A young male stands with his back to the camera, holding a camera. They are wearing a red shirt that says "Volunteer" on the back and a red hat. Converting Youth Athletes to Volunteers. Spark Solutions.

Converting Youth Athletes to Volunteers

Many sport clubs struggle to find enough volunteers. Athletes are often an untapped resource. Many athletes would be interested to volunteer during and after their athlete experience, but don’t know that this is an option. This article offers four things to consider when converting youth athletes to volunteers.

Promote Available Opportunities

First, it is important to promote the available ways to get involved. Your club may have several short-term options, like micro volunteering. Micro volunteering is done in bursts, like short projects that can be done in a few hours. There’s very little to no training, and projects are relatively easy to complete. Perhaps your equipment needs cleaning or sorting. Maybe you run an annual tournament or competition where athletes could get involved. Or, perhaps your organization runs a fundraiser or charity event where athletes can contribute. Some organizations choose to have their athletes participate in a coaching, referee, or rules course. They then have their athletes coach younger age groups or pair these athletes with older head coaches. A positive by-product of doing this is that your athletes have the opportunity to learn more about the sport, which may, in turn, make them better athletes.

Support & Mentorship

Providing ongoing support and mentorship is key to ensuring athletes have positive experiences as volunteers. This could include being honest about both the benefits and challenges of volunteering, and preparing athletes by discussing potentially negative scenarios and options to resolve them. Pair athletes with a more experienced volunteer or someone they know and trust. Check in with them regularly to find out how things are going, and encourage them as they learn their new role. Consider appointing someone a volunteer coordinator to oversee all youth volunteers. Support and mentorship will go a long way to ensuring their success and longevity as volunteers.

Ensure the Environment is Welcoming and Safe

Take an honest look at your organization and the environments where your youth athletes will volunteer. Refereeing, in particular, is a tough environment for anyone, and it’s especially tough for young volunteers. Are your spectators supportive and encouraging of referees, or do they make comments, boo, or even yell at referees who don’t live up to their expectations? Be honest about what you are seeing and address anything that could make your environment unwelcoming or unsafe. We have to remember that everyone is trying their best and support them to do better.

Acknowledge Efforts

Finally, provide feedback to youth athletes. What are they doing well? What could they do better? Young people want to do well and they appreciate honest conversations which could help them become better volunteers. Acknowledge their efforts with a sincere thank you to them personally. Consider a gift card or a discount to their athlete’s fees. Give a shoutout and recognize people by name on social media or in newsletters. Reward them by providing something that would help with their volunteering (such as a good whistle if they’re refereeing or a notebook if they’re coaching) or gift them with a branded item from your club. Small efforts could pay big dividends by simply saying how much you appreciate their efforts.

Youth athletes are willing, competent, enthusiastic, and willing to learn. By converting youth athletes to volunteers, you could add more volunteers to your organization and strengthen the culture of your club. Need help developing a strategy to convert youth athletes to volunteers? Let’s chat.

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