goalWA.net is pleased to offer another installment of its bi-weekly “Off the Pitch” column by Ruth Nicholson. Ruth is the founder of GO!, a go-to expert resource for youth sports governance and operations.
April is National Volunteer Month, so this month’s articles will focus on tips for working with the many volunteers who support our teams and tournaments.
During spring tryouts, coaches are selecting both players and team administrative managers. This week’s column identifies the variety of roles needed to support a team and tips to effectively share the work.
by Ruth Nicholson
At the beginning of each new season, it is critical to engage team volunteers to specific roles with the understanding that all serve at the pleasure and direction of the coach. There can be many volunteer tasks needed to support a team. Often, a single team administrative manager handles most of the tasks This may not be the most optimal solution to team management because it can place a huge burden (and sense of empowerment) on a single volunteer. Dividing the work spreads the responsibilities and creates a better sense of balance and shared support among parent volunteers.
It is often helpful when a club outlines a consistent approach for volunteer support for all its coaches and their teams, especially those needing background checks. This enables clear identification of the roles needed to be filled by volunteers as a part of annual team formation.
The first step is to identify the best division of labor for each type of team. For example, competitive or travel teams require more administrative tasks than recreational teams. The team support structure may include a single or multiple co-managers, while others may have a primary manager who delegates tasks to parent volunteers across the team. The key is to identify who will be responsible for specific activities and how they will support and communicate with each other.
Hope Springs Eternal: Recruit at the First Meeting
Recruit volunteers at the first team meeting of the new playing season. Bring short written descriptions of the jobs and positions that need to be filled. These job descriptions should contain four parts, including (1) an outline of the skills needed to do the job, (2) the specific tasks and time needed to complete them, (3) identification of the people with whom the volunteer will need to communicate and coordinate, and (4) what supplies and equipment are needed to do the job.
Team volunteer positions generally fall into three types: team set-up, team operations, and game day support. Not all teams need every volunteer position identified below, and some positions may be combined depending on team needs.
Team Set Up
The work of these volunteers is most demanding when teams are being formed. They are the ones that collect information needed to register players, arrange for uniforms, and other team set up jobs.
Examples of these jobs include:
- Team administrative manager
- Player registration
- Uniform coordinator
- Team treasurer
These jobs tend to be the most time-consuming and ongoing for the duration of the team’s playing season or playing year. They are critical to the smooth administrative operation of the team on a weekly basis. The need for the types of positions in this category depend both on the needs of the team and the expectations of the club or league within which the team operates.
A key to helping these volunteers contribute effectively to the team is establishing how they will communicate with each other and with the team’s coach. The purpose of recruiting multiple people is to distribute the work. However, without clear understandings about how communication between team volunteers and the coach will work, the coordination of emails and phone calls can become a significant and frustrating burden on a coach. An effective team manager can organize individual parent volunteers in such a way that the assignment of roles and responsibilities results in the sharing of the workload without creating communication nightmares for the coach, team volunteers, or players and their families.
CAUTION: If a volunteer job requires more than an average of 10 hours a week, you are setting up a situation for volunteer burnout, turnover, and potential loss of valuable institutional memory.
Typical team operations jobs include:
- Communications and emails
- Schedule and calendar for team training, games, and other events
- Team website
- Social events and activities coordinator
- Travel coordinator for teams involved in tournaments requiring overnight travel
Game Day Support
These volunteer positions offer wonderful opportunities for those player families who attend every game. These are the jobs that support the specific needs of team competitions.
It is important for volunteers who take on these roles to understand that if they cannot attend a game, it is their responsibility to arrange for someone to step in and ensure that their role is covered in their absence.
Common game day jobs are:
- Game day rosters and player cards
- Tent or canopy
- First aid kit
- Team photographer
- Score reporting
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Team Volunteers
- Identify the most important administrative support roles needed for your team. This will differ by age group and the types of leagues and tournaments in which the team competes.
- Divide up the team management work into as many smaller jobs as there are players on your team. This offers the opportunity for every player family to contribute in some way to the administrative support of the team.
- Identify those volunteer positions that have regular contact with players or private player information, such as registration and medical release forms. Make sure that these volunteers go through and are authorized by your organization’s background check program.
Ruth Nicholson is the founder of GO!, a 24/7 Asset and Training Library offering youth soccer organizations proven leadership and administrative tools. It includes resources for team management, including volunteer roles and strategies for reducing team administrative hassles. To download a comprehensive checklist of team volunteer roles, click here: Divide and Conquer: Team Volunteer Roles.