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3 Ways to Successfully Resolve Conflict Within Your Youth Sports Organization

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Events, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Other, Soccer, Track, Uncategorized, Volleyball, Wrestling

Ruth Nicholson, August, 2021

Conflict Resolution: Positions, Interests, and Solutions  

Few of us enjoy conflict. However, there are ways to resolve it in less painful ways.

Each of the five levels of conflict intensity can be described in terms of its goals, tactics, language, and options for resolution. The five levels reflect the underlying objectives of the parties as the intensity of the conflict increases:

  • To solve the problem,
  • To come out looking good,
  • To win,
  • To weaken or humiliate the other party to get the party to withdraw, and
  • To get rid of, hurt, or destroy the other party.

Successful conflict resolution has three underlying components. All three are needed for participants in a conflict to feel as if the conflict has been resolved.

  1. Procedural satisfaction is the sense that the process of discussion, issue resolution, and agreement was reasonable and fair.
  2. Substantive satisfaction results when the solutions reached are realistic and adequately address the specific elements of concern.
  3. Psychological satisfaction occurs when the parties feel heard and are emotionally satisfied.

What are the three practical steps you can take to resolve conflict?

 

Step #1: Identify the Context

The first question to ask is: Who are the parties and what are their relationships to each other?

There is a myriad of relationships between board members and club owners, directors of coaching/technical directors, coaches (paid and volunteer), staff (paid and volunteer), parents, and players. Each relationship has its own context in terms of power and influence. Some are equals. Others have the power of employment and supervision, leadership, teaching or training, or a client/customer relationship.

Much of the conflict in youth sports results from the Alpha Dog Syndrome in which people hold different perspectives with regards to power, authority, and responsibility. Members of a board of directors are the alpha dogs of the legal and fiduciary responsibilities in an organization. Coaching directors the alpha dogs of the technical program in the sport for the club. Coaches are the alpha dogs of their teams. Club operations managers and non-coaching volunteer staff are the alpha dogs of the off-field administrative team. Parents are the alpha dogs of their households and their children who play the sport. (Players have a lot of alpha dogs telling them what do to!)

What happens when you put a bunch of alpha dogs together?

The point is that each person has role to play in coaching, leadership, administration, or other game and player support, but when people play “out of position”, it triggers conflict.

Consider these questions to prepare for a constructive conversation:

  • Who needs to be involved to address the issue?
  • What is the power and influence of the parties in relation to each other?
  • What is the history of the issue and the relationships of the parties?
  • How well are the issues and concerns understood?
  • What is the urgency of the issues and their potential impacts over time?
  • What is the best place and time to have a conversation?

Conversations to resolve issues are more productive when the power differential between the parties is lessened. One way to level the power difference between people is to focus on interests, not positions.

 

Step #2: Separate Interests from Positions

What is the difference between interests and positions?

Positions are the “how” manifestations or preferred solutions of the way to get what we want. People often begin difficult conversations with their positions and preferred solutions.

Interests are the underlying “why” we want or need something. The way to uncover the interests behind the positions is to ask questions.

The Five Whys is one easy approach to asking questions to discover the interests behind a position. It begins with the identification of an issue, problem, or position.

  • The first question asks why the problem happens or why the position is important. Listen to the response without developing a rebuttal or reaction. Acknowledge the response without judging it.
  • Then ask another “why” or “help me understand” question regarding the response. If you cannot think of a “why” question, simply ask the person to tell you more.
  • Repeat the process of listening to the response and formulating another “why” question to develop an increasingly deeper understanding of the issue. It often takes multiple iterations to find the real interests underlying a position or proposed solution.

Consider the example of two people who want the only orange available. Each of their positions is “I want the orange.” Do you cut the orange in half? What if one person wants to eat it (they are hungry) and the other person wants the zest from the rind (for baking a cake)? Asking “why do you want the orange?” questions uncover the underlying interests of hunger and baking. This enables the opportunity to find a better solution than giving the whole orange to only one person or cutting the orange in half.

The secret behind moving from positions to solutions is to identify the interests – the “why” – behind the positions.

 

Step #3: Find Solutions that Meet Interests

Before you can successfully find solutions that meet the interests of other people, identify, and communicate your own needs and interests. Then, you can discover the needs and interests of the other parties to see how they compare. Sometimes, the underlying interests are not in conflict even though the initially stated positions appear to be at odds.

To move from interests to solutions, try this three-part conversation:

  1. WHAT? Validate what the parties know about the situation and their individual interests. Look for areas of agreement or overlap.
  1. SO WHAT? Interpret what the situation, interests, and concerns mean to each of the parties. Build an understanding of the impacts and effects on all parties.
  2. NOW WHAT? Decide on next steps and solutions. Look for the easy “yes” items as you build agreement on shared interests that are not in conflict with each other. It will make finding agreement on more complex things easier because the parties experience coming to agreement and realize that it is possible (even if it is not always easy).

 One of the challenges with resolving conflict is that sometimes it returns even when the parties have come to agreement in good faith and honestly believe it has been resolved. Post-agreement conflict can arise from unanticipated events and is difficult to predict. The four conditions under which it is most likely to arise are when

  • There is an ongoing relationship between the parties,
  • The initial conflict was very intense,
  • The original issues in the conflict were complex or broad in scope, and/or
  • There was significant effort or change required by the parties to resolve the initial conflict.

General Principles for Conflict Resolution

  • Address and resolve issues at the lowest level possible.
  • Look beyond positions. Be open to multiple ways to satisfy your interests and the interests of others.
  • Develop an organization or team communication protocol that addresses:
    • Methods for regularly sharing information on team and club activities (e.g., email, websites, phone, text),
    • Best times to talk to your coach and how to do it (e.g., in person, phone, email, text),
    • A 24-hour or similar rule defining a cooling off period between the end of a game and when issues can be constructively discussed between concerned players, parents, coaches, and others, and
    • An overall issue resolution approach that outlines how to have an initial conversation about a concern and the appropriate escalation process in the event the concern cannot be resolved at the lowest level possible.
  • If you get lost in details, politics, or organizational administrivia, Compass Point North Always Points to Your Players. What is best for them?

 

Ruth Nicholson is an internationally certified professional facilitator, mediator, and organizational alchemist helping sports organizations better support players and coaches. She is the founder of GO! offering proven governance, leadership, and administrative tools. 

In 2020, Ruth was inducted into the International Association of Facilitators Hall of Fame. She was a co-creator of the international 2019 Think Tank to Improve Youth Sports which engaged over 60 speakers from two dozen sports. In 2018, Ruth was a finalist for the Hudl Innovator of the Year award for youth soccer. Her work has engaged sports enthusiasts in North America, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America.

[Free Download] Team Meetings Checklist for Coaches – How to Run a Team Formation Meeting

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Events, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Other, Soccer, Track, Uncategorized, Volleyball, Wrestling

Team Meetings Checklist for Coaches

The team formation meeting, also known as the organizational meeting or the first team meeting of the playing season, occurs shortly after players have been assigned to teams. For those clubs who hold tryouts, the meeting is held after tryouts have concluded.

The purposes of the meeting are to:

  • Introduce coaches, players, parents, and families to each other,
  • Recruit and identify key volunteers to support the team throughout the playing season or the playing year, and
  • Outline the coaching approach and team calendar of activities for the season or for the year.

We’ve partnered with top coaches and facilitators around the nation to put together a “Team Meetings Checklist for Youth Sports Coaches” that you’ll want to check out.

This free download has been created specifically with club coaches in mind and covers everything you need to run the most efficient and effective kick-off meeting possible.

If you’re struggling to stay organized this summer, or just want to see how the top coaches plan, then you’ll love this download. In it, you’ll see the 3 key areas for a successful team meetings, including:

  • Purpose of the meetings and goals
  • Topics and agenda to cover
  • Best practices for a successful meeting

 Click below and give your program the momentum it needs this season!

Download the Checklist

Terrific Tournaments – Staffing, Customer Success Stars, and Superheroes

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Events, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Other, Soccer, Track, Uncategorized, Volleyball, Wrestling

Ruth Nicholson, August, 2021

Are you preparing for summer tournaments? What are the keys to recruiting tournament volunteers and the value they offer your events?

Are you dreading your club’s annual request for volunteers to staff its summer tournament?

Years ago, I took on the task of redesigning the volunteer program to staff an international youth soccer tournament for about 200 teams. The work included recruiting volunteers and managing the staff on-site during the event. Fortunately for me, the focus was only on operations. It did not include game or referee scheduling. I even had a designated pool of volunteers because the sponsoring club required each player’s family to donate a specific number of hours to work at the tournament.

How hard could my job be? All I needed to do was schedule over 300 volunteers into about 600 shifts of work for a 4-day tournament.

 

The Key to Sanity and Success

Even when using feature-filled volunteer management software, the foundational component for a successful tournament volunteer staffing program is in the design of individual volunteer jobs.

There are typically three types of jobs needed to run tournament operations:

  • Directors or coordinators who oversee groups of volunteers focused on a specific service or program
  • CX Stars who work the shift jobs that implement specific tasks and are the customer service face of the tournament
  •  Superheroes and floating staff who compensate for no-shows and unanticipated staffing needs.

 

Directors and Coordinators

These people are the key tournament coordinators who are critical for managing and supervising volunteers working in a specific area. The job descriptions for these people not only cover the skills needed and tasks to be done, they may also include a timeline of pre-tournament planning activities spanning the months prior to the tournament and a list of supplies.

Many tournament program coordinators need individual volunteers before and during the tournament to implement their programs. For example, a tournament may have someone who coordinates the overall program for inviting and hosting college coaches to scout players. The College Coach Coordinator may need individuals to stuff gift bags prior to the tournament and to staff a Coaches Tent or information station during tournament play. Other common coordinator positions include Team Registration/Check In and Field Marshals.

 

Customer Success Stars

Shift jobs are the backbone of tournament operations and the front line of creating a quality experience for those attending the event.

When I managed a tournament, I developed job descriptions for 16 different positions we needed to run the tournament (not including game and referee scheduling). These included set up and cleanup of the tournament complex, checking in teams, picking up trash, parking cars, and staffing field marshal tents. 

The secret to attracting volunteers for these jobs and making it easy to manage the diversity of tasks was in taking the time to develop job descriptions for each job. The reason is that the process of developing the job descriptions forced me to think about the skills needed for each job, the specific tasks that had to be done, what volunteers needed to know to do the job, and what supplies were needed. Once I had the job descriptions, developing supply lists and identifying what I needed to communicate to volunteers was relatively easy.

 Concise job descriptions make it easy for people to volunteer for specific jobs because expectations about the work, its value, and the time commitment are clear.

For example, managing parking at a tournament seems like a simple and straightforward job. What does a parking volunteer need to know? What questions and issues could come up for them?

  • Where to park and where not to park
  • The most important places to have parking volunteers. Clear signage. Bright vests so that volunteers are both visible and safe when working among moving vehicles.
  • Money handling system for parking fees and program sales
  • The site layout, common areas, bathrooms, first aid station, field layout, and game schedules
  • What to do when emergency vehicles need to get into the tournament complex.

Yes, sometimes parking is a boring and unglamorous job. However, these volunteers play a huge role in the customer service and safety component of a tournament. They welcome and help almost every single one of your tournament participants. In addition, they are the first line to help facilitate access by first responders in emergency situations.

What other shift jobs are critical to making your tournament run well so that people have a good experience and want to come back next year?

 

Superheroes

Floating staff are the superheroes of tournament operations staffing. They are the secret to surviving no-shows and addressing unanticipated needs.

These volunteers are your staffing contingency plan and are as important to fill as any other tournament job. The job description for shifts of Floating Staff is basically “anything that needs to be done”. It is important to caution volunteers that they might be doing a lot of nothing or be busier than a one-legged person at a butt-kicking contest.

 

Results

How did my tournament turn out?

  • It averaged a 93% fill rate and a 7% no-show rate for tournament operations jobs. This was offset by volunteers who signed up to be Floating Staff. We were rarely short-handed.
  • Our operations volunteers donated an average of 1,250 hours of work annually (not including game and referee scheduling). This represents a monetary value of about $35,675. Nationally, the average value of a volunteer hour in the US was $28.54 in 2020. (See Independent Sector’s calculation for the value of volunteer time at //www.independentsector.org/resource/the-value-of-volunteer-time.)
  • The volunteer program design, recruitment, and on-site management took about 300 hours a year. That is the equivalent of about 7.5 weeks of full-time work spread over 4-6 months.

o   CAUTION: The work of a Tournament Volunteer Staffing Coordinator normally requires more than an average of 10 hours a week in the 4-6 months prior to the event. This is the caution threshold for volunteer positions. Volunteer jobs that require more than an average of 10 hours a week are rarely sustainable because that level of effort increases the likelihood of burnout, turnover, and potential loss of valuable institutional memory.

 

You Can Do It!

Your tournament can have fill rates of over 90% for its volunteer jobs. This can represent thousands of dollars of in-kind donation to your organization. It can also offer a quality experience for participants which will make them want to return to your tournament in future years.

Wouldn’t you want to volunteer to be a part of that kind of successful event?

 

Ruth Nicholson is an internationally certified professional facilitator, mediator, and organizational alchemist helping sports organizations better support players and coaches. She is the founder of GO! offering proven governance, leadership, and administrative tools. 

In 2020, Ruth was inducted into the International Association of Facilitators Hall of Fame. She was a co-creator of the international 2019 Think Tank to Improve Youth Sports which engaged over 60 speakers from two dozen sports. In 2018, Ruth was a finalist for the Hudl Innovator of the Year award for youth soccer. Her work has engaged sports enthusiasts in North America, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America.

Separation for Success – Balancing Coaching, Club Leadership & Parenting

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Events, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Other, Soccer, Track, Uncategorized, Volleyball, Wrestling

Ruth Nicholson, August, 2021

Consider how your organization addresses the key roles adults play in the experience of your athletes. It is common for adults to play multiple roles as coaches, board members, and parents of your athletes. When we mix roles or play out of position, we create conflict that can adversely affect our players.

Once upon a time……

A young player was on a team coached by the club’s Director of Coaching (DoC). She was the daughter of the club president, and he had dreams of her success. She had many interests and wasn’t sure that soccer was her favorite thing, but she knew playing soccer was important to her father. Her father liked being a leader in the club.

The DoC had worked hard to grow the club, recruit coaches, and build a quality program. He had a five-year strategic plan for growing and improving the club. The DoC had very little administrative help. His coaches just wanted to coach.

One day, the player had a really bad day at training. The bad day turned into a bad week. The girl was not playing well, she was acting up and disrupting practice, and the consequences included reduced playing time. The coach handled the situation the same way he handled it with any other member of the team, and the same way he, as the club DoC, counseled his coaches to handle it on their teams.

The situation escalated.

The father was furious at the treatment of his daughter. He told the coach how discipline should be handled on the team. When the coach held the line on being consistent with all the players on his team and in the club, the club president started asking others in the club for examples of the DoC’s poor performance. Drama, rumors, and speculation spread across the club. The board became divided with some supporting the president’s right to advocate for his daughter as a parent and others concerned that he was seeking preferential treatment because he was a board member. Coaching staff morale began to erode.  

The conflict exploded.

When the DoC remained consistent to the coaching philosophy and disciplinary approach he had built within his coaching staff, he was publicly fired at a board meeting. Within a few months, the president was driven off the board. Three quarters of the senior club staff were gone within a year.

Every year, variations of this story occur across the country. Organizational drama and off-field conflict are a major cause of coaching turnover in clubs. Coaching turnover influences player and administrative turnover which places incredible stress on clubs and their members.

What do these stories have in common?

  1. They rarely include someone talking to the player about the situation, and
  2. Adults too often play “out of position” with respect to their roles within a club.

Alice Aspen March, of The Attention Factor in New York City, believes that when children “act up” it is an indication that they are in pain or discomfort. Seth Taylor and Patrick Ianni, the creators of ON FRAME: Exploring the Depths of Parenting in the World of Youth Soccer, assert that what children need most from their parents and other adults is a sense of safety and value. Is it surprising that when our young athletes feel uncomfortable that they would “act up” to gain our attention?

When we as coaches and parents do not take the time to talk and listen to our players, we cannot see the underlying issues behind their behavior. The result is that our children become pawns in our assumptions about what they need and in our adult games around roles and power in our sports clubs.

We do NOT have to relive this story like a perpetual Groundhog Day movie!

What can be done? Try these things in your club –

  1. TALK TO THE ATHLETE. When someone has a concern with a player, talk to the player directly. Start by asking “How are you feeling?” Listen to their answer. We as adults can forget the significant issues in a young person’s life like a big school exam, a first date, or the desire to fit in. Sometimes the issue isn’t about sports at all. As the conversation progresses, ask other open-ended questions like “How are you feeling about the sport?” and “What do you wish would happen?” The more we listen, the more we will understand the situation and be able to help identify ways to support and help our athletes on and off the field.
  2. TRAIN YOUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS. One of the top five mistakes youth sports clubs make is not holding an annual orientation for their boards of directors. It is imperative that training for board members include clarification of board roles and how those differ from other roles in the club, including those of parent and coach.
  3. DEVELOP A HUMAN RESOURCES PROGRAM FOR YOUR COACHES. Clarify expectations through the development of written employment agreements and clear lines of supervision for coaches. The supervisor for a team coach should never be an individual board member whose child plays on that coach’s team.

CREATE A COMMUNICATION AND ISSUE RESOLUTION PROTOCOL FOR YOUR CLUB. One of the most valuable communication resources a club can develop is a clear process for how to address issues when they arise. It can be used in parent meetings, club handbooks, team formation meetings, board orientations, and coach and staff training. The purpose is to outline how to constructively raise an issue for resolution at the lowest level possible. Issues should only be brought to the board of directors after all other channels for resolution have been exhausted.

 

Ruth Nicholson is an internationally certified professional facilitator, mediator, and organizational alchemist helping sports organizations better support players and coaches. She is the founder of GO! offering proven governance, leadership, and administrative tools. 

In 2020, Ruth was inducted into the International Association of Facilitators Hall of Fame. She was a co-creator of the international 2019 Think Tank to Improve Youth Sports which engaged over 60 speakers from two dozen sports. In 2018, Ruth was a finalist for the Hudl Innovator of the Year award for youth soccer. Her work has engaged sports enthusiasts in North America, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America.

Gain and Retain Members — Customer Service Best Practices for Youth Sports Clubs and Leagues

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Events, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Other, Soccer, Track, Uncategorized, Volleyball, Wrestling

Ruth Nicholson, August, 2021

The experience that our members and prospective members have with our organizations is basically a customer service experience, regardless of the point of contact they have with our clubs.

How many points of contact does your organization have? Is there a central phone number and email, or is there a list of individual phone numbers and emails for club staff, volunteers, and board members on the website?

Each of these people represents a point of contact for your club. Each also contributes to the customer service experience that is offered to your players, families, and prospective members. Typical points of contact include –

  • Club administrator,
  • Field scheduler,
  • Referee assignor,
  • Webmaster,
  • Social media coordinator,
  • Board members, and
  • Program directors, including directors of coaching, technical directors, tournament directors, and volunteers overseeing major events such as social and fundraising events.

 

Customer Service Blunders

In July 2017, Forbes Leadership published an article entitled “If I wanted my question answered in 15 hours I would have waited 15 hours to ask the question” The article includes data collected on responses to customer service email and phone inquiries.

With regards to responding to customer email, the article notes that

  • The average response time to handle a customer service request was 15 hours and 17 minutes.
  • 41% of companies do not respond to customer service emails.
  • 90% of companies do not acknowledge or inform customers that emails have been received.
  • Only 11% of companies are able to answer a customer’s question on the first reply.

Customers react to this lack of responsiveness in many ways. They may wait out a response, but they will not be happy by the time they receive the response. This reflects poorly on the organization. Customers may also become so frustrated that they choose another company and become lost customers. They may also give up on email and turn to traditional phone support.

The key to a good customer service experience is accessibility to answers and to a live person when needed. According to Forbes, 60% of customers prefer phone calls to get their customer service support, and 77% of customers do not feel they connect with a live customer service rep quickly enough.

While we may not be comfortable thinking of our youth clubs as companies with customers, when you improve your customer service, you can increase your membership and volunteer retention.

 

Customer Service Successes

According to Sports Office 365, a virtual sports administration service, club members in youth sports organizations want four things:

  • A phone number to call, and someone to answer it.
  • Acknowledgement that their email was received followed by a timely and thoughtful response.
  • Quick response on social media.
  • The opportunity to provide feedback.

Responsiveness to phone and email inquiries builds a good reputation in the community that attracts new members. Ongoing quality service retains existing members. It costs about five times as much in time and money to gain a new customer as it does to keep an existing customer, sometimes more. Youth sports clubs rarely have large advertising and marketing budgets. In addition, staff and volunteer time is precious and often stretched to cover all of the demands of program delivery and administration.

The staff at Sports Office 365 and at GO! Youth Sports Resources have many examples of improved customer service in clubs that have increased satisfied members, improved revenue, and kept volunteers returning to support programs.

When the Henlopen Soccer Club in Delaware improved its phone, email, and social media responsiveness, it increased player registration significantly over several years. The increase was attributed to improved communication and responsiveness which gave families easy access to answers to their questions, including the personal attention provided by the ability to speak to a real person.

Club administrators serving the Celebration Youth Soccer in Florida improved their direct assistance for team managers and coaches by registering teams for events, scheduling travel, ordering player cards, and other administrative duties. The original travel team program doubled in a year and more than doubled the year after that. The result was that volunteers had more time to focus on internal team communications that improved the quality of member experiences and attracted more players to the club.

The FC Seattle Storm of the Western Soccer Alliance ran its home game stadium operations using an 88-person volunteer staff. All communications were responded to in less than a day. Volunteers also received free parking, food, and drink at games. The volunteer return rate between seasons was 98% because volunteers wanted to be a part of an organization that was responsive, appreciated their work, and offered to address some of their personal costs of volunteering.

 

Tips to Improve Your Club’s Customer Service

  • Designate someone to answer your club phone during both business and evening hours. Respond to voice mail messages within 24 hours, preferably the same day.
  • Respond to emails within 24 hours, preferable the same day, even if the response is “We have received your email and are working on your request.”
  • Audit and update your website weekly.
  • Include a feedback form on your website. Respond to submissions and comments with the same approach as to email.

 

Ruth Nicholson is an internationally certified professional facilitator, mediator, and organizational alchemist helping sports organizations better support players and coaches. She is the founder of GO! offering proven governance, leadership, and administrative tools. 

In 2020, Ruth was inducted into the International Association of Facilitators Hall of Fame. She was a co-creator of the international 2019 Think Tank to Improve Youth Sports which engaged over 60 speakers from two dozen sports. In 2018, Ruth was a finalist for the Hudl Innovator of the Year award for youth soccer. Her work has engaged sports enthusiasts in North America, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America.

Managing Expectations around Playing Time — The Two Most Important Questions to Ask

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Events, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Other, Soccer, Track, Uncategorized, Volleyball, Wrestling

Ruth Nicholson, September 2, 2021

One of the most dreaded conversations between players, coaches, and parents revolves around playing time. Nobody likes it.

In my workshops on conflict resolution for coaches and directors of coaching, I ask them to identify the most common types of difficult conversations and conflict they encounter. Consistently across the country, the number one answer is the conversation about playing time.

 

Player and Parent Preparation

A playing time conversation should be between a player and his/her coach. A parent’s role should be helping a player frame his/her concerns and preparing for the conversation. If additional conversations are needed, parents may be a part of them in a support role. However, parents should not be the primary spokespeople when it comes to talking to a coach about playing time.

I remember two conversations between my son and his coach about playing time over a decade ago. It was extremely difficult to quell my protective parent persona and tap into the trained mediator part of my brain. In retrospect, I wish one of us had asked my son WHY he wanted more playing time. That simple question could have made those conversations better and more constructive.

 

The first key question for a constructive conversation is “Why do you want more playing time?”

Why? Because a playing time conversation should be all about the INDIVIDUAL PLAYER. It is not about other players, their playing ability, or their playing time.

Asking a “why” question helps people move beyond their entrenched positions, such as “I want more playing time”, and into an awareness of their underlying interests and assumptions. When we ask a player why more playing time is important, we can help the player validate his/her assumptions and how realistic they are with respect to the player’s individual goals.

Consider some of the possible reasons why a player might want more playing time:

  • I want more playing time because it will make me a better player in my favorite position (e.g., forward, defender, goalkeeper).
  • I want more playing time because it will enable me to get the attention of the college coach for whom I wish to play.
  • I want more playing time because I want to be seen as an important part of my team.

Before the playing time conversation, it is important for a player to identify the reasons why s/he wants more playing time. This enables the player to approach the conversation with his/her coach constructively and with clear purpose and goals.

 

Empowerment Not Entitlement

The first part of the playing time conversation should focus on the reasons that a player wants more playing time. If a player does not initially share those reasons, a coach can ask the question. “Why” questions can come in various forms, from the blunt “Why do you want more playing time?” to the curious “Help me understand why playing time is important to you.”

When a coach takes the time to understand a player’s concerns, s/he uncovers the opportunity to suggest more than one way to meet a player’s interests. Yes, it can include playing time. It also may include additional options, such as position-specific training or other valuable contributions the player can make to the team. It may also include dispelling inaccurate player (and parent) beliefs about what playing time can and cannot accomplish with regards to an individual player’s goals.

Beginning with a discussion of why a player wants more playing time empowers a coach to tap into his/her skills, expertise, and knowledge of the variety of ways that can address the player’s goals.

The next part of the conversation concerns the player and his/her commitment to the game and to the team.

 

The second key question for a constructive conversation is one that players should ask their coaches: “What do I need to do to earn more playing time?”

An important part of a coach’s job is to identify who will play what positions at what time during a game. A team roster includes more players than are needed in the game at any one time so that there are substitutes available. So, by design, not everybody on the team can play all the minutes in a game.

On recreational teams, there may be a requirement that every player play a certain minimum amount of time. However, even these requirements may be based on a player following team rules about attending training sessions and arriving for games on time. On more competitive teams, playing time may be awarded on the basis of both following team rules and on competition for various positions among the players on the team. Players are rarely entitled to a guaranteed amount of playing time.

Players are empowered to take the initiative to work diligently and improve themselves. The power behind a player asking a coach how a s/he can earn more playing time does three things:

  • It communicates a player’s willingness to put in the work to earn something s/he wants.
  • It avoids attacking the coach’s decisions about playing time and putting the coach in a defensive, and less constructive, mindset for the conversation.
  • It opens the opportunity for the coach to help the player identify specific actions the player can take to meet his/her goals. 

 

Location. Location. Location.

The time and location of the conversation can have a significant impact on how well it goes.

Avoid locations that are within earshot of other people, including other players and parents. The playing time conversation should be between an individual player and his/her coach. It is not the business or concern of other players or parents.

Also consider the timing of the conversation. I recall making the mistake of agreeing to talk with my son and his coach in the parking lot near a soccer field right before a training session. We all felt the tension of needing to finish the conversation before practice started. In addition, it had the potential of increasing the pressure on both as they took the field with the other players after our conversation. The timing did not allow either of them to think about the conversation, consider what they had learned, or to prepare to make any changes to which they may have agreed.

Meeting after a game or training session near the field offers its own challenges. Imagine trying to have the playing time conversation while other players are waiting for you to finish so the carpool can go home.

Choose a location and a time that is convenient for the player, the coach, and the parent (if a parent is going to be a part of the conversation). Do not let the time or location increase the stress of the conversation.

Tips for a Constructive Conversation

  • Ensure that the player takes the lead in the playing time conversation with the coach. The conversation should be between the player and the coach first, without parents.
  • When you feel stuck, defensive, or frustrated, ask a question. Questions like “Help me understand why” and “What do I need to do to achieve my goal?” open opportunities to share information and identify activities that can improve the situation.
  • Arrange to have the conversation at a convenient time and location. Pick a time when the player and the coach are not pressured to get to a training session or other commitment. Pick a place that is not within earshot of other players or adults.

 

Ruth Nicholson is an internationally certified professional facilitator, mediator, and organizational alchemist helping sports organizations better support players and coaches. She is the founder of GO! offering proven governance, leadership, and administrative tools. 

In 2020, Ruth was inducted into the International Association of Facilitators Hall of Fame. She was a co-creator of the international 2019 Think Tank to Improve Youth Sports which engaged over 60 speakers from two dozen sports. In 2018, Ruth was a finalist for the Hudl Innovator of the Year award for youth soccer. Her work has engaged sports enthusiasts in North America, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America.

MaxOne Raises $3.5 Million Equity Round from Stadia Ventures, Chris Paul to Lead Digital Transformation in Youth Sports and Usher in a New Era of Coaching

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Other, Soccer, Track, Volleyball, Wrestling

Ushering in a new era of coaching and training, MaxOne’s technology and innovations are supplementing and enhancing in-person coaching, making it easier for coaches to interact and engage with athletes as they build champions on and off the field.

 

MaxOne on August 4, 2021

The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based company raised a $3.5M Series A round of financing from leading SportsTech investors to bring digital training to every athlete of every sport anywhere.

The round was led by Stadia Ventures and included Chris Paul, the Piquet Family Office, a minority owner of the Texas Rangers, and Wakestream Ventures. These funds see an opportunity to provide 40 million youth athletes on-demand access to the latest training programs. 

Today’s athletes spend 6 hours a day with their eyes on their phones and have come to expect on-demand access to coaching and training, according to Jason Mejeur, founder and CEO of MaxOne. Mejeur, who is a former college and high school basketball coach, saw the opportunity to help coaches and trainers show up on their athletes’ phones to inspire them to pick up a ball more often, to educate them, and to become part of their daily lives.

“The opportunity to democratize training in youth sports is a passion for our team. We want to give every kid access to elite training programs regardless of zip code or income bracket,” says Mejeur.  

Before Covid-19, digital coaching was still considered a niche market mostly consisting of early adopters, but much like digital tools such as Zoom, MaxOne was thrust into the mass markets and now has become synonymous with the acronym ‘DCP’ (Digital Coaching Platform).

“As we ran CP3 Academy through the pandemic, we were running 5-6 different tools to stay in touch with our athletes and help them train from home,” says CJ Paul, Director of CP3 Academy and Manager CP3 Investment Group. “When we saw MaxOne we were floored with how comprehensive the platform was and knew that not only did we need it but that 1000’s of other organizations will need it as they transform into the new normal of hybrid training – both in-person and at home in combination.”

Not only is M1 providing a platform for the masses, but they are also innovating quickly. “We believe that the smartphone is a powerful tool to aggregate and display an individual athlete’s data and provide the ‘so-what’ coaching recommendations. Our robust content library, partnerships with leading sensor and motion capture companies, and simple to use the content delivery platform are making MaxOne the center of gravity for data aggregation and training in youth sports.”

 Amidst their rise in 2020, they signed partnerships with NBC Sports Company, Sports Engine, CoachUp, and Upward Sports. More recently they have added Aces Nation, Basketball Training Systems, DNA Soccer Labs, Basketball Ireland, Jr. Reign Hockey, and Own It Coaching.

The company started with a handful of high school basketball customers in 2016 and now serves over 700,000 coaches, athletes, and parents worldwide in 26 different sports. Recently they have built partnerships with Uplift.ai and Zoom to incorporate live training sessions into their platform. Meanwhile, Mejeur intends to use the new funds for growth, adding more team members in sales, marketing, and product development. He points to the next 6-12 months as the window for securing the business’ leadership position in the Digital Coaching space. The key has always been to drive change and to help every coach anywhere fulfill their mission of improving the lives of young adults through sport and inspiring young adults to become Champions for Life.

About MaxOne

MaxOne’s Digital Coaching Platform (‘DCP’) empowers athletes, coaches, club administrators, and parents with a digital solution to train, connect, and grow together, anywhere. Supplementing and enhancing in-person coaching, MaxOne’s DCP features cutting-edge training tools creating the most sophisticated and engaging on-demand digital training experience available. Programs are using the MaxOne DCP to be relevant in the daily lives of athletes 24 x 7 ensuring that the efforts to coach and mentor not only lead to performance improvement on the field of play but build towards inspiring young adults to be Champions for Life.

____________________

Grand Rapids, MI

For additional information, visit maxone.ai

Tryout Questions Coaches Should be Prepared to Answer This Season

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Events, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Other, Soccer, Track, Uncategorized, Volleyball, Wrestling

Ruth Nicholson, May 17, 2021

Coaches, are you prepared for parent questions?

When my sons were playing soccer, I hated tryout season. More than tax season. More than any other time of the year. I detested the stress and insanity around it all. Clubs would vie for players by scheduling multiple tryouts in a day and over a weekend resulting in players attending more tryouts in a weekend than they would play games at a tournament. Clubs would often demand that players attend every one of their tryouts to have a shot at a team, which could be up to three tryouts in less than a week for a single club. How can a player stay fresh and show his/her best in that type of situation?

Did I mention that I HATED tryout season?

So, I came up with my own 3-4 question information-gathering interview for coaches who might coach my kids. Quite frankly, I was seriously less invested in the club as compared to finding a good coach for my sons. So, what did I ask?

1. What is your player development approach this year?

Sometimes I phrased this question differently. Some examples include:

  • What do you want the team to accomplish this year?
  • What do you want the players to learn this year?
  • What is your player development philosophy?

The purpose of the question was to gain an understanding of the coach’s training approach. It included his/her goals for the team and what s/he wanted the players to learn and accomplish over the course of the playing season (for recreational teams) or playing year (for more competitive levels at club teams). Our best coaches know that players develop in four areas: physical, technical, tactical, and mental abilities. They also know that at different ages, it is important to prioritize development in these areas differently. I wanted to know how coaches balance these four elements for the team and its players.

Regardless of how I phrased the question, the answer helped me assess the coach’s approach and how it stacked up with the development needs of my own kids. It also gave me some insight as to the coach’s view of the balance between learning the game and a win-at-all-costs mentality.

Coach, what do you want your players and your team to learn and accomplish this year?

1. What are your expectations for your players?

Personal responsibility matters.

The purpose of this question had to do with the coach’s view of the personal responsibilities for my sons with regards to the team and for their improvement in the game. I wanted to know what would be expected of them at team events, like practices and games. I also wanted to know if the coach planned to assign personal homework or other outside-the-team training. If I understood the coach’s expectations clearly, I could reinforce those expectations at home to support my kids, their coach, and the team.

“Coach, what are your expectations for your players on and off the field with respect to the sport, communication, and personal responsibility?

1. What are your expectations for your parents?

Too often in my work with coaches, I hear them say that, ideally, they would like to work with orphans with trust funds. I believe that a great deal of this unproductive angst is related to unclear communications and expectations between coaches and parents. It poisons the relationship we need with each other to support our players.

I fully expected the answer to this question to change and evolve as my sons grew older and took on more responsibility for communicating directly with their coaches. I pushed my kids to talk directly to their coaches at an early age. I was the back-up communication system.

The coach’s answer to this question gave me a clue to how s/he viewed parents. I valued coaches who could articulate clear expectations for parents and saw a partnership between the adults in supporting players. As a professional facilitator, I could tell when a coach simply wanted to coach orphans as compared to someone who wanted a real partnership with parents to support our players.

The answer also gave the coach an opportunity to inform me about team and club expectations for volunteer activities or other needs s/he might have in the upcoming playing season.

“Coach, what are your expectations for parents in terms of communication, support of their children, and support of the team and club?”

1. How do your players earn playing time?

I only asked coaches this question for teams competing at a higher level. The assumption behind this question is that all players would not automatically receive equal playing time and that these types of teams have an internal competitive environment. I assumed that playing time would be roughly equal for all players on recreational teams, assuming the players were following team rules.

I added this question to my interview list following a seriously awful experience on one of my son’s teams. I decided that it was important to ask what the criteria was so that expectations would be clear upfront.

The answer to this question told me something more about the coach’s player development approach and how s/he viewed the balance between developing players and a win-at-all-costs mentality. It also gave me additional information about what personal responsibility my sons needed to take on to compete within the team and on game days. Again, it enabled me to reinforce the coach’s expectations at home with my kids.

“Coach, how do you manage playing time?”

Most coaches were surprised that I asked the questions. One coach took the time to write me an incredibly long email with detailed answers to each of the questions. My son played for him, and it was a good experience for all of us. Other coaches struggled with the answers. Some even tried to hide their sense of offense that I would even dare ask for such information.

The key was that I did not lobby for my sons in asking the questions. The purpose was information-gathering only, not showing off my sons’ skills. My kids had to do that on the tryout field and earn their spot on a team themselves. Sometimes they made the team. Sometimes they did not.

Prepare for tryouts?

Preparation for tryouts is more than reserving fields and facilities, designing activities for players, and advertising tryout dates. Help prospective players and parents to gather information on your team and club at tryout time by communicating when team and club informational meetings will be held and adding information to club websites for players and parents, including policies and codes of conduct.

Preparation for tryouts also involves considering how you as a coach will answer questions about what you want your athletes to accomplish this season and what your expectations are for players and parents. Make time to be available to answer player and parent questions in person, via email, or on the phone.

 

Ruth Nicholson is an internationally certified professional facilitator, mediator, and organizational alchemist helping sports organizations better support players and coaches. She is the founder of GO! offering proven governance, leadership, and administrative tools. 

In 2020, Ruth was inducted into the International Association of Facilitators Hall of Fame. She was a co-creator of the international 2019 Think Tank to Improve Youth Sports which engaged over 60 speakers from two dozen sports. In 2018, Ruth was a finalist for the Hudl Innovator of the Year award for youth soccer. Her work has engaged sports enthusiasts in North America, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America.

[Webinar] 3 New Ways to Use Video Training Content with Your Athletes

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Other, Soccer, Track, Volleyball, Wrestling

MaxOne on July 23, 2021

3 New Ways to Use Video Training Content

Join MaxOne, the sector’s leading Virtual Coaching Platform (‘VCP’) provider, alongside SportsEngine Inc. at their on-demand webinar hosted by Todd Grant, Chief Revenue Officer at MaxOne. Todd will share 3 exciting and innovative new ways forward-thinking coaches are harnessing the power of video training content and digital curriculum to develop better athletes on and off the field.

How to Create a Sustainable Volunteer Program for Your Sports Club or League

By | Baseball, Basketball, Coaches Resources, Events, Football, Hockey, Lacrosse, Other, Soccer, Track, Uncategorized, Volleyball, Wrestling

Ruth Nicholson, June 17, 2021

Good volunteer program design decreases administrative costs, engages club members, increases program support, shares the workload, and improves support for coaches so they can devote more time to players.

Volunteers are not free. The average value of a volunteer hour in the United States in 2020 was $28.54 USD (see www.independentsector.org/volunteer_time). This figure – which is also available on a state-by-state basis – can be used in annual reports, grant proposals, and financial statements to support your organization’s work.

The five (5) steps to building a successful volunteer program are knowing what you need, inviting participation, preparation and training, doing the work, and volunteer appreciation.

 

1. Know What You Need

The first step in building an efficient and sustainable volunteer program is understanding how your organization is put together. From that foundation, you can identify what specific volunteer jobs need to be filled.

For example, there are three general categories of volunteers that may be needed to support an individual team (depending on the team’s level of play).

It is important to develop a written job description for all your volunteer jobs, regardless of size or complexity. The four (4) basic components of a job description answer these key questions:

  • 1.    What are the skills needed to do this job?
  • 2.    What are the job tasks?
  • 3.    With whom will the person work?
  • 4.    What supplies and equipment are needed to do the job?

Outline the skills needed for each job, both knowledge and physical abilities. Then, describe the responsibilities of the position, including the specific tasks and activities and the time it will take to complete them. Describe if the job is a one-time shift of work or if it requires working in bits of time over a few days, weeks, or months. The job description should also clarify who is the supervisor or coordinator for the work and who else is involved in the project. This clarifies expectations about who is on the team doing the work, how communications should flow, and who to go to when the volunteer has questions. Finally, identify what supplies and equipment are needed to do the work and who provides them.

 

2. If You Don’t Ask, They Can’t Say “YES!”

When you approach people to invite them to volunteer, be specific about the help you are requesting. Use the job description to both inform the potential volunteer and make yourself and your organization look good and well-organized. Describe both the benefit of the volunteer job to the organization and to the volunteer.

 Remember to make the volunteer job both meaningful and manageable. If a volunteer job requires more than an average of 10 hours a week, you are setting up a situation for volunteer burnout, turnover, and potential loss of institutional memory.

 

3. Preparation and Training

This step involves both ensuring that your volunteers have the knowledge to do the job, as well as the right supplies and equipment. Let your volunteers in on your organization’s institutional knowledge and “the way we do things here”. Make sure they have clear instructions about the job they will be doing, which may include written instructions with diagrams or pictures, oral explanations, or a physical demonstration of how to accomplish a task. Also let them know who to contact if they have questions or need help.

 

Your written job description should contain a list of supplies and equipment needed to do the work. Use this as your checklist. Let your volunteers know who is providing the supplies, including how they are acquired and delivered to the job site. In addition, clearly communicate what happens to any leftover supplies after the job is completed.

 

4. Get Stuff Done!

After all the planning, it is time to do the work! This step is all about supporting your volunteers doing their jobs. Know who is going to actively support and supervise the volunteers as the work progresses. Set the organizational priorities and have a back-up plan in the event something goes amiss, such as a volunteer no-show or a lack of supplies.

Also, incorporate volunteer feedback and suggestions into the job. Your volunteers may identify different ways to get things done and have ideas about how to improve the work in the future. Listening to recommendations and incorporating new approaches will more deeply engage your volunteers and build their loyalty to your organization. Volunteer engagement is often more important than job perfection.

 

5. Say “THANK YOU!”

A key component to retaining volunteers is remembering to thank them for their time and contributions. Express your gratitude in ways that align with how your volunteers see themselves and their talents. Those who see themselves as technically skilled will appreciate being recognized for their expertise. Others who are caregivers and peace makers will respond well to your gratitude for their looking out for everyone on the team. Those volunteers who are well-connected with people in the community will appreciate being thanked for their knowledge of who to call to engage resources and how to get things done.

 

Conclusion

How much time does your organization spend preparing for success in your volunteer programs?

The real secret to building a successful volunteer program is in the preparation. Consider how much time a coach spends preparing a team for competitions. There are considerably more hours of designing and conducting training sessions than there are hours in actual games.

The recipe for success for a successful volunteer program is three (3) parts preparation (knowing what you need, inviting participation, preparation and training) plus one (1) part doing the volunteer work plus one (1) part gratitude.

 

Ruth Nicholson is an internationally certified professional facilitator, mediator, and organizational alchemist helping sports organizations better support players and coaches. She is the founder of GO! offering proven governance, leadership, and administrative tools. 

 In 2020, Ruth was inducted into the International Association of Facilitators Hall of Fame. She was a co-creator of the international 2019 Think Tank to Improve Youth Sports which engaged over 60 speakers from two dozen sports. In 2018, Ruth was a finalist for the Hudl Innovator of the Year award for youth soccer. Her work has engaged sports enthusiasts in North America, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America.