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Can the Excuses. Your Child's Sports League Needs Volunteers!

Too many jobs go unfilled or done by the same group of people.

I was shopping for football cleats for The Boy this week and ran into local sports radio host Paul Nanos. He’s one of those youth sports volunteer types who donates their time year after year. Our small talk turned to the bigger issue of volunteerism and the lack of effort and interest on the part of many parents. And then he smiled and said, “I feel a column coming out of this.”

I know, I know. All of you volunteer regularly. Your league is overflowing with helpful people. Funny thing is the same group seems to show up week after week, month after month, and year after year. Pick a town. Pick an organization. I’ll bet the story is the same.

And now everyone’s looking at each other like, “Huh? Me? What’s he talking about?”

Having been involved with the day-to-day operation of an organization as well as talking to countless others over the years, there should be a whole bunch of you looking around at each other.

I'm ready for the excuses and comebacks. So save them because your life isn’t any more busy or hectic than any other volunteer.

Five percent of you are ready to rip me to shreds because you fall into the “I really, truly cannot be pulled into another direction” category. OK, OK, you’re excused. But what about the rest of you?

A simple Internet search for “youth sports volunteers” confirms the problem. Leagues all over the country are unable to fill coaching and board spots. Far too many times the same people who are coaching are also working overtime as league officials. Sometimes it’s by choice. Usually, it’s out of necessity.

There have been years when I’ve had to send mass emails to parents declaring that a certain program would not be offered unless coaches and a league director were found immediately. It should never have to come down to that.

Awww … don’t be mad. I’m not trying to pick a fight. Perhaps many of you don’t realize exactly what goes into running a youth sports organization.

Let’s take a stroll through some of the various duties that your average league needs to fill. I’ll spare you the actual positions and responsibilities of the Board of Directors. But take note that oftentimes one person is overloaded with several of these tasks.

This is a general list and includes a mix of both high school and youth (pre-HS) programs. Feel free to add on to it.

  1. Concessions (cooking, cleaning, serving, food pick-up)
  2. Field setup
  3. Field cleanup
  4. Program guide (selling, collecting ads)
  5. Apparel (ordering, selling, selection, pickup, distribution)
  6. Raffles
  7. Photographer/Videographer
  8. Banquet planning
  9. Fundraising (picture day, sales, collection)
  10. Community involvement
  11. Player postgame food distribution
  12. League registrations
  13. Webmaster
  14. Signage
  15. Press box (announcing)

Equally as frustrating as not having enough volunteers are the parents who pile on to the postgame workload. This includes, but is not limited to: leaving trash behind; leaving children behind; stepping over trash on their way out (I see this all the time); and piling trash on the outside of an overflowing trash can (Either find an empty one or ask if you can have a new trash bag!).

Yes, you are seeing a pattern. A lot of time is spent picking up after lazy, inconsiderate parents and siblings. It’s inexcusable. You are not at the movies or a Yankees game. People are not being paid to pick up after you. Imagine how much help it would be if every person picked up their own trash.

If it seems like I’m complaining, DING-DING-DING! You are right! You probably have no idea how much work many of your league’s volunteers do before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. It’s often just as tedious and time consuming as their real jobs. And very few will complain publicly. Most feel that they should play a role in ensuring a quality experience for every child involved in the program. To them it’s a natural step in keeping them involved with their child. To them it’s about improving what they inherited.  

Please don’t bombard the comment section with your other commitments or other types of volunteer work that you do. I commend you for that. You do not have to explain it to anybody reading this, least of all me.

But there are those who have the extra time and, for whatever reason, choose to stay in the bleachers or wait in their cars. They figure somebody else will always step forward in their places.

Let's hope so. Every volunteer organization needs a good engine. Don't let yours stall.

Michael Vigeant August 24, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Agreed. Thanks for the article, confirmed my decision to help coach my daughter's soccer team (and now helping with other things on the list). Unfortunately, I'm part of the typical "same group year after year" but it is what it is.
Frances C Rokicki August 25, 2012 at 06:13 PM
This was the same when my children were growing up. We did volunteer for Little Miss Softball and really, enjoyed helping with the organization. You get to meet the nicest people! You know what they say, the more you do, the more time you have! Time flies by, enjoy your children and all of the smiles!
Tim Gourley August 27, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Great article. As the newly appointed Director of Volunteer Recruitment for the Glastonbury Hartwell Soccer Club I have found that people are willing to help out as long as you ask them and explain the "time commitment" involved. Having said that I am having a difficult time finding an Equipment Manager and Field Coordinator for the league. Any suggestions?
Ron Goralski August 30, 2012 at 05:00 AM
I attended an FHS Football meeting tonight where all the parents met the coaches. The booster club was present as well. They explained what they needed for volunteers. Face to face seems more effective to me. Sometimes it takes asking people directly if they can fill a specific position. It's a shame it's even an issue. Those are two big positions. Maybe have Co-Equipment Managers. That way it doesn't sound so overwhelming. Good luck. Keep in touch.

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