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Managing Major Changes In Your Dynasty League

Change is hard. We accept the status quo, even if we see flaws in the way things are. Trying to enact change can cause anxiety, fear of the unknown, or interpersonal strife. This is true in all walks of life, fantasy leagues included. Leagues that have been around for a while will inevitably evolve, but unfortunately the process is rarely painless. Leagues might move to a new site, implement new rules, add or remove teams, or close loopholes, and making changes to your fantasy league can lead to long arguments or hurt feelings. When managed incorrectly, little changes can blow up into huge problems that threaten to destabilize the entire league.

Fantasy leagues are microcosms of the same sort of group dynamics we all interact with daily. There are fields of study dedicated to change management, and how to disrupt organizations or cultures without destroying them. If you’re a commissioner trying to coordinate or manage a change to your league, or if you’re in a league currently going through changes and things aren’t running smoothly, the field of change management can provide some strategies to help improve your league without your attempts blowing up in your face. As Winston Churchill once said- “To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.”

Even if your league allows for major decisions to be made unilaterally by the commissioner, or by a small group of managers, it’s always important to ensure everyone in the league is given adequate opportunity to buy in to any change. If they don’t buy in on a change, other managers in your league might feel resentful, deceived, or distrustful of the league’s future.

Within the world of corporate change management there are many methodologies and strategies discussed. Without getting too theoretical, I’ve outlined some common concepts and best practices for proposing a change in your league. The concepts can be broadly applied to any change that impacts a majority or all of the managers.  

Understand the Value of the Change You’re Pursuing

It’s not enough to know the problem, you have to know how the solution you’re pursuing will bring value. In the case of switching sites, everyone in your league may agree that the old site doesn’t meet the full needs of the league, but this doesn’t mean the proposed new site is the best solution. Research the options, solicit opinions from other managers, and propose a solution only after you find the one that provides the most (or best) value back to your league.

Make a Case for the Change

Don’t assume everyone will be amenable to your solution just because they all agree on the problem. Propose your change as if you’re trying to sell it. Highlight the benefits, be prepared to discuss any risks or concerns, and avoid getting defensive during any discussion or debate. You may propose moving to a new site because it offers a deeper player pool or better tracking options for minors or reserves. Others in the league might counter that the current way your league is performing those tasks isn’t easy, but it gets the job done and it’s been that way for years so why change now? Be prepared to address these concerns in a way that shows you hear the other side and you’re not ignoring them. A great way to do this is to use the trick parents use when dealing with a frustrated young child– get them to voice their concern, repeat it back to them to show you heard, and then present your proposed solution again. Which brings us to the next point:

Be Confident and Credible

Back up your claims that the change you’ve proposed is the right one. Share the results of any research. If you aren’t sure your change is really going to solve the problem, others will pick up on that right away. Maybe you’re changing sites but the new site you’re moving to has features you don’t yet fully understand. If you don’t know something, own up to it and point out what you do know and how you’ll be prepared to assist with any issues during the transition. You need to be able to speak with authority to justify why you’re rocking the boat.

Communicate the Need

You know what the problem is, and you think everyone else knows the problem too. But there may be subtle differences of opinion or assumptions you and others are making that get in the way of getting stuff done. Make sure you can articulate the specific problem you’re solving or need you’re filling, and present it in a way that everyone can see and understand. If you want to move sites, explain the specific reasons why this is required by pointing to real examples of problems with the current site. Maybe someone drafted a minor leaguer who wasn’t in the player pool at the time, or the rosters or scoring settings can’t be fully managed by the current site and require personal attention. Using examples that everyone can remember will reinforce why the change is needed.

Present Your Research

It’s important to show the work you did leading up to the decision, which means it’s important to do that work. If you want to move sites, poll users of the sites your considering for their opinions. Find facts that underscore not just why a change is required, but why the change you’re proposing is the best one.

Address Everyone’s Role

Fantasy leagues are made up of diverse personalities working in competition with each other toward the same goal of a league championship. This often means the league doesn’t operate as a single unit with the same goal of having fun together. Forcing a change down the throat of competitors is a great way to have them all turn against you. When making the case for the change, make sure you outline exactly what everyone’s role will be. Will they be required to vote on a decision? If you’re moving sites, will they need to check their rosters for accuracy after the initial import and, if so, what’s the deadline? Give clear, simple instructions. If anyone has a special role, call it out. For instance, if you need to track one response from each team make sure you indicate how teams with co-owners should respond.

Prepare for the Unexpected

You’ve done the research and made your case. Now what will you do when something blows up in your face? Maybe one team decides the change is too much and quits right before the season starts. Maybe you get set up in a new site and find out that the available settings don’t match exactly what you’re trying to do. Whatever the issue, understand that issues always occur and this doesn’t reflect on the correctness of the initial decision. When making a change, make sure you’ve got resources to support you and help problem solve when need arises. This could be the support department at the site your league is set up with, another commissioner in your league, other owners, or people from other leagues.

Follow Up

Don’t expect changes in your league to follow the Ron Popeil method of “set it and forget it.” Check in with managers after the change to see how things are going. Keep checking in throughout the season to ensure any issues found can come to the surface. Keep open lines of communication, and watch things very closely in the weeks and months immediately following any major change to ensure you’re doing as much as possible to keep everyone happy (within reason).

Following the concepts listed above won’t mean every change you make is free from debate or disagreement. It will mean you’ve supported your decisions and can justify them as required, while also ensuring everyone else in your league gets an opportunity to be heard. All of these concepts are soft skills that are best learned through lots of practice. Don’t expect changes to smooth out overnight. Keep your head up if you fail, and keep trying as long as you really believe in the change you want to make. 

Is your league pursuing any major changes this off-season? If so, how’s it going? Let us know in the comments.

The Author

The Dynasty Guru

The Dynasty Guru


  1. Nick
    December 10, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Great article! This is exactly the kind of thing I like writing about myself, and reading about as well. I find the human elements of fantasy baseball to be the most interesting. I’m almost always the most active participant in league rules discussions (and disagreements!)

    Having had a few commissioners, some better than others, I completely agree with your points. It’s surprising how little it can take to turn owners off, and if fires aren’t put out correctly, the whole league can suffer quickly. That happened in a new league I was in last year. The commissioners weren’t familiar with the site they were using, and had trouble making the customizations they wanted work properly. I think everyone could forgive that, but when they didn’t communicate the challenges they were facing properly, people really got upset, and over the course of the season several owners became disengaged as a result.

    I would just add one point: the more communication that happens well in advance is usually better. Because much of the work of the league is done in the offseason, it can be hard to engage every owner regularly, even in a competitive leage. To ensure everyone has a fair amount of time to weigh in if they want to, it’s good to start discussions early in spring training rather than close to the draft.

    • December 11, 2015 at 8:54 am

      nick- thanks! i definitely agree starting conversations earlier is always better. In leagues where i’m the commish, i like to set a deadline for suggesting changes and another deadline for having any changes in place. Normally the league message board suffices for this, and it can be a good way to keep some level of activity during the dog days of the early offseason and January blues. I like to send these dates out when announcing things like the keeper deadline, that way everyone pays more attention. Giving deadlines puts the ownership of the conversation back in the hands of the league members, and doesn’t make the commissioner solely responsible for doing all the heavy lifting.

      one thing the commissioner CAN do, though, is make sure suggestions are communicated in plain language and succinctly. I love talking rules in my leagues too, but not everyone is as wonky and while constitutional scholars are great for the US legal system, they’re not a ton of fun in a fantasy league.

      • Nick
        December 11, 2015 at 9:32 am

        Good points. In my experience the most important commissioner preparations happen in the first couple of seasons of a league. Sometimes having a strong communication system is just as important as setting the actual league rules. Fantasy baseball can get so complicated logistically, and throw in a bunch of personalities and suddenly it’s pretty hard to make everyone happy all the time. I completely agree that a good commissioner should be able to summarize conversations and distill them into points that can be voted on. That way no one is wasting time going down rabbit holes that will never actually manifest themselves in rules. There are a couple of owners in my league who love to make wild suggestions when they lose (“I don’t think it’s fair that the owner who drafted Mike Trout can keep him for so long; we should make a ‘Mike Trout’ rule”), but our commissioner quickly steers the conversation back to an amendment proposal, which usually reduces the grumbling.

  2. December 14, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Great article, I agree with everything here. The more complicated the league, the more issues that arise. My league holds a winter meeting every year prior to our first year player draft, in which we recap the previous year, and discuss any changes moving forward. Typically, I present an updated league constitution which has documented all over our rules and discussions from prior seasons. Documentation has been a big help, and since keeping close track of all the small adjustments here and there, the league has been going much smoother.

    The most difficult situations to address are when an owner feels so strongly about a particular topic, but his view may not be in the best interest of the league. Overall, I would say a commissioner needs to remain unbiased, communicate well, and document everything.

    Actually posted the most recent version of our league constitution today so the league can review before our meeting in January.


    Thanks for your efforts and the good read! I wish every owner in the league understood what a commissioner goes through.

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