As the newly elected or "volunteered" director of your youth sports association or league, you may be researching youth sports management resources to find tips on how to manage a youth sports organization. Or more aptly put...what have you gotten yourself into!
To help answer this question, and many more, we asked Eric Eichmeyer, newly elected president of the Kirkwood, MO Athletic Association (one of our amazing clients here at Engage Sports) to provide his thoughts. With two solid months under his belt as president, Eric has achieved expert status, so we thought the timing would be ideal to get his thoughts on taking over the reins of a youth sports association and to share some of his lessons learned. Here's what Eric had to say...
Make sure your family is on board.
Unless you're retired or independently wealthy, we all have "paying" jobs. Make no mistake, to be the president of a sports association, of any size, is like having a second job. I've spent many evenings at meetings, or reviewing documents for the park, to the exclusion of family time. Likewise, I've even had to miss my own children's' sporting events on occasion to tend to park matters--even if my kids are playing at my own park!
Your family, unless they've been getting up with you at 6 am on a Sunday morning to go check the fields for a tournament, won't understand the time commitment at first--even if you've already been serving on the board. The better job you do of explaining to them what's involved with being "president" the better for you in the long run. (I realize that presumes you know what all is involved already--which you won't).
If you have full time, paid staff, let them do their jobs.
Having the luxury of an organization which can afford full time staff makes things exponentially easier for you. The absolute worst thing you can do as a new president is to try and put your "stamp" on the organization by changing procedures/plans/expectations/goals just because you can. Every new leader has ideas of how to improve things. I guarantee, if your organization has been around for any length of time, that unless you're talking about new sports management technology (like EngageSports provides) that any idea you have has probably already been tried at one time or another.
The bottom line is that your staff will know their area of responsibility, whether it be administration, field maintenance or concessions, much better than you likely do, and absent some blatant errors in judgment, you need to rely on them to do their jobs.
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Don't be afraid to ask questions.
People often assume because you are president that you know everything there is to know about your association's past, present and future. Now that you are president, especially a first time president, you know nothing could be further from the truth.
Everyone who becomes president of a sports association does so because they love helping kids. Your peers recognize you have certain leadership abilities in addition to that which is why you are now president. However, this doesn't mean you know the cost of a pallet of field conditioner or where to get a good price on a new pretzel oven. Often people don't want to ask questions for fear of appearing foolish or uninformed. Let me suggest that as president, you need as much information as possible to help in making decisions, because your fellow board members will likely follow your lead on things like authorizing purchases and budgets. The best way to get that information is to ask questions of everyone and anyone.
I, for example, have sought out the advice of prior board members and at least one "Founding Father" of my organization, as I find the history they provide me invaluable. In my case, they may also be able to explain things to you such as why a certain area of one of your fields is always sinking (buried tractor trailer!) or why one infield won't drain as fast as the others (concrete base 6 inches below the surface from failed attempt at field turf 40 years ago!). They know "stuff" it would help you to know--seek them out.
Don't forget, your fellow board members are volunteers too.
It is a fallacy to assume every board member loves your sports association as much you do, and is happy to talk to you about park matters any time of the day or night. Each board member has a different level of commitment which you must come to know and respect. The key to managing is getting the most out of each person based on their level of commitment and motivation. A good first step would be to visit with each board member, and ask how much time they, what nights are best for meetings, where they live (travel time), why are they involved, what area of the association they are most passionate about, etc.
By becoming president, you've shown an extraordinary commitment to youth sports through your service to your organization. Just because someone is also serving on the board, does not mean that he/she has the time, or the commitment level, that you do. Scheduling multiple meetings, on multiple nights, will help drive away the very people you need to make your association work and make your job easier. Meetings need to be held of course, but, for example, scheduling multiple monthly meetings during your association's sport's season, when everyone is busy with practices and games, just ensures only you and the paid staff will attend.
- Scheduling meetings with only essential and relevant board members (i.e. field crew staff do not need to be present for meetings about pretzel ovens and the same for concession staff when discussing how much field conditioner to buy).
- If you have more than one sport using the park at the same time (i.e. softball and baseball) try holding sport specific meetings. If you need to, schedule them back to back so you can address any joint issues with everyone present.
- Schedule executive board-only meetings (Pres./VP/Treas./Secy/Sport Supvrs) to minimize disruptions or try telephone conference calls--just make sure someone is taking notes.
Read your association's bylaws.
This may seem a little silly, but every association is set up to run a little differently. Duties which you assume fall to a particular position, may not, or a position which you assume covers certain duties, does not. Most importantly, if you're now the president, and presumably will be for at least the next year or two, wouldn't it benefit you to know what your own job is? Unless you've been president of a multi-million dollar corporation, you'll only have a vague idea of EVERYTHING that is involved. Reading the bylaws is a good starting point.
You are president of your association 24/7/365.
If your association is closely tied to your community, which most are, I promise that, after only a short time in office, you will be approached at church, the grocery store, other sporting events, etc.. about something that is happening, or has happened, at your park or with your association. People you've never met before will know who you are because of your position--word gets around fast.
All I can say is that it comes with the territory. You are the face of your association for better or worse. You will get blamed for things you had no control over (like the weather) and credit for things you had no input on (2 for price of 1 pretzel night or new and improved chicken fingers). Take it all in stride. Tell the critics you'll try to do better next time and tell the others that it's the other volunteers and your paid staff which do all the hard work and deserve the credit (because they do).
I hope this is helpful. Being president doesn't come with an instruction manual or an app on how to do it. When in doubt, and there will be plenty of times for that, just remember to treat others how you would want to be treated and things will work out in the end. - Eric Eichmeyer
Eric, thank you for your thoughts and great advice. Now being president of a youth sports association does come with a manual – your comments above and our related blog links below have made that a reality.
8 Tips for the First Time Youth Sports IT Director
How to Improve Financial Controls of a Youth Sports Organization
Tips to Improve Youth Sports Online Registration