Factors to consider when implementing a mandatory volunteer program for your youth sports league
Feb 20, 2023 12:00 AM

To make sure that a youth sports league's mandated volunteer program is efficient, equitable, and advantageous for all parties involved, the league’s senior administrators should consider important factors before implementation. Here are the most important factors:


Goal of the Program. The first thing to take into account is the goal of the volunteer program. What is the purpose? that is, what do you want to accomplish with the program? Is it to increase parent involvement, to help reduce league costs, or increase the value of the youth sports league? The program's design and implementation should be guided by the purpose the league defines.


Roles and Responsibilities: The next thing is to decide the events or activities that you will want to have volunteers to help with. Will they be helping to manage league administration, acting as team parents, coaching, or in any other capacity? After you have determined these areas, it becomes much easier to define the volunteer positions you will need. The last thing is to decide what each volunteer's tasks and responsibilities will be. Everyone will be more aware of their obligations if these roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.


Time Commitment. It is absolutely crucial to take into account the time commitment you will ask from parents. Depending on the number of events and activities (and volunteer positions you need), you will most likely need to predetermine the amount of hours per family per season. Planning ahead will be made easier for your parent volunteers if they are aware of the time commitment involved.


Training and assistance: It is essential to give volunteers the training and assistance they need.
What kind of training will be required of volunteers? You will need to define who will be doing the training and when. Will parent volunteers have access to tools or mentors that can support them in their position? The amount of training will depend on the volunteer positions themselves as some will require more training than others. Parent volunteers will perform better in their positions if they receive the right training and support.


Enforcement and Penalties: It's crucial to think about the enforcement of the volunteer program as well as the consequences of noncompliance with the program rules. Will there be repercussions if the required number of volunteer hours are not completed? What will happen if a parent volunteer does not show up for the volunteer shift they signed up for? The best example of this is a volunteer bond requiring a financial component to the volunteer hours. For example, if you want to set the # of mandatory hours as 10 per season, then assign $20 or $25 per hour value. So the volunteer bond will be $200 or $250 for the season. This can be collected as a post-dated cheque and at the end of the season, the check is returned to parents who have completed their required hours. To ensure that everyone participates and contributes to the program, make sure there are repercussions for not meeting the requirement. The most important aspect of enforcement is having some sort of verification process, that is, how will you know if parents show up and complete their volunteer shifts? A simple yet effective way to do this is to have a sign in/out sheet. Then, after the event or activity, the volunteer coordinator can track it, ideally in some online volunteer system for youth sports leagues or associations.


Rewards and Recognition: Offering rewards and recognition can encourage parent volunteers and help them feel valued. What kind of rewards or acknowledgement will you give? An examples of this is a ‘Volunteer of the Month’ award. This can be simple acknowledgement in your league newsletter. Or a ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award that comes with a plaque, given at the end of your season. Are there any discounts or additional benefits you can give to parent volunteers? Perhaps small discounts for the next year’s season. Parent volunteers can be kept involved and dedicated to the program by being thanked and rewarded for their efforts. This is very important to maintaining a high level of parent participation in your league’s volunteer program.


Equity and Accessibility: Lastly, it's critical to take equity and accessibility into account. One of the biggest complaints parent volunteers have is the perceived unfairness regarding the distribution and access to available volunteer positions. Many parents believe that the best volunteer positions are often given to the parents who “know someone”. You will need to have a process that provides fair access to all volunteer positions to all parents. Another aspect to consider is for families who have been with your league for a number of years or who have contributed a large number of hours to your volunteer program, perhaps you make the popular volunteer positions to those families first. Will families with unique circumstances be given extra consideration? For example, what about single-parent families? To guarantee that everyone can engage in your volunteer program, it is important to make sure that it is accessible to all families.


In order to make sure that your youth sports league’s mandatory volunteer program is successful, it is important to carefully think things through these and other elements before introducing it to your youth sports league.


Best Practices in Youth Sports Volunteer Mgmt. - Organization is Key
Dec 19, 2022 12:00 AM

This is the first of five blog posts on best practices in youth sports volunteer management. In this post, we’ll be focusing on organization.


Outline the Volunteer Program, detail roles and expectations


The best-run youth sports volunteer programs start with organization - that is, on the part of the organization’s executive team (‘Exec team’ for short). In companies, employees want to work for companies that are well organized. Employees want to see the bigger picture, what their company wants to accomplish. Most importantly, employees need to see how their role will help achieve in the company’s success. This is similar to what parent volunteers want from their youth sports organization’s volunteer program. That said, parent volunteers do not need to see a “strategic plan” organization’s growth. What parent volunteers want and need to see is some semblance of a plan for the volunteer roles and how those fit into the running of your event, or tournament or volunteer program as a whole.

A good place to start is to create a very simple ‘org. chart’ of the volunteer areas as well as the positions and explanations of the role, including how each role contributes to the overall success of the volunteer areas. It is not enough to say “Parent volunteers help to make our organization run”, most parents do not know the extent of what that means. Clearly spell it out for parents, say ’it is only with parent volunteers that we are able to hold this tournament or ‘it is only through parent volunteers’ contribution of time that kids are able to experience tournament play’. That is at a high level. Just as importantly, it is beneficial to be more specific about volunteer positions.

If a volunteer position is not filled, state the negative impact to your program. For example, ‘we need a parent from < x team > to be the coach, otherwise, the team may not be able to play’.

Next, it is highly beneficial to provide parent volunteers with the specifics or details of volunteer positions. Take the time to clearly outline the details of what the volunteer position entails - parent volunteers need and want to know what they are supposed to do and what is expected of them. It is worthwhile to re-emphasize the positive impact of the volunteer position, on the event or activity, and most importantly, on the kids and their experience. After all, that is the very reason parents involve their kids in youth sports.

In summary, here’s the takeaway…

  1. Create a volunteer program events chart, that is, of the volunteer areas.
  2. Outline the specific volunteer roles in the volunteer areas.
  3. Write out detailed volunteer position task descriptions and expectations. Include the positive impact the role on the event or activity and what happens if the role is not filled.


In our next blog post, we'll be covering identifying and removing barriers to participating in the Volunteer program, so please come back to learn more.

Happy Volunteering!

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