Because successful seasons depend on it
| 4 min read
Most youth sports programs would be game over without help from volunteers. Because volunteers are the backbone of youth sports — from coaches to team parents to providers of orange slices and Gatorade.
Clearly, it’s in a league’s best interest to keep their volunteers smiling. But is it easier said than done? Sometimes. We checked in with veteran program administrators to find out the secrets to keeping volunteers happy all season long.
It’s worth your while to dole out a couple perks to the people you need the most. Covering their costs in a good place to start. “We refund at least 50%, if not 100% of their registration fees,” says Colt Chase, director of Fairbanks Youth Soccer. Paying a background check fee is another thoughtful option.
Creating a calendar that works for your volunteers is a surefire way to make them happy. It’s a ton of work up front, but the payoff is worth it. Lorinda Mayfield, founder of Utah North Youth Soccer, gets parents to coach multiple teams this way. She tells parents, “If you will sign up to coach both kids’ teams, we will fix the schedule so that you can make it to both games each week.”
Chase is also a fan of this strategy. “I shape my entire schedule around any ‘multi-team coaches’ to avoid conflicts,” he says.
Keep your volunteers in the loop at all times. The more clear and consistent the communication, the better. “We spend a large portion of our time deciding on the right information we want to disseminate to all the city directors,” says Ross Schraeder, vice president of basketball operations at ProSkills Basketball. Good communication should come from the top of your program and carry down to all levels.
No volunteer wants to feel like they’re on their own. Being supported by the league makes all the difference.
Coaching clinics or helpful, easy-to-use resources are always appreciated. “I make sure that in addition to a more robust program handbook, we also have a ‘highlights’ version,” says Chase. “It’s the ‘too long, didn’t read’ version that hits all the main items.”
Don’t discount something as simple as letting your coaches know you are around to answer any questions. “We are always present, approachable and reachable,” says Chase.
Greg Mihan, recreation supervisor for the town of San Anselmo, California, agrees with this kind of support. “I make sure I’m available to answer any questions or concerns that volunteers may have,” he says. If people are willing to donate their time, he says, it’s the least he can do.
Letting your volunteers know how grateful you are goes a long way. “I’m never going to forget that my volunteers are giving me their time,” says Chase. He checks in with them throughout the season to see if there’s anything they need.
Some leagues host events like a coach appreciation night with food trucks or a parent vs. kids game after the season is over.
But even a simple email out to the community can be enough to make a volunteer’s day. “I like to point out both before and after the season the effort that the volunteers make,” says Mihan. “Without the volunteer efforts, none of what we do is possible.”