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  • Writer's pictureDon Draxler

Inconsistent Leadership: Help Volunteerism in Clubs

Updated: Oct 1, 2023

Volunteerism is often likened to "Dad's Army," a phrase coined by Andy Pitchford, Head of the Centre for Teaching at Westminster in London. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that clubs are content with merely having warm bodies fill the roles. However, I argue that our responsibility as coaches transcends the mere act of training kids; it entails guiding them, which is the true essence of coaching. Coaching, I contend, is a profession that extends beyond the confines of professional or college domains. Even though we predominantly rely on volunteers, unpaid individuals, we must raise our expectations of coaches responsible for creating an environment where kids can socialize and learn effectively. To achieve this, strong leadership within clubs is imperative.

“If we are going to be educators, to take children in our charge on the pitch to train them. Then we have a responsibility to be…to be honing our craft. I don’t think we can just hide under the, the label of volunteer. As if, that gives us an excuse not to engage our children or not to know better." -Todd Beane, TOVO Institute, Barcelona Spain

Forum for Collaboration

One essential aspect of effective coaching is collaboration and community-building. Coaches should engage in open dialogue and cooperation with one another. We need systems that are supportive without being overly burdensome. Is there a streamlined way to simplify communication for coaches, whether it's related to practice design, game scheduling, or interactions with parents and athletes?

One effective platform that comes to mind is Slack, which offers a user-friendly interface without the distractions of advertising or the control associated with platforms like Facebook. There are likely other platforms tailored to the needs of busy volunteers, emphasizing ease of use.

Opening and Closing Letters

Clubs should consider crafting informative letters to welcome and thank their volunteers. A welcoming letter serves as an expression of gratitude for their invaluable contributions and an opportunity to explain the club's mission and how they fit into the larger vision of helping children. This letter should include details about other coaches, games, fields, protocols, and pertinent information for the upcoming season.

Conversely, a closing remarks thank-you letter should be sent at the end of the season. This simple gesture is a way to express gratitude towards volunteers, reminding them that without their dedication, clubs and children wouldn't have the opportunity to enjoy sports.

Clear and concise communication in these letters can help alleviate questions or concerns while demonstrating appreciation for coaches' time, something that is often overlooked.

The Importance of Empathetic Leadership

Leadership within youth sports often exhibits a gender disparity, with dads frequently found on the fields, courts, and pools, while moms are often relegated to Parent Teacher Association PTA roles. However, this discrepancy arises from a lack of direct engagement with moms and insufficient support for their involvement.

A glaring gap in youth sports is the failure of coaches to connect with their players on an emotional level. Too often, the focus shifts solely to the sport and winning, neglecting the players' desire for a meaningful experience. Moms typically excel in forging these emotional connections, an aspect often overlooked in youth sports. While some dads also exhibit this skill, many moms possess a unique superpower for emotional connection that can drive their engagement in volunteerism.

It is imperative to recognize that children need both male and female role models in their coaching ranks. Greater diversity is essential for fostering a well-rounded and inclusive coaching environment.

Methodology for Effective Coaching

Local and premier clubs often articulate their desire for fun, teamwork, and community in youth sports experiences but seldom delve into the "how" of achieving these goals. Clubs frequently lack a well-defined methodology for creating an appropriate environment conducive to facilitating optimal methods for children to enjoy sports.

Creating a methodology, distinct from traditional technical coaching, is essential. Rather than focusing solely on technique, this approach emphasizes patience and the natural emergence of skills.

Mission Statement and Philosophy

Most clubs submit generic mission statements to obtain nonprofit status, but these often gather dust on shelves, with members unsure of their true significance. Similarly, many coaches lack a well-defined coaching philosophy beyond the broad goal of teaching the sport. This lack of clarity leaves players and coaches without a clear sense of purpose.

It is vital to take the time to craft a mission statement and philosophy that reflect the club's core values and the coach's vision. This process requires introspection and contemplation of why coaching is undertaken in the first place.

In my case, my philosophy is succinctly expressed as "Joy and Learning for the Autonomous and Creative Player in Sports," with the simplified message being, "Play Ignites Creativity!" Writing down your philosophy can be immensely gratifying, as it provides clarity and a sense of purpose.

In conclusion, consistent and empathetic leadership, effective communication, thoughtful methodology, and a well-defined mission and philosophy are critical elements that can transform volunteerism within clubs, ensuring a more enriching sports experience for children.


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