How to Grow Your Youth Sports Volunteer Opportunities
By Melissa Wickes
January 12, 2022
There are so many reasons it’s essential for your organization to offer youth sports volunteer opportunities. For starters, squeezing the most out of your budget is a top priority for any team, large or small. Once you’ve spent funds on experienced coaches, top-notch facilities, and travel, most budgets are tapped. Having volunteers lean in to help with travel, team logistics, meal prep, and equipment distribution is critical.
Beyond the to-do lists, however, lies the potential of positively involving parents. As David Robinson noted in our Play Forever podcast series, “Parents are a tremendous asset. You just have to know how to manage that asset. It’s sort of like fire. Right? Fire can burn the house down or it can warm the house.”
To learn how to harness that energy to positively impact your program we enlisted the help of Ruth Nicholson, the founder and CEO of GO!. She has over 40 years of experience in the youth sports space and is an internationally-certified professional facilitator with over 25 years in organization development and mediation. Since launching in 2017, GO! content has reached over 26 sports on four continents. Here are five steps to building an effective volunteer program, as suggested by Ruth.
Know What You Need
Evaluate your organization, club, or league and simplify your needs. List out the roles that could potentially be filled with youth sports volunteers. This can range from roles like trash collection and uniform distribution to player registration and meal prep. It’s important to identify your needs as an organization before you ask for help because a clear action plan will demonstrate to your volunteers that you value them and their time.
For example, team volunteers can be broken into three groups:
- Set-Up (uniform Distribution, player registration, team photos, team managers)
- Day-to-Day Operations (schedules, website maintenance)
- Gameday (equipment, live photo/video, first aid, clean-up, pre/post meals)
Bucketing volunteers into well-defined categories is a great way to clearly establish the scope of youth sports volunteer opportunities you want to offer.
If You Don’t Ask, They Can’t Say “Yes”
One thing that can make the “ask” easier is if you write down the job description for each of your youth sports volunteer opportunities. For starters, what are the skills and abilities needed for this volunteer role? Once that is established, sketch out what the specific task looks like, bearing in mind that if you need more than 10 hours per week, you’re setting a volunteer up for burn out. Finally, don’t forget to add in the supplies and materials needed. Once it’s laid out, the benefit for both the organization and volunteer is well-defined. All of this makes it more likely a volunteer will end up saying “yes!”
Prepare and Train
Understanding what the goal is and how to achieve it is critical. It could be written instruction, a demonstration, or a verbal refresher, but even the simplest activities run much smoother when there is clear communication. Where are we getting the garbage bags? Are we on foot or taking a golf cart around? Where are the dumpsters located? Do we need to sort recycling?
Get Stuff Done
The first three steps make the fourth step possible. It’s essential to organize and mobilize your volunteers to ensure they have proper leadership and, in some cases, supervision. This can include having a back-up plan if there are no-shows. Leadership also comes in handy when you’re attempting to prioritize what you need to get done. Finally, a leader can collect feedback from volunteers, an element that is extremely important.
Say Thank You
This can be the game-changer for your organization. If you put together a great volunteer program, you want to keep volunteers coming back. To do that, you need to make sure you are thanking people in a way that resonates with them at a personal level. Some volunteers are well-connected and can help your organization gain access to the right resources. In many cases, appealing to their ego and verbally affirming that you couldn’t have done it without them is a subtle way to ensure they’ll continue to provide your organization with support. Then you have the volunteers with specific expertise, be it a batting coach or a website manager. Highlighting how their knowledge is invaluable within the organization and thanking them publicly is a great way to give them pride in their work, which leads to a higher sense of satisfaction and by extension a desire to continue their contribution. Finally, you have the caregivers and emotional supporters of the team. Making sure you show the same kind of emotional support to them will go a long way.
Want to learn more about growing your organization from leading sports organizers who just get it? Become a part of our NextUp Community on Slack which connects over 1,400 members of the youth sports community, so they can share insights, ask questions, and discuss hot topics in youth sports today.