Commish HQ: Keep Them Interested with Bonuses

By Reginald James
Reginald James

Do you run a league where your league mates are starting to lose interest? They might not be as active on the waiver wire as aggressively as they once were. You may have noticed what I like to call “doughnut holes” in your league - players deposited on starting rosters who are injured or have a bye week. Therefore, you get a zero, a nice round zero, or doughnut hole, although thinking about it, calling them a doughnut probably fits the description better. This happens more often in leagues that have a playoff, because there comes a point when a manager realizes they aren’t going to make the cut. That’s when the competitive juices start to dry up for some. You hope you have people in your league who will continue to play the season out. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen in some leagues.


Regardless if your league has a playoff or not, there are so many creative ways that commissioners will come up with to try and keep league members interested and engaged. Some commissioners will incentivize not wanting to end up in last place. They create a scenario where league managers want to avoid coming in last because they will have to do something embarrassing.


Paying out a cash bonus is also a common method used to both reward having a successful season in some aspect, and also to encourage league managers to continually put forth a competitive roster even if they might not be in the running to win a league.


I often cite the make up of a league when discussing fantasy league topics because that turns out to be the determining factor in how a lot of league dynamics play out. If you are starting a league for the first time, and you have every intention of running it for a long time, you should pay attention to who’s in it from the start. Do you know everyone? Did you invite a friend of a friend of a friend’s uncle? You’re looking for folks who care about being part of a league with you for a long time as well. This may seem obvious to some of you, but I will always take into consideration that someone is running a league for the first time. There are a lot of things that go into running a fantasy league that some new commissioners don’t readily think about when starting out. In this case, actively assessing the vibe of a league from the start might not be an obvious move on their part.


I suggest letting a new league run its course for about a year or two (maybe three), so you can see how all the personalities mix before you add bonus cash rewards. You might consider holding tight until you feel you really need to create some change. After a certain point, you can introduce one bonus to see how the league responds. I would slowly add cash incentives along the way, not all at once. A new payout bonus may turn out to be a move you make to reward your cool fantasy league as opposed to something used to keep people interested because some stopped paying attention or even playing all together. There’s a difference. You don’t sort things out like this in year one or two. There are some leagues where people are going to play hard all the way through. They don’t need any incentives to do it. As commissioner, you won’t know if this is true in your league, until it all plays out in front your face. Take your time and get to know your league before you start adding bells and whistles to it.


I am going to list some bonus ideas that I use often as examples that commissioners might consider. The type of bonuses one can come up with can be as varied as there are types of fantasy leagues. I favor these because almost anyone can hit them. The bonuses aren’t necessarily accessible only to the best team. That would defeat the purpose of adding them, in my opinion. Remember, the focus is trying to curtail league managers from losing interest. Payout bonuses in a league where everyone is competitive and will stay active even if they have a losing record, is pure gravy, like extra icing on a cake. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s great, but I’m addressing how to tend to a problem, or prepare for a potential problem, not the opposite. I can drop a much longer list, but I’m not. I just want to toss out some ideas for consideration. Coming up with your own bonuses and incentives that are different, or that fit the “personality” of your league can be a fun exercise.


You could offer a bonus for the team:


• whose bench scores the most points (weekly award or for best single season match)

• with the highest single-game score of the season

• that scores the most points during a regular season game while recording a loss


A manager can have a 3-6 record and still hit any of these bonuses. Some players who would normally start to turn their attention to other things, knowing they’re not likely to make the playoff cut, may stick around because the above bonuses are still within their reach each week. Two more examples:


• Have everyone predict what their total score will be for the season, and whoever comes closest wins some cash.

• If two teams tie, you could give them a cash prize.


The same premise applies as with the other bonuses already mentioned: the 15-2 league juggernaut is not favored to get these bonuses at all. Their league-best record has nothing to do with whether they get the bonus or not, everyone has a chance to hit. That’s the point. Who is going to turn down a chance to win some cash? Everyone is down for the mean green, even a fantasy manager with a 3-8 record. This is the part of human psychology that you’re trying to exploit as a commissioner when you sit down and decide what kind of cash bonus you’re going to add.



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