Ever wondered what it would take to launch your own juniors volleyball club?
Here are 10 steps from Shauna Denney, president of 403 Selects Volleyball in Calgary and Art of Coaching Canada
If you have kids who play volleyball, you may someday hear this question: “Will you help start a club/team?”
At first, it may sound daunting. You’ll probably think: “What do I know about running a volleyball club?”
But if it’s something that interests you, don’t shy away from it because you’ve never done it. I know from experience that the “wizards” behind the curtain who operate juniors volleyball clubs are very much like you. Just hard-working individuals who have a passion for the sport, an interest in developing athletes and a desire to create opportunities for young people to be in a positive, nurturing, fun environment that teaches them life lessons.
So never say never.
If it’s something you’ve thought about or may consider in the future, there are some things you should know. Based on seven years as president of 403 Selects in Calgary, where I work with an amazing group of volunteers and an outstanding coaching staff, here are 10 pieces of advice from my “Been there, done that, learned this” file.
Before we get to the list, here’s Priority 1: Do some research and make sure you understand the requirements for running a business in your city, state or province. You can’t start a club without the proper legal credentials.
Okay. On to the good stuff:
1. Establish a working board that has diversity.
Coaches, teachers, business people, lawyers. Experts in marketing, web, accounting. Look for doers, not talkers. You’ll quickly be able to distinguish between those who get things done and those who talk about getting things done. Make sure that everyone is there for ALL athletes and that personal agendas regarding daughters and sons are quashed. Have roles for each member.
2. Hire a quality coaching staff.
Make sure your coaches are on the same page as you regarding the type of volleyball experience they plan to create in the gym. Your coaches are the
foundation of your success. Their compensation and the club’s commitment to their continued professional development growth should reflect the importance of their role. For example, you should budget for an Art of Coaching web membership for your coaches so they can have 24-hour access to support and instructional information.
3. Determine your “niche.”
How will you establish yourself as different from competition and then determine your vision and founding principles? Be consistent and committed to this vision and make sure your staff is too.
4. Create a detailed budget.
If possible, hire a professional to handle all accounting duties.
5. Develop a code of conduct.
Include consequences for breaches by coaches, parents and athletes. Review the code of conduct with all who are involved and then have each person sign it. Enforce consequences.
6. Determine “target” athletes.
Depending on the local/state/provincial rules you are accountable to, you may be able to recruit or preselect athletes. If you are able to do this, it’s important that you and your staff put together a recruiting plan and formulate a selection process for placing athletes
on a team that’s right for them. Use traditional marketing strategies like hanging posters in schools and facilities that train athletes. Host “open” courts for a nominal fee before your club’s tryouts. This will allow you to introduce the club and coaching staff to prospective families. If possible, try to have coaches recruit for the team they will be coaching because they’ll have the best handle on team requirements and dynamics they want to accomplish. Have recruiting coaches visit local competitions before the season to select athletes to pursue. Within the rules/regulations of your association, provide the opportunity for these selected athletes to speak directly to club administrators and coaches so families can be educated about who you are and what you have to offer this athlete. Have business cards or, even better, request athlete contact information.
7. Be flexible and adaptable.
This is critical. In the words of Oregon State Coach Terry Liskevych, failures and roadblocks are “opportunities to begin again more intelligently.” It’s important that your staff adopts this perspective;
you’re forging new paths in a competitive environment and need your board to have a problem-solving mindset. You’ll face many hurdles, roadblocks and even failures, but every problem has a solution if you just keep digging and aren’t too attached to a particular outcome. When necessary, compromise. Take the high road more often than not, and have several “Plan Bs.” These can address a variety of issues, including:
- Board members who are not “walking the walk.” Solution: replace them.
- Practice court-time issues. Have as many options as required to fulfill your court-time needs.
- Athletes leaving. Don't get too attached. EVERYONE is replaceable, and we do not own athletes. Have coaches or admin staff maintain an ongoing list of potential athletes and keep your tentacles in other sports as well. Don’t be afraid to take great athletes and teach them volleyball.
To help with all of your plan Bs, Cs and Ds, communicate your club’s needs to your committed families and ask for their help to expand. This will help you increase the connections you have in their communities, schools and workplaces. Finally, parents watch lots of volleyball and you know the ones that can spot good talent, whether it’s athletes or coaches. Enlist their help so your Plan B, C and D have positive outcomes.
8. Communicate clearly and in a timely manner to parents and athletes.
Articulate your expectations of coaches, staff, parents and athletes. Create a parent/athlete/coach handbook. Use emails, text messages and your website to share information. Be honest and open with parents.
9. Engage your parents in positive roles of support for their teams or as board members.
Make it mandatory for parents to commit to a certain number of volunteer hours. Hold a check ($250) as a volunteer bond for required hours and then provide families with options to volunteer either on your club’s board or at the team level. Be flexible on this; each family’s ability to contribute will vary. This strategy comes from the old adage, “It takes a village….” We ask parents to help by taking a piece of the organizational pie so coaches can concentrate on coaching. Examples of volunteers positions at the team level: team manager; food manager, web information, photography, social, fundraising, equipment.
10. Hold a mandatory parent meeting and also a mandatory movie night at the beginning of the season.
Start with a mandatory parent meeting (that has a sign-in) so you can review the handbook and go over expectations of volunteers. If a parent
isn’t present, follow up and hold them accountable for getting the information that was disseminated at the meeting. Soon after, have a movie night attended by every parent and their athlete to watch Dr. Bruce Brown’s video “The Role of Parents.” Alternatively, if financially viable, purchase 1-2 of these videos per team and have the videos circulate through each family by a specific date. (This gives busy families some flexibility.) Dr. Brown’s movie is a great way to educate parents on how they can have a positive influence on the club, the team and their son/daughter’s experience as an athlete.
A final thought
With athletes, we talk about commitment, passion, being a giver, responsibility, flexibility, teamwork, leadership, humility, perseverance, patience and accountability. You will have to model ALL of these characteristics in your role as a leader in amateur sports.
“Build it and they will come.”