Recruiting Volunteers for Youth Sports Programs: 4 Tips

Your club’s volunteers are essential to keeping your youth sports programs running smoothly. They’re the coaches, assistants, and other cheerleaders that create a positive experience for the young athletes in your community, helping kids develop lifelong skills and friendships. 

But as a park and recreation professional, it can be challenging to recruit enough qualified volunteers to help out. You must find individuals who not only want to support your programs but also have enough free time in their schedules to actually do so. 

In this post, we’ll highlight four effective tips for recruiting volunteers for your youth sports programs: 

  1. Reach out to a wide range of audiences. 
  2. Use a multichannel approach. 
  3. Share the benefits of participation. 
  4. Set volunteers up for success.

Effective volunteer recruitment starts with connecting with the right people using the right message. What does that look like in reality? Read on to learn more!

1. Reach out to a wide range of audiences. 

The first people you probably turn to recruit volunteers for your youth sports programs are the athletes’ parents and guardians. But as you know, these individuals are often busy and may not always be looking to take on the responsibility that comes with volunteering. 

Therefore, make sure your recruitment strategy is wide-ranging and inclusive to give parents a break and ensure you aren’t overlooking any enthusiastic potential volunteers. Target your recruiting efforts to reach: 

  • Past volunteers: This includes past coaches, assistants, concession workers, referees, and other supporters who might have let their involvement lapse. You never know who might be interested in coming back!
  • Former youth sports program participants: Depending on how long your program has operated, you might have program alumni who are willing to contribute their time to create a great experience for this generation’s athletes.
  • High school or college student volunteers: High school and college students are often looking for ways to get involved in the community to earn service hours. Volunteering in a youth sports program can be a fun way to earn these hours. 

While these individuals might be a highly receptive audience for your recruitment efforts, don’t leave parent/guardian recruitment out of the picture entirely! Caregivers are often excited to engage in their child’s sports journey, making them a perennially helpful audience to turn to.

2. Use a multichannel approach. 

You won’t be able to reach all prospective volunteers by marketing your opportunities on just one platform. Take a multichannel approach and pursue a variety of recruitment platforms, including: 

  • In-person: Recruit ahead for next season by talking with attendees at games and practices. 
  • Traditional advertising: Post recruitment ads in your local newspaper, create flyers to hang in popular areas such as your local library or create direct mail postcards to send to prospective volunteers. 
  • Online marketing: Use your social media pages and email newsletters to spread the word about open positions. 

Use each platform to reinforce your message, boosting the chances that your target audience members will see and engage with your outreach content. 

3. Share the benefits of participation. 

Although they won’t be getting paid, that doesn’t mean your sports program volunteers won’t receive anything from their volunteer efforts. Your recruitment marketing materials should highlight volunteering benefits, including opportunities to: 

  • Help youth members of the community thrive in a constructive environment.
  • Fulfill volunteer hour requirements for a club or class. 
  • Get to know more people in the community.
  • Access any special volunteer perks you offer, such as free concessions or appreciation gifts.
  • Potentially be able to contribute a monetary donation to your organization via a volunteer grant

These benefits might provide the motivation some individuals need to not only get involved but also stay involved in your program for years to come. 

4. Set volunteers up for success.

Your program’s volunteers won’t want to head into a new sports season feeling unprepared, especially your new volunteers who are participating for the first time. Ensure your recruitment materials describe the type of support volunteers will receive before the season starts, including: 

  • Training: Offer a thorough pre-season training session for new coaches and assistants. 
  • Equipment/supplies: Provide volunteers with training equipment, such as cones, pinnies for scrimmages, goals, whistles, clipboards, etc. 
  • Participant waivers: Offer an online waiver system for participants’ guardians to sign digitally, taking the stress of getting waivers signed off your volunteers’ shoulders. 

Be responsive to questions early on in the recruitment process. Also, once volunteers sign up, use your volunteer management software to offer them a streamlined scheduling process that makes it easier to know where to be and when to be there. 

Enthusiastic, empowered volunteers can make all the difference when it comes to running your youth sports program. Be sure to reach out to a diverse group of potential volunteers and equip them with the proper resources to succeed. 

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Valuing Volunteers

With the exception of 2020, which wiped out youth sports, one of my favorite moments each year is reviewing the final applications from the NAYS volunteer coach- and parent-of-the-year nominations. Applications come in from around the world from member organizations on almost every U.S. military installation that organizes youth sports.

Recognizing volunteers has always been one of the top priorities of youth-sports administrators. It is always on top of the list when we survey members about the best ways to attract more volunteers to programs. I don’t know of a better way to recognize volunteers than with awards that shine a spotlight on all the hard work and effort they put into programs in their communities.

Reading about the moms and dads who spend hours before, during, and even after a season concludes is truly inspiring. I think about the military mom who won the Parent of the Year award a couple years back. A number of her children were enrolled in sports, and she took on the responsibility of coaching because many of the other parents were active duty and could not dedicate the time. The fact that she not only coached her own team of 7- and 8- year-olds, but also acted as a team mom for another team because of a lack of parents available, made her an easy selection. I think of a Coach of the Year recipient from a number of years ago who had contracted a flesh-eating virus, lost both of his hands and legs, and still returned to coach kids in a basketball league. And he’s still coaching today.

I also think of my own coaches and team moms from many years ago. Instead of going home from work, these hard-working men and women volunteered their time to work on drills with me and my teammates, and then would sit in the parking lot until dark discussing game strategy and line-ups. I didn’t appreciate it back then, but I sure do now.

These are the people who truly make youth sports operate. Just think about that for a second. If we had to pay these individuals for their true value, consider how much youth-sports participation would cost in this country. You really don’t have to wonder; just look to the school system and see what it costs to have qualified, caring individuals in charge of our children’s education. It truly is astounding when you think about it.

What’s even more astounding is not every organization we work with actually takes the time to participate in the award program. Of course, there is only one winner for each category nationally, but that doesn’t limit the impact that can be made locally. One doesn’t need a national award to make an impact. We encourage all organizations to give multiple awards during the season. A weekly or even a mid-season event, where volunteers can be nominated and recognized, can have a tremendous impact on a program and show volunteers they are valued and appreciated for their efforts. Plus, if recreation leaders are going to submit a nomination for an annual award or a national award, they have already done all the work.

We have always stressed to administrators that volunteers should be regarded as employees. Part of that process is screening to ensure you have only the best people with the best intentions; monitoring and recognizing those individuals is the best way to ensure volunteers will be willing to show up when the next season rolls around. Plus, what better way is there to inspire the next wave of parents who will be joining the program?

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Understanding Youth Sports: Risk Management

Risk Management is never fun. It can be long, time-consuming, and tedious. But, it is 100% essential. Risk Management is something that can save lives and is a key part of preventing serious injuries. Risk Management also plays a key role in league and team operations. Failure to complete these steps can result in serious financial loss and even shut down entire leagues. While at the time it may not seem all that important when you’re trying to card players, get rosters and schedules set, etc. Having you and your staff complete Risk Management is essential.

There are several key steps and tips to assure your Risk Management and help mitigate risks.

1.     Have the proper insurances and liability waivers in place to protect staff members, volunteers, the facility, and the participants.

2.     Have all other administrative aspects of a program in order, including managing finances, forms, contracts, etc., and ensure that these documents are handled and reviewed by multiple people in the organization for proper accountability and “checks and balances.”

3.     Do routine, documented facility and equipment inspections to identify liabilities and hazards. For example, inspect and survey a play space to make sure it is safe before participants arrive, and make sure it stays safe while participants are in the area. If a potential liability or hazard is found, fix it immediately. If you cannot fix it, secure the area with proper signage so no one can approach it.

4.     Ensure all equipment provided (to teams and participants) is safe. Provide safety equipment when needed and inspect equipment before all games.

5.     Train staff members, coaches, managers, and volunteers properly on all aspects of a league, and provide applicable training and certifications, such as concussion training, first aid, and CPR.

6.     Promote and monitor hydration and healthy eating. Information can be included in parent packets, orientations, and coaches’ meetings. On game days, look for signs of dehydration and fatigue.

7.     Have a contingency plan. What can go wrong will go wrong, so always have a backup plan.

8.     Have an emergency-action plan. Train for risk scenarios so staff members are prepared to handle any situation.

9.     Have adequate adult supervision on game days that includes staff members or league volunteers.

10.   Have written policies in place to strictly prohibit drugs, alcohol, tobacco, excessive weight loss or weight gain, and any illegal substances. Monitor signs of substance abuse by any coach, parent, or participant throughout the season, and have a process in place to report such abuse.

A common practice is to follow the 10 Ps of risk management.  

1.     Policy. Have proper policies in place to protect the safety of staff members, volunteers, participants, and facilities, and know what to do when an incident occurs.

2.     Planning. Training for incidents will better prepare staff members when an incident occurs. Have emergency-action plans in place for any type of league or program.

3.     Product or service. Understand the potential risks that may occur, based on the service offered. Knowing and understanding the types of risks that can occur helps to be more prepared to prevent an incident or handle an incident when it occurs.

4.     Process. Make sure controls are in place to reduce risk and ensure staff members are trained or qualified to handle them.

5.     Premises. Consider the size and layout of facilities and the risks that may occur. Know how much it costs to repair and maintain the facilities.

7.     Protection. This is much broader than merely protecting people from health and safety risks; it includes identifying risks associated with protecting people, premises, equipment, and the surrounding environment. Once the associated risks are identified, it is imperative to have the proper insurance coverages and waivers in place to protect your most valuable assets.

8.     Procedures. Be sure to have proper procedures in place if an incident does occur.

9.     Purchasing. Have policies in place to control costs, create contingency funds, and purchase quality equipment that will not pose a hazard to participants.

10.   Performance. Evaluate a league regularly to ensure you are following the risk-management guidelines that are in place. If incidents do occur, evaluate them and devise a plan to prevent future incidents.

Remember, don’t lack in your Risk Management. It’s not just about your club’s financials, but the health and safety of families.


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We are excited to be working with Goodyear Soccer Club moving forward!

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Sports Office 365 is excited to work with Gulf Coast Futsal moving forward!

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