It takes a village to make a sports league run smoothly. There are many moving parts, and one of the biggest groups of cogs in the sports machine is volunteers. These are people who devote their time to making sure youth sports succeeds and teams get what they need without asking for anything in return, and that’s admirable.
Volunteers are true heroes – they don’t need a paycheck to want to help you be successful. That’s why it’s important to praise, engage and manage your volunteers to the best of your ability. When you give volunteers the best environment in which to work, they’ll thank you for it and their results will improve.
First, take into consideration how many volunteers you have and need. Also, what do you need these volunteers for?
Every youth sports league should have some season-long volunteers that are willing to pitch in, but consider your need for more manpower when it comes to fundraisers, events and championships. How can you manage 100 volunteers if you can’t effectively manage 10?
The key to success here is to create an open line of communication. Combine this with a solid volunteer resource like a newsletter. Know what you want, when you want it and how many people you need to do it. Send out regular emails to ask for help and dictate tasks.
At the same time, give them the opportunity to voice how they feel about tasks and the opportunity to help you help them. If they want to help you manage things, why not?
Volunteers are like regular employees in that they need to be trained and communicated with in order to perform their work effectively. When you need volunteers to do something, keep these questions in mind:
● Do I have a specific volunteer who may be suited to this job?
● How can I best find out which volunteers will be best for the job?
The best way to answer these kinds of queries is to put the horse before the cart in the very beginning. When you ask for volunteers, ask them to fill out a quick questionnaire, along with routine paperwork like fingerprints and a background check. This questionnaire should cover topics like their skillset, availability and how much work they are willing to commit to.
Also, regularly ask for status updates – but keep things casual. Don’t act like you’re giving a performance evaluation, but rather, check in informally on how things are going. This keeps things friendly but still work-focused.
Volunteers can be the unsung heroes of your sports league, and that’s a shame. When a volunteer is doing outstanding work, it is imperative you let them know how much you appreciate what they do for you, the league and the community.
It’s also important to let others know too. Hold a small volunteer luncheon or take out a newspaper ad thanking your volunteers publicly. Put something up on Facebook if you want to go the cheap and easy route. No matter how you do it, make sure you tell your volunteers both personally and as a group that you couldn’t have done it without them.