For most, attracting and retaining volunteer coaches is one of the main challenges that threatens the long-term success of a youth soccer club.
With many club's losing up to 50% of their volunteer coaching base after the first year, what steps can you take to ensure you have coaches that see value in the experience and want to return to coach again?
Many soccer organizations provide insufficient support to their volunteer coaches, especially at the recreational level. This can often result in a frustrating and unrewarding experience for volunteers that they would rather not repeat. Ensuring your coaches (who are the face of your soccer club) are properly supported can transform their experience, the experience of your members and improve your coach retention.
Here a list of things every soccer club should consider when supporting their volunteer coaches:
· Coach Education – Provide a pre-season coaches clinic ran by a professional or offer a coaching license opportunity specific to the age and level of the players they are working with.
· First Aid and Safety – Provide the opportunity for coaches to know what to do if an injury or medical issue arises with a pre-season first aid clinic or safety presentation. Ensure you background check all your volunteers to assure the coaches and the parents that you provide a safe soccer environment.
· Umbrella Program – Provide your coaches with an ‘Umbrella Program’ that provides the opportunity for them to contribute to soccer that is not purely based on their soccer knowledge and creates consistency across your program. Parents want more than development of physical skills when they sign-up their child up to participate in youth sports. They want their child to learn sports other values like respect, competition, sportsmanship, team work, social skills, leadership skills etc… Selecting an ‘Umbrella Program’ to support the teaching of these skills affords the coach the ability to bring value to the role of ‘soccer coach’. Every parent knows how to teach these skills even if they don’t know how to teach soccer skills. Selecting a program that helps coaches focus on this helps them feel they can be successful.
· Curriculum – Provide coaches with a curriculum or curriculum materials to work from so that they are not under pressure to develop their own session plans. This can also ensure that if properly implemented, you know what is being delivered on your soccer fields is age and ability appropriate. This avoids coaches becoming frustrated with either being ahead or behind the development of the players.
· Equipment – Ensure coaches are provided with a comprehensive equipment package so they can create an appropriate environment at practices and facilitate the curriculum. Emphasis should be on safety and each bag should contain a first aid kit and ice packs.
· Professional Training – Hire a professional soccer coach to support, mentor and develop your volunteer coaches. This provides oversight at every practice, ensures the volunteer feels supported and has someone with knowledge and experience to interact with. Having a professional soccer coach on the field also helps you coaches structure and organize their practice as well as understand how better to interact and engage the age group they are working with.
· Feedback – Provide a mechanism for volunteer coaches to provide feedback or make someone at the club aware of any challenges they are facing. Ensure challenges are addressed quickly so that coaches feel valued and supported in making it a better experience.
Everyone likes to be recognized for their efforts. Rewarding and recognizing your coaches hard work, effort and dedication will have an extremely positive impact on your coach retention and the culture within your soccer club.
Here are some ideas to help reward and recognize your volunteer coaches:
· End of season parent/coach letter – Engage your parents on each team in writing a short letter to the coach thanking him for his time and effort over the season and the impact it has had on their child and their family soccer experience. Imagine how rewarding it would be to get 10-15 letters thanking you for your efforts and the impact it has had your players and families.
· Recognition in front of parents – On the last day of the season ensure to bring the volunteer coaches in front of the team and parents and recognize their efforts over the season. Giving them a thank-you card and a small gift is a great way of showing the club’s appreciation and making coaches feel valued.
· End of season awards banquet – Host an event ONLY for volunteers and coaches at your soccer club. Make it exclusive to people who have committed their time as volunteers to the club’s success. Providing a fun social event can help cultivate your club’s culture. At the event, present coaches with awards in front of everyone. Ensure your awards are not just based on soccer coaching ability and/or their winning record only. Instead awards should be also be provided for commitment to things like the club’s culture, implementation of age appropriate coaching, implementation of the program ideals, being the most fun coach, the most caring coach or the coach with the highest retention of players/families, Reward coaching attributes that are attainable for all volunteer coaches regardless of their background in soccer. Volunteer coaches seeing other coaches being awarded for things other than their soccer knowledge or coaching abilities creates an environment where they will all strive to uphold the club’s values and purpose. Coaches will want to return and do an even better job next season with the hope they can be awarded and recognized.
Most soccer organizations fail to gain from the feedback of their volunteer coaches. Putting together a short 5-8 question survey at the end of the season, can help your club understand what their experience was like, whether they need any further help or support and even whether they would consider coming back to coach again next season.
A coach survey also makes your volunteer coaches feel like part of the process. You are asking for their opinion and that helps them feel like they are part of the bigger picture and contributing to the improvement of the program and experience.
Finally, a coach survey can help you measure the success or value of any training, program or curriculum initiatives you have engaged in to support the coaches.
If your club need's help with solutions to help implement these ideas through customized programming that makes this easy for your board and volunteers, please contact us today!
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