Helping to develop your club officials.

We all rely on the generous time given to us by our volunteers, not least those who take up the post of official, whether it be umpire, referee, scorer, timekeeper or assistant.

What can we do to help develop their skills and encourage them further?

When an official is a member of the club, we owe it to them to treat them with the same level of care as we do our players and coaches.

I feel it is therefore important to engage with our club officials and give honest feedback.  This should be done in a calm and neutral manner away from the game situation.  I am not saying after every game we should grab the official and subject them to an interrogation.  I am merely suggesting we make it good practice to assess and review on a periodic basis.  This is as important for your junior member who may be a newly qualified level one official as for a mature official with many years experience.

Recognising this may be a significant culture change for your officials is essential to avoid them feeling somewhat victimised!  The conversation needs to be sold as a two way discussion and an opportunity for them to discuss any concerns or ideas they may have.  For example if they are having discipline issues with particular players or groups you can support them by addressing this behaviour directly with the members involved, thereby making the official’s task easier.

My framework for assessing* is as follows:

  • Self assess – the official rates their own performance
  • Observer assesses – another official from the club (or external) rates their performance
  • Team player assesses – a member of the playing side assesses.

* all three don’t have to take place at once

The assessment questions to be the same for all parties using a scale of 1 to 10

  1. Overall performance
  2. Signalling and communication
  3. Judgement and decision making
  4. Positioning
  5. Consistency in decision making
  6. Conflict handling
  7. Handling of external factors (e.g. spectators, pitch inspection, adverse weather)

Once you have the written assessment/s you can use this as the basis for any discussion.  Offer support in any areas of weakness that may be identified and praise in the areas of strength.

Why not consider introducing an “official of the year” award for your next annual awards night and judge the winner on feedback and improvement made?

Without officials we would have no sport, so let’s nurture and support those we have.

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Posted in management, members, officals, Sports Clubs

Creating a great first impression

Yesterday I took my friend to the gym.  She was terrified!  What to me was an everyday occurrence that I enjoyed, became for her a scary experience that took her right out of her comfort zone.

On discussing this further with her she asked me how I would feel attending her tap dancing class?  Now for someone with two left feet and a total lack of rhythm I know that I would be shaking in my boots and very reticent to actually walk through the door.

How easy it is for us to forget that our passion is so much a part of our lives that we fail to acknowledge the fear it may conjure in others.

That got me thinking about our clubs and how important it is to create a great first impression to potential new members or parents (who may feel uncomfortable about being in a sporty environment).  Whilst potential members to your club probably don’t have the fear of the unknown in terms of the activity itself, they almost certainly will feel some apprehension about meeting new people, finding a new venue, knowing the ropes and fitting in.

When someone contacts your club regarding joining what is the process?

Are you confident that emails and enquiry form enquiries are answered promptly? You can expect a potential member to approach a few clubs for information and are most likely to be attracted to the first one to make contact with them.

I would suggest that firstly a member of the committee speaks to that person over the phone.  We are very reliant upon electronic communication but nothing can put your mind at ease more than a conversation where you can ask questions and receive answers.

Invite them to a club event or training session.  Be clear about where they should come, who will meet them and what they can expect.  I once joined a hockey club in Surrey (I will name no names!) and on arriving at training was promptly ignored by every player and the coach as they came out to the pitch.  Not one nodded acknowledgement, gave me a friendly smile or asked “can I help you?” On introducing myself to a couple of players they failed to know who I should speak to.  You may ask why I stayed?  The one and only reason was that I was mad keen to play hockey, they were the nearest club to my home and work and they played in the league I wanted to play in.  But are all your potential members so tenacious?

Make sure the person meeting the new member is fully briefed, a great time keeper and someone you can rely on.  Try and give this “meet and greet” role to one of your more outgoing members who can be relied on to chat and listen.

Try and match the ability level of the potential member to the session you put them in.  So when discussing joining with them find out a bit of background and the level they have been competing at.  Nothing will put someone off more than being put into a session with beginners when they are county standard.  Likewise putting a beginner in with your first squad may put them off for life!

Follow up – the great rule of sales.  This may be a chat after the session.  How did you get on, did you enjoy it, would you like to come back next week?  You may want to give them a call a couple of days after the session to see how they are feeling and answer any questions they may still have.

Finally, don’t abandon them after that first session.  Appoint a “buddy” to look out for them until such time as they have become established within the club and made their own circle of friends.

Whilst this is all simple advice, following it should help you to convert enquiries to members and ensure you retain those members throughout the season and beyond.

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Posted in management, members, Sports Clubs

What’s in a newsletter?

Newsletters are a great way of keeping your members up to date with club life. There are great newsletters but unfortunately there are often not so great newsletters which fail to fulfil their role.

I have outlined below some hints and tips for your newsletter editor.

Online or offline – what is the best way for you to distribute a newsletter to your members?

Online – there are a number of solutions for creating an e-news letter (for example here at ClubBuzz we use Mail Chimp and find it suits our purposes well). Many online solutions allow you to send e-newsletters for free and are worth your consideration.

Desktop publishing – you may prefer to create your own newsletter using desktop publishing or a simple Word package. You can then attach to a club wide email for distribution or print copies for manual distribution (or a combination of the two).

Whether you use an online system to create newsletters, create your own and send electronically (as an email attachment) or distribute paper newsletters the same guidelines apply.

Decide on your objectives – why are you creating your newsletter?  Are there easier ways of communicating, are you doubling up on the role of your website? Be sure you have an objective in mind so that you can assess the impact of your newsletter in line with your aims.  For example you may wish to use your newsletter to engage with non-members of the club, you may wish to contact ex-members for whom you hold no email address or you may want to hand it out to parents after training or include some kind of ticket/voucher for distribution.

Choose a punchy subject line for your newsletter – particularly pertinent for emails or e-news as many recipients will choose whether to open your newsletter based solely on the subject line.  However, equally as important for all newsletters to ensure they don’t end up in the recycling.

Consider article positioning – many readers will read the first few articles or headlines then skim the rest for items of interest. If you have important messages for your members try and position these (or at least reference these) in the first few lines.

Engage all your members – if this is a club newsletter then it is for all the club members.  Try and include articles that appeal to the various groups within the club (seniors/veterans/juniors/social members/ parents etc.)

Make it readable – use plain English, refrain from using jargon and if you want members to react to a particular article be clear about the call to action.  Include contacts for general enquiries as well as specific contacts for specific articles.

Don’t stress about the design – you can easily get side tracked and spend more time creating a flashy design than working on pertinent, user-friendly, interesting copy.  A newsletter which is engaging and well written will have a greater impact than a newsletter full of images and graphics that is poorly written

Keep it short –The frequency of your newsletter should determine it’s length.  if you publish a weekly newsletter then this should really be short (2 sides A4 maximum).  If you publish a monthly newsletter then this can be longer (3 to 4 sides) and quarterly even longer but only IF you have interesting articles to include.

Enlist help from guest contributors – however good you are at editing your newsletter you will often run out of ideas for great articles.  Talk to other members and committee members to find out what topics would be popular and ask for others to contribute their articles for inclusion.

Proof read – proof read your newsletter and then proof read again.  Ask someone you can rely on to proof read it too, you will be surprised how often you will find mistakes even on the second or third read through.

Review – Once the newsletter has been issued review it’s success.

  • Ask for feedback from members of the club – what did they like, how clear was it, was it relevant to them?
  • Ask for feedback from committee members – did they get any reaction to their articles, where there were calls to action how much response did they get?
  • If using an e-newsletter package check click through rates for any links you may have included.  This is a good indicator of how relevant members found the articles.  Check for open rates, a lower rate may indicate your subject line was not relevant or too “spammy”.

Editing a newsletter can be a challenging and time consuming role for a member so my final word of advice is to support this person by getting information to them in plenty of time, contributing items regularly and occasionally submitting an article for them to include.

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Posted in management, members, Sports Clubs, Websites

Situation Vacant…. filling your committee positions

Every year the same thing; people resign from the committee and you are left with some gaping holes in your management structure.  For some this can be a short term issue but for others, finding new committee members can be a real pain in the neck.

Having held a number of roles in well managed clubs, as well as some less well managed, I know the issue first hand both as a member being approached to become a committee members and as a committee member doing the approaching.

I have compiled my top ten tips to try and help you address this issue and make filling your committee a more pleasurable experience!

  1. Have a clear job description for each role, potential committee members need to know what role they are taking on, the potential time commitment and what the expectations of them are.
  2. Break down large roles to make them less onerous.  Either split between two committee members or ensure there is a sub committee to support a role.  So for example if your club has a large membership do you just have a secretary role or do you add in a membership secretary too?  On the converse of this, if you already have both these roles and are struggling to fill both, do you need both positions?  What tools can you introduce that may ease the workload and allow you to combine two roles?
  3. Create a “job advert”.  This helps you to focus on the role but also the benefits for the post holder.  Whilst you won’t be offering monetary reward, experience can be so valuable to a student’s CV, shaping the future of the club can be important to a family member, adding new skills to a portfolio can be important to a career minded individual and giving something back to the community may be of interest to someone coming to the end of their sports career.
  4. Have a club plan.  This allows potential committee members to understand the vision and recognise the benefits of this for the club and see their role in achieving this vision.  A good club plan can create passion and enthusiasm and the desire to get involved.
  5. Communicate well.  Use all the tools at your disposal to communicate vacant roles and give ample notice.  So for example post vacancies on your website, in your newsletter, on noticeboards and enlist the support of team captains and managers to update members. (It is important that you have fully briefed anyone you enlist to sell the role in a positive light).
  6. Head hunt.  Don’t be afraid to go out and target someone you feel meets the requirements of the role.  If big business can do this so can you!  It is essential that you consider the approach and the conversation you propose to have.  You don’t want to sound desperate and you want the individual to realise you want them because of the value they will add.
  7. Target your bottom 20%.  Remember the 20/80/20 breakdown of your membership (mentioned in an earlier post).  Your committee currently is probably made up of your top 20%, die hard members of the club who will probably never leave.  The next 60% are your “safe” members; participating regularly and happy with their status within the club.  Your bottom 20% are your “at risk” members.  Those not fully engaged, maybe not participating regularly and not fully engaged with club social life.  These members will be able to offer some real insight to committee meetings and will have loads to offer.  So ensure all your advertising and targeting is appropriate to reach and engage with this audience.
  8. Promise and deliver responsibility.  So many committee positions actually offer very little power.  Make sure you allow committee members to have responsibility for their remit, know that they will be listened to and allowed to drive forward their part of the club vision.
  9. Co-opt members for ad-hoc projects or to support a large project. Don’t be afraid to co-opt members on to the committee as required in order to take the pressure off the full committee. This way members of the committee will have support when required and will be more likely to stay in position for longer. I am sure you will find that co-opting people to take on a role for a short term will prove easier that filling a full time position.
  10. Don’t be too serious!  It is so important that when getting volunteers who are combining this role with their full time work or other commitments outside the club, that there is room for some laughter and fun.  Manage your meetings well, start and finish on time and find some time for social interaction with your fellow committee members.

If you have any tips of your own to help other clubs tackle this tricky issue please do share them with me, I would love to know how the best clubs manage to fill their positions and maintain a harmonious and productive management team.

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Posted in management, members, Sports Clubs

The importance of website review?

I firstly need to declare my interest here.  Running a company that provide websites for sports clubs, I clearly have a vested interest in writing on this topic. However, I do believe it pertinent to take a look at what your website looks like and secondly to consider the content within.

I don’t believe there are absolute rights or wrongs, you need to decide what is right for your club and whether your website portrays your club in it’s best light.

Visual Impact – what kind of impact does your site have?  Combined text and pictures give you the opportunity to illustrate club life so much better than words alone.  Take another look at your website and consider how attractive it is visually to readers.  Visual impact is more important than you may at first think. If a visitor finds the site attractive and easy to navigate they are far more likely to stay on the site and visit more pages.

Legibility – Is your font easy to read, do your text and background colours make for easy reading?  If you use an unusual font it may be hard for some to read. Check that there are no overlaps with text boxes or misaligned headers etc.  You need your site to be fully legible and to be professional in it’s appearance.

Overkill – is your homepage endless?  When visitors have to keep scrolling and scrolling down they will get bored.  Your homepage should have impact and be a shop window for your club. if you were running a shop you wouldn’t put every thing you sold in the window, you would put tasters from each department.  In the same way don’t fill your homepage with everything your club does, add some tasters and provide relevant links.  Likewise you wouldn’t put your least attractive items in the window, you save these for elsewhere in the store.  For example whilst the history of your club is of interest to some, don’t take up prime window space by adding to your home page, it adds little value yet takes up a lot of space.

Links – Do all your links work or are some broken?  A quick review periodically will ensure that your links are all working.  Some links you use may be seasonal, for example if you link to the league’s website for league tables, make sure you update them for the new season.

Communication – how easy is it for a visitor to your site to make contact with the relevant person within your club?  Can they find a name and contact details for the membership secretary, the junior chairman, the welfare officer?  If they are interested in joining is there a simple mechanism to find out more?

Content – does the site have all the content it needs to highlight every aspect of club life?  This needs to include information for:

  • Potential members
  • Current members
  • Parents
  • Visiting teams and officials
  • The local community

When you undertake your review look at the website from each of the above 5 viewpoints to check you have included all the relevant information.

Whilst reviewing your site, don’t hesitate to remove old and outdated information.  You could perhaps set up an archive area and upload old content, however if you don’t clear out content from time to time you will end up with a lot of outdated clutter on your site.

Advertising – some sites use home page advertising.  Examine how this appears on your site, does it dominate or detract from your main message?  Are you in control of the advertising or do you use a third party for this?  If you are not in control are you happy that the advertising is appropriate to your audience?

Sponsorship – offering sponsors a link from your website is an excellent way for them to gain awareness and monitor how successful their sponsorship is (by measuring traffic from your website).  So take a look at how you promote your sponsors, would you sponsor your club given the coverage and position your logo and link receive?  This point is particularly pertinent when combining advertising and sponsors on your homepage, you don’t want your sponsors left out in the cold.

You can review your own club website regularly, but I advise  you try and get feedback from a third party.  If you can find someone who knows little about your club (a work colleague or extended family member perhaps) ask them to take a look at your website and tell you:

  • What they think the ethos of your club is?
  • What age group is the club for?
  • How easy they find it to navigate?
  • Did they find it interesting?

You could also impose on their generosity of time a bit further and ask them to view a competitor’s website (a club who you may vie with for members).  Which do they prefer, which club would attract them the most and why?

The feedback they provide may serve to reinforce your opinion that your website is doing a great job.  However, it may prompt you to take a closer look at your website, to make small changes that will enhance the user experience and highlight your club in a positive light making it the number one choice for your sport in your area.

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Posted in management, Sports Clubs, Uncategorized, Websites

So you want your club to be successful – part 4 of 4

Planning for success is an important part of keeping your club active and vibrant. Clubs that plan and have a clear vision are the ones that will survive.  Don’t be put off by this, your vision does not have to be all singing all dancing just a clear idea of where you want the club to be in a few years and how you are going to ensure it gets there.

In my last three posts we have looked at the first three elements of successful planning; preparation, creating the plan and implementation.  Today I want to look at the final element, review and assessment.

For your club this doesn’t necessarily involve a deep and prolonged assessment of all the elements of the plan.  I suggest that you simply go back to your vision and see where you are against each of the goals you set.

You need to look at the following elements:

Budget – did we achieve our goals within budget, if not what was the overspend and what impact does that have on the club?

Time – did we achieve our goals within the desired time frame?  If there are still outstanding goals can you reassess and set an updated time target for achievement?   What is the impact on the club of any uncompleted goal and does it have a knock on consequence for other goals/actions within the plan?

Quality – have we achieved the quality level we desired?  Whether this be a service level or a material addition to the club, it’s worth reviewing whether you are happy with the levels you have achieved.

Communication – how do you feel the plan was communicated to your members?   What feedback if any did you get and how could you improve on communications in the future?

Success – finally look at the success of the overall plan.  Have you achieved what you set out to achieve?

Because some plans are longer term than others, review and assessment may be required as you reach each milestone, or it may be for short term projects you just need to review on completion of the plan.

Planning is important for us all, don’t leave the future of your club to chance, follow our steps to planning success and don’t be shy, let us know how you got on!

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Posted in Events, management, members, Sports Clubs

So you want your club to be successful – part 3 of 4

My last two posts have looked at how as a club you can tackle planning, whether just putting together your long term club plan or planning for something significant for the club; securing funding for new facilities, organisation of a major event etc.  We have covered the first two major phases, firstly preparation and secondly planning.  Now consider the third phase, you are ready, you’ve done your homework, you’ve written your plan, now you must implement the plan.

Now your plan is in place, it is important that it doesn’t sit on the shelf gathering dust.  It is all too easy to start with a bang and finish with a whimper.  For the plan to be successfully implemented you need to maintain momentum.

Sell the idea, get buy-in

It’s important to get the Club members behind the project and driving it forward right from the beginning. This will enable all involved to understand the benefits of the plan, and see how the club will change for the better. Depending upon the importance of the plan to the club there are different ways of communication. For major projects scheduling an EGM may be appropriate, for smaller plans or projects with less impact, briefing to squads/teams, newsletters or website updates are all ways of transferring this message effectively.

Make sure you give someone responsibility for implementing each goal. 

As stated in the planning phase, it is important that although there may be a team looking at each goal you must give one person overall responsibility for implementation. This way not only is everyone then clear of the chain of responsibility but it also it makes monitoring and evaluation much easier too. Don’t forget to allocate a budget, or other necessary resources (including time) to this person so that they can take full responsibility without having to constantly refer back to the main committee.  Make sure each goal owner knows their level of autonomy, what they can decide without having to refer upwards.

Don’t add in unnecessary barriers

If your preparation phase was completed effectively you should have identified barriers to success.  Once the plan is in the implementation phase be careful not to start adding in barriers or allowing negativity to creep in.  If you do experience an unforeseen setback, work closely with your team to identify a solution and amend your plan accordingly.

Add goals to your regular meeting agendas

If you regularly discuss your plan and its goals, things will get done. If one of your objectives is to introduce a Junior Academy, have “Junior Academy” listed as a standing item on your agenda. Allow time for an update on progress from the owner and then invite feedback from attendees.

Celebrate success

Celebrate the small steps along the way. Ensure you let the planning team and the club members know when each change or success is as an outcome of the club plan.  Success is the greatest motivator to keep everyone going and focused on the plan.

Once you have implemented your plan it is tempting to celebrate and sit back basking in the glory.  Yes, by all means feel proud but my next post will touch on your final task, review and assessment.

Posted in management, members, Sports Clubs