Episode 1 – Focusing on Operations

Your Sports Resource

Focusing on Operations, Renata delves into the prevalent challenges that sports club leaders encounter while managing their organizations in this episode’s comprehensive review. She discusses how to address the lack of skillset and capacity (time) for staff and volunteers, giving your vision statement a review, how the Head Coaches can level up their organization by investing in their coaches, and lastly, how boards should be enabling their coaches so they can coach.

Check out more podcast episodes: Your Sports Resource Podcast 



00:00:03 Introduction

This is the Your Sports Resource podcast, where each week we’ll discuss strategies that you can implement so the operations of your club support your coaching staff and the direction of your organization. We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.


Hello everyone and welcome to the first episode of the Your Sports Resource Podcast. My name is Renata Porter and if I’m honest I’m a little nervous about doing a podcast.  I listen to a lot of them myself and I absolutely know the value they bring, whether it’s an opportunity to learn or to laugh.


And in my business I’m on all the time. So while it’s a natural progression to put my thoughts out there in this format and to do interviews with others who can help us lead our organizations in a better way. It still feels a bit daunting, but never mind.


That’s enough of all that, let’s kick off the first episode by talking about why you sports teams should focus on their operations.


Traditionally organized youth sports are non profit. They can be parent or volunteer run, or coach run. Every so often you will find clubs that are for profit.


But I would venture to say that the larger percentage in the United States are not for profit. Since most of these clubs are nonprofit. That means you have a turnover in your leadership or you have some people who have been there forever and will be there until their dying breath.


But both of those situations can be good. Both can be bad or not so good. For example, high turnover.


Typically, boards will have members new members every two to three years, so frequent turnover can be an issue if you don’t have things in place to ensure continuity, so you have new people coming in they have no idea what has been done before them or what they should be doing as they come on board there’s no real handover, so they struggle.


And that struggle means months of being unproductive and losing interest.


On the other hand, when you have a club that is a bit stale and not really going anywhere, meaning they don’t have a vision or people to execute on the vision, fresh eyes can add some much-needed spark and enthusiasm.


One of the biggest areas where I see issues is that overall, the club isn’t run like the business that it is because you have turnover and typically their parent led boards that ends up being the case.


Now that’s not to say that the desire isn’t there, but the skill set or maybe the structure or the intent to lead and participate in the leadership that elevates the club is not there.


Sometimes you have board members who have the best intentions but no follow through, which makes it hard on those that do have follow through.


Sometimes you have board members who feel it’s no big deal, what’s been done in the past is just perfectly fine. Besides, it’s just a kid sports team, right?


So if you are a parent volunteer or participate in your kid’s youth sports organization, I know you can relate to these statements in some way.


These areas are the main reason why establishing some structure is absolutely necessary when it comes to the operations of your organization. Let me explain.


So when I talk to clubs they are happy to talk about their issues and problems and it almost always comes down to people or the productivity of people.


But as soon as I mention bringing in some rigor to their practices, they start to fade off.


Ultimately, clubs who aren’t focused on moving forward isn’t always about so and so’s work or the lack thereof. It’s about have you set the tone? Have you done what it takes or put things in place so people can be successful?


And I can build that case from recruitment of volunteers all the way to when they come on board to when they leave the organization and everything in between.


So let’s look at onboarding volunteers for an example.


Here’s the norm. It election time and you’re begging for people to be part of the board because you need people who will deliver, which is usually true.


But do your Members actually know what the board does or should do?


Have you sat down and actually wrote out your job descriptions for the roles and in those job descriptions have you very specifically spelled out the skill set required and the capacity needed, or the expectations of how much time they will need to deliver on their role?


That one statement right there is why you get some board members who never follow through, especially capacity.


More often than not, board members when they’re recruiting completely ignore talking about how much time is needed to do the role. So let’s say you really need someone who has a specific skill set. OK it could be like the treasurer role or you have a specific project coming up and you want them to lead that project.


OK, they could have all the skills you need, but if they don’t have the time to dedicate to the role, then it really doesn’t matter how good they are at that skill, right?


So if you’re looking for a treasurer and they’ve got excellent financial abilities and projection abilities, but they don’t have any time to dedicate to it, well, it doesn’t really matter where their skill set lies, so this is what I mean by setting the stage or setting people up for success.


Plus the other side of this is true just as well. Just because you have the capacity or the time, it doesn’t necessarily make you fit for purpose for the role, right? So, if you have no financial nouse but you have all the time in the world, that doesn’t mean you should be the treasurer.


I would never turn away a volunteer, but they do need to be put in the areas where they can deliver. All too often, board presidents pile on to board members who work hard, and they know that they will at least try to deliver instead of ensuring that there’s a board who actually can do the work, separate out the work and work together as a team because everybody has their own individual specific skillset and their own capacity.


What this does is it removes the heavy workload on the one and two and spreads it out across the board. What that does is allow you to not have burnout. And also allows you to get so much more done and your club can actually move forward.


So this means you have to be diligent about your recruiting. You must be purposeful in how you’re recruiting specific volunteer roles.


OK, let me take a moment to tell you about your sports resource. This is a website that is dedicated to volunteers and the leadership staff in youth sports. There’s a ton of free resources on topics such as board roles and there’s also information on fundraising and marketing of your club. Your sports resource also holds monthly interactive webinars that help you focus your efforts and put plans into action. The website, again, is your sports resource.


Now another area that is important in driving the operations of your Sports Club is focusing on the club vision. I do a lot of work with clients on the vision, values and behaviors to create the culture that they want, but for now, I just want to focus on the vision.


I see a lot of clubs establish their mission. Which is perfect. Everyone should understand why they are in business or what their purpose is, but a mission is not a vision.


A vision is where you want to go. What do you want to accomplish? A club vision isn’t static, it changes every few years because the board and the coaching leadership should be working towards achieving that vision. So accomplishing a goal in resetting that vision.


How  you accomplish that goal is your strategic planning, right? So, your vision is your direction and how you’re going to get there is your strategic planning. This is the first step in running your club as the business that it is.


I tell people all the time that our aim is for sports clubs to shift from old mindsets and sameness to running their club as the business that it is pulling themselves out of surviving into thriving with options?


Well, you can’t thrive with options if you don’t know where the heck you’re going and how you’re going to get there,  common sense right?


So do me a favor if you have a vision statement written on a sheet of paper somewhere or for your club, ask yourself some questions.


Is this a real vision? Is it a vision or a mission? Is it goal oriented or is it why you’re here?


Is it really where you want to go in the next few years?


Is it a vision that the board coaches and any other senior level staff or volunteers are on board with? Is it a collective vision?


Did I or we build a plan off of this vision? Did the board coaches leadership team understand they contributed to the plan to reach the vision?


So if you answered no to any of these questions, then as we begin 2022, I suggest that’s where you start.


And please don’t get caught up in the excitement of creating plans and not making them realistic. It’s great to have a big vision, but along with that is having the right people on board with the right skill set and the time or capacity to be successful.


So everything needs to be measured with a little against, uh, measured against a little reality.


The last area I want to talk to you about with regards to focusing on your operations is the coaching staff. There are a lot of organizations, there’s a plenty of information out there for every sport on athlete development.  Techniques, new advances in the sport. But what I’m asking you to consider is.


One, the structure and expectations of the head coach and the coaching staff. And two, how will the board enable the coaching staff and probably following on that is three is how will they hold the coaching staff accountable?


I see a lot of clubs struggle because they’re dealing with the coaches they have instead of investing in the coaches, you want or need?


That means having coaches that are in line with your vision and values. That means having a head coach that is stepping out of the old ways, who only focuses on the top athletes.


And moves into the new ways where he invests or she invests in their coaching staff by ensuring the entirety of the coaching staff is being trained.


Worked with,  led in a way that all athletes succeed, heck all coaches succeed, right?


Coaches are going to succeed if there’s investment in them in their training and in their delivery. And I think it’s much easier to invest in the coaches and elevate the club as a whole than invest in a certain subset of a team and only elevate part of your athletes. Hopefully that makes sense.


I relate this thinking to traditional team leadership like a department head who has several managers. Now I’m not saying that you must only look at this from a traditional business perspective. But you do need to consider what approaches level up all of your coaches.


Which in turns means greater athlete success and much happier and supportive membership. So briefly, that means ensuring that all staff have team and one on one touch points, communications across the board, not just with certain coaches.


Communication is a major hurdle with youth sports for some reason. So ensuring all coaches are informed receiving the same messaging and being heard is going to be huge for your club.


Then establishing opportunities for every coach to learn and grow. And lastly being very clear about your expectations and being held accountable for poor behavior and rewarded for exemplary behavior.


Again, all common sense.


But I see so many head coaches getting into playing favorites, having limited communications, limited opportunities to learn, which just leaves a lot of coaches feeling like outcasts or that they’re not valued.


Lastly, let’s talk about how the board can enable coaches. What is the board doing to ensure the coaches have everything they need to do the basics of their job and then what is the board doing to ensure that the coaching staff can get to the next level, whatever that is, so let me give you some examples. for the basics of their job. equipment or practice space.


For the basics of their job, equipment or practice space. I think one of the biggest things I learned over this last year is how many clubs bicker over the basics. Whether it’s not having them or how to get them.


If you want your coaches to coach, then quit expecting them to run solo in a finding the money to buy equipment and or finding space to hold practices. it should be a partnership where the board and the coaches are working together.


Budgeting developing a plan, whether it’s simple or having to create some kind of fundraising effort. It may mean you need someone on the board, or maybe even a parent member that has the skillset required to negotiate with locations for practices or events.


In the end, it’s an effort that enables the coaches that do what they’re hired to do.


Now that’s just a simple example, but the same can apply for the new member or athlete onboarding, or the process and approvals of time sheeting, or tracking time to how communications go out to families.


Again, the board and coaches need to work together, but the board should take the lead in getting these things resolved.


OK, so I hope I’ve given you some food for thought when it comes to the benefits of focusing on the operations of your club. If I can recommend that, you take an inventory of the areas in need of improve.


I never said you had to tackle everything at once, but look at where you can improve and if I were you, I would just start on the direction or your vision because everything has to feed off of that. Everything you do has to be in line with the club reaching their vision.


But break it down into steps, create a plan and then you can divvy out the work in an appropriate way.


If you need help with that, let me know, send an email to info@yoursportsresource.com.


All right, thank you for listening. And please subscribe rate and review this podcast. And even comment or ask a question. I’d love to hear from you.


Over the next couple episodes, we’ll be talking about culture and I’m going to dive a bit deeper into the visions, values and behaviors. Don’t forget you can find more resources on yoursportsresource.com.


This is Renata and thanks for spending time with me. Until next time.