A Guide for the New Fantasy Commish
Congratulations! You’ve either decided to start your own fantasy football league or your buddies nominated you to run a league when you weren’t around. Only problem is that you have no idea what a fantasy football commissioner does or how to run a league.
Don’t worry, this guide will explain how to successfully run a fantasy football league. You’ll find plenty of tips and advice for each phase of the season to be a good fantasy league commissioner.
The 2021 fantasy football season is right around the corner. Start planning and create your fantasy league now!
Fantasy Football Basics
It’s usually best if the league commissioner already has some experience playing Fantasy Football before starting a league. Even if you haven’t played before, you can be a successful commissioner in your first season. I did it.
If you’re not familiar with the game (or want a refresher), then please read the Beginner’s Guide to Fantasy Football.
Role of the League Commissioner
Each league has one coach (you) who also serves as the league commissioner. It is the commish’s responsibility to set up the league, schedule the draft and resolve any disputes that may arise during the season. You will also handle the entry fee collection, site fee payment, awards and trophies if your league has any of those.
With a little preparation during the preseason, the league should run smoothly during the regular season with few demands on you.
Be prepared when the fantasy football league sites open up for registration.
Some questions to start asking yourself…
Who will play? – Start identifying people to join your league…friends, family, co-workers, etc. Talk with them, let them know you’re starting a league and get them interested.
What type of league? – There are two main variations in fantasy football. You can have a regular league where everyone drafts a new roster each season or a keeper league where each team keeps a number of players from one year to the next.
How many players? – 8 to 14 is the typical number of teams in a league. Choose an even number of teams so that everyone plays each week.
What type of draft? – The most common types of draft are the serpentine and auction drafts. Also decide if your draft will be online or in person at some location (your house, a bar, the beach, wherever). For in person drafts, decide where your draft party will be.
What scoring rules? – Start thinking about the scoring rules you want and talk to a few of your experienced prospective members for their input.
How will trades and free agency be handled? – Your decision on trade rules will most greatly affect the amount of time you spend doing commish work during the season. You can require that you (or a committee) approve each trade manually; or you can allow the system to auto-approve after 1 or 2 days if no objections are raised by the league.
What is a good draft date? – Most leagues like to draft towards the end of preseason to minimize the chance of top picks getting injured before the season starts. Talk with your prospective members and find out what dates they are not available. Then pick a date and time that works for everyone.
Select A Site to Host Your Fantasy League
Most fantasy league sites are free and provide the basics of stats, scoring, league and team management, message posting, online drafting, etc. They usually offer a premium (pay) package as well with additional features.
As the commissioner, you get to decide which site your league will use so take a look and compare features. Ask your league members if they have any preferences or opinions on sites.
Create the League
Most fantasy football sites open up for registration in June. Once they do, you’ll want to get in and start setting up your league.
Register – After you select a site, sign up and register the league. At a minimum you’ll need a good league name and password that members will use to sign up.
Set Up Scoring – After registering, you’ll be able to specify your league’s scoring rules. Most sites will have default values, so review those and adjust as needed.
Pick A Draft Type – This is where you specify if you’re doing an online or in person draft.
Pick A Draft Date – With in person drafts, you can select any date, time and location your league prefers. If you’re doing an online draft, you’ll have to pick from the site’s available time slots. Good time slots in the evening go fast so don’t waste time, you can reschedule later if needed.
Send Out League Invites
After you have created the league, send out an invitation to your prospective players as soon as possible. This is usually done via email but could be a group text, letter or online posting. The invite should include the following info:
How to Sign Up – Provide them a link with the league ID and password from your site.
Draft Date & Time – Specify if it is an online or in-person draft (include location), what the draft format is and how draft position will be determined.
Sign Up Date – Specify a date that players need to be registered in the system by. This should be about a week before the draft to give you time to find a replacement if needed. Remember, you want to have an even number of teams.
Entry Fee Info – Specify the fee amount and what it’s for.
Other Important Dates – Specify any other deadlines for things like entry fee payment and scoring change requests in the invite.
Copy of League Rules (optional) – It’s helpful to highlight any non-standard rules in the invite but not necessary as long as you communicate them prior to the draft.
Handle Any Draft Date or Scoring Rule Change Requests
Once scheduled, be firm with the draft date and only change it if there is an overwhelming need to do so.
Set a deadline in advance of the draft for any scoring change requests to be submitted. If you decide to make a requested change, communicate it to the league before the draft since it could affect each coach’s player rankings on their cheat sheet.
Determine the Draft Order
Your league members will want to know in advance what position they’re drafting so they can plan their strategy.
For in person drafts, this can be done by a neutral party usually picking names out of a hat. Select a time and place that the drawing will be held so that league members can attend if they want. Send out the official draft order to the league afterwards.
For online drafts, you can pick the order same as an in person draft (make sure that your site allows you to specify draft order) or let your site determine the order randomly.
During the Draft (In Person Draft Only)
In person drafts are usually more fun than online, but do require some extra tasks for the commissioner. These are handled by the site in online drafts.
Select a trusted and reliable neutral person to perform these if possible. That will free you up to focus on your own draft strategy.
Track Picks – Someone will need to track all picks made during the draft. This is important so that each player is only picked once and to keep an official results sheet to load into the league site after the draft. A draft board is helpful and lets everyone see the official list.
Time Each Pick – There should be a time limit for each pick, typically 90 seconds or 2 minutes. Use a stopwatch or kitchen timer for this and give a warning when time is running out.
After the Draft (In Person Draft Only)
Your site should provide a way to specify which players were drafted by each team. Do this as soon as possible after your draft ends so that each coach can start managing their teams.
During the Season – Tips for a Good Fantasy Football Season.
Once the season starts, the commissioner’s job is to make sure the league runs smoothly and that any issues (questionable trades, rule clarifications, etc) are handled quickly and fairly.
Resolve Any Issues – You are the final decision maker for the league. If issues arise, make your best decision and stick to it. Be fair, consistent and don’t ever play favorites. If the issue involves your team, then you may need to have 2 or 3 experienced members of the league make the call to remove any conflict of interest.
Encourage Competition & Smack Talk – Fantasy leagues are a lot more fun when people are active. If the message boards are getting quiet, jump in with a few posts to get people fired up.
Be Responsive – Respond to any questions or issues as quickly as possible.
Take Notes – Keep track of any issues that arise or rules that aren’t working out. This will be valuable info when you’re setting up your league next season.
After the Season
Once the championship game is decided, there are a few loose ends to tie up and you can rest until next season.
End of Season Wrap-Up – Send out an email with the official league standings, congratulate the winners and get coaches looking forward to next season.
Distribute Awards – If your league has any kind of trophies or prizes now is the time to deliver them to the winners. Do this promptly. Players like getting their prizes quickly.
Now you’re ready to start your career as a fantasy football commissioner. Have fun!