By Tyler Isaacson for Soccer America
How many times have you thought or heard this comment, "Nobody wants to volunteer for the club anymore" … "I don’t have anyone to ref the games" … "Who is going to put the nets on the goals for opening day?"
As a volunteer myself for the past 15 years, I saw this first hand. Phone call after phone call trying to convince a few people to take some of the burden off the board members who spend countless hours making sure game day goes off without a hitch. Things changed a few years ago when, as a club, we tapped into a resource that we never considered in the past -- the players.
It starts with our 12- and 13-year-olds and concludes with our high school seniors. Here’s a breakdown of how we utilize the players from our club.
Age 12/13. This group is given limited responsibility but it is important to introduce them to volunteering. Some of their jobs include: assisting referees (keeping the clock, checking the players in), game-day field setup (first-aid kit, game ball at the field), or field clean-up. They are given special colored T-shirts so they are easily recognized.
Age 13/18. This group is the largest of our player contingent. Jobs include both volunteer and paid positions to help the club run smoothly while the board members can supervise from a distance. Below are some of the key areas that are covered by this group.
* Referees. They begin with games for the youngest age group and work their way up. They are usually scheduled for one or two games per day.
* Referee Scheduler. Sets the weekly referee schedule for the recreation games. Creates an initial referee schedule early in the week and adjusts for any scheduling conflicts. This is done by e-mail and texting (as they do so well) to produce the final schedule later in the week.
* Referee Supervisor. An experienced person who supervises all scheduled referees on game day. Each referee checks in with the supervisor prior to their scheduled game(s). The supervisor walks from field to field observing the referees making sure they are doing their job and make any last minute schedule changes on the fly due to unexpected conflict by a scheduled referee. They also handle any minor referee coach conflicts.
* Referee trainer. Runs a training class for new and existing referees a few weeks prior to the start of the season. This person is a qualified referee and has been a referee for the club for a few years.
* Buddy. The most important part of our special needs program. They are linked up with a player from Day 1 of the program and guide the player through the activities each week. We have such a large number of buddy volunteers that some players have two buddies.
* Camp helpers. As the player get older and move on to high school soccer we use many of these players to assist during our summer camp as assistant trainers.
* Board member. We are bringing on a student board member as a way to get the players voice heard. It is amazing what you hear from their perspective-- you may rethink the way you currently do things.
We started slowly when we first began utilizing our players with these important tasks and we continue to find other responsibilities for the players. Board members oversee the players and offer advice.
Not only has this reduced the work-load for the board members, it has created a real teamwork type environment. It has empowered the youth players to be responsible and contribute to the club, and in return they are able to receive references and recommendations for their future endeavors.
Tap into this hidden resource, they are waiting to be asked.
(Tyler Isaacson is a club president, travel coach, recreation coach, youth player, college player and dad. He has 30 years of playing and coaching experience and is founder of youthsoccer101, a coaching support tool used by over 17,000 coaches)