Without most club sports would collapse! That’s because the majority of club, youth and grass root sport clubs, programs and leagues rely on volunteers – usually parents.
Volunteers are what make a sports program go round. They are your administrators, concession staff, coaches and officials who are responsible for teaching a dozen young athletes how to play your clubs sport. They are also the ones that shape the overall experience for your athletes, shaping their opinions towards the sport in general. The most successful sports programs are supported by great volunteers.
Here are 3 characteristics that make someone a great volunteer for your youth sports organizations:
Knowledgeable of the sport
Enthusiasm goes a long way with youth sports volunteers, but enthusiasm plus knowledge is even better! Obviously you don’t need every volunteer to be a pro athlete or official to do a good job, but knowing the basic rules of the game is critical. Your volunteers are responsible for teaching young athletes the fundamentals of the sport and if they don’t have that knowledge, don’t expect their teams to learn much. If they don’t have any experience wrestling, how will they be able to teach the proper way to take some one down? If they’ve never set foot on a volleyball court, will they be able to show your players how to block or pass?
If your sports organization is lucky enough to have an influx on volunteers, make sure every team gets at least one volunteer who is familiar with the sport. They can take charge of the other volunteers and make sure everyone (players and volunteers alike) learns something!
Loves to coach
If your volunteers are knowledgeable but don’t like to coach/teach, then their expertise won’t do much for your sports programs. Not everyone is good with kids, or older athletes, no matter how good they are with a hockey puck. It’s not enough to just know; they also have to know how to share their knowledge in a way that athletes can understand and be motivated. The best sports volunteers enjoy working with athletes and understand how to break the game down and teach fundamentals step by step.
Believes sports are valuable
A common problem that can arise with sports programs is that the coaches and volunteers forget they are working with youths, or young adults, or even adults who desire to learn. Club sports teams are not the place to be worrying about “looking like the pros.” It’s more important that volunteers focus on teaching the fundamentals and making sure all their athletes are getting the attention and training they need to contribute to the overall success of the team. Sports are valuable in their own right. Every sports great started playing on a youth sports team where a volunteer taught them the right way to throw, catch, skate or pass. Great sports volunteers remember that and take pride in it.
We know finding, motivating, managing and keeping high-quality volunteers can be a struggle, but there are some organizations using unique recruitment techniques to discover their volunteers that we’d like to share.
We have borrowed volunteer recruitment tips from VolunteerMatch, which is a wonderful resource for connecting individuals with volunteer opportunities in their community.
You’ll notice this advice represents a wide range of organizations; however, it can all easily relate to sport clubs:
“Build a good foundation and use all available resources. Your volunteer descriptions can make or break recruitment efforts. In fact, these descriptions can serve as a way that potential volunteers can self-screen. Those who believe in your mission will want to connect with your organization.” Elizabeth Coleman, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
- Your action steps: Create a volunteer job description that outlines what tasks the role is in charge of, desired skills of the volunteer applicant and what training requirements are expected.
“It’s important to get out there and be personal, to connect with others and let them know about the program and how much volunteers are needed and valued. I have found that the personal connection is so much better than ads in newspapers.” Stephanie Smith, Surprise Fire Crisis Response Program
- Your action steps: Host open houses where community members can learn about your clubs offerings, how parents can register their child for a team and which volunteer opportunities are available.
“We try to work all the angles: digital media, newspaper, radio, word-of-mouth, flyers, presentations and collaborations with other groups – community members will eventually receive the info, one way or another.” Mountain Mentors Colorado
- Your action steps: Identify contacts within your local news outlets and submit stories and press releases highlighting recent events your program has hosted and the work of your volunteers.
“I frequently let my current volunteers know when we need additional help and ask them to spread the word among their friends. Good people generally hang around together, so this usually works pretty well. I also have a 24-hour turn-around rule. If someone contacts me about volunteering, I get back to them no later than 24 hours after they contact our organization. This doesn’t allow time for their enthusiasm to cool off.” Joan Malley, Harbor House
- Your action steps: Always notify existing volunteers of available positions and ask for recommendations. Make it easy for your current volunteers to tell their friends about open positions by providing them with sample Facebook posts, email templates and conversation points.
Do these tips help stimulate your creative thinking with new ideas for recruiting volunteers? We hope so! Read all 101 Tips from VolunteerMatch here.
Does your sports program have a successful or unique method of finding volunteers? We’d love to know. Please share your tips ion the contact page.
NEXT MONTH: How to fully vet a volunteer and minimize your liability.