divisions after Denver-area suburbs.

So, you’ve chosen a name. Fantastic. But it’s when you combine the name with a logo that you start building an identity. Think of the logo as your flag. And flags are important; people die for flags (not that any of your members should ever be in position to risk their lives for the Super Awesome FFL logo). The point is to unite your members under a common banner. And it doesn’t have to be perfect out of the gate. The first OIL logo was . . . not ideal:

The first OIL logo.

But it evolved over time:

The second OIL logo.

Until it took its current form:

The current OIL logo.

If you’re not a talented graphic designer, don’t worry. Neither am I. There are plenty of talented designers on Reddit, Twitter, and elsewhere. The current OIL logo was designed by a user at SportsLogos.net’s message boards.

Plus, once you craft a logo, you can upload it to your Yahoo league homepage, further differentiating your league from the norm. How do you change your logo on Yahoo? Go to the Commissioner tab > League settings > Edit > Upload image and you’re off and running. The ability to do this on the mobile app is also coming soon. 

So, plant your flag and give your members a brand to be proud of. In return, they’ll give you members to be proud of.

Up Next: Part II of the series will dive into bylaws and why you should have them in your league.