Every youth sports organization is battling the clock — and it feels like there’s never enough time to press pause and look at how the organization is operating. How can you identify priorities to improve your organization without spending hours in a circular, mind-numbing meeting? Use this three-step process and develop your action plan to improve your organization before next season.
Step 1: Assess Your Youth Sports Organization
Rate the quality of your entire organization on a scale of 1-10. This should be a broad overlook at the entire organization (or at least the elements that affect you at the youth sports level). Invite your staff and board members to participate, regardless of their role or status (paid or volunteer). The broader the participation, the more insightful your results will be. Fight the urge to address conflicts in your organization while reading the results — there will be time for that later.
Don’t overanalyze this number — go with your gut and quickly identify a score. If that doesn’t feel like enough, have people add 2-3 sentences explaining their score. This helps you better understand the subjective ratings you gather from others.
Step 2: Identify Your Positives and Your Obstacles
Get out a sheet of paper and get ready to look at what is behind the scores each of you gave your organization. Draw a big T on your page. At the top of the T, list your goals and what you want to accomplish. The line down the middle represents where you are today. The idea here is to push today’s line forward.
After that, ask yourself why you didn’t give your club a lower score. List your answers in the left column. These are the positive things that are pushing you towards your goals. Now, ask yourself why you did not give your organization a higher score. List your answers in the right column.
These are the obstacles and hindrances that are getting in the way of achieving your goals. Depending on your organization, obstacles could look like:
- Retaining members of your organization
- Balancing administrative duties and handling parents
- Running a successful tournament
One of the most important parts when you assess youth sports organizations is the conversations you’ll have in about why your staff and board members gave the scores they did. The best insights about your organization come from these conversations.
Step 3: Make Your Action Plan
Before going any further, cross out everything that you have no control over. Now you are making progress towards the things that you can influence. This keeps your action plan realistic. Next, identify 2-5 things from your lists that you can improve now. They can be positives that you want to strengthen, or obstacles that you want to minimize. Your list should be a mix of both.
For each task, answer these questions:
- What tasks need to happen to address it? You’ll notice that some tasks have multiple parts. Break them down to create a clear and simple plan of attack. Pro tip: Act as if you’re being paid to erase and cut down the complexity. Execution hates confusion and complexity.
- Who should be responsible for each task? It’s okay for a group or committee to tackle a task together — just make sure each task has a single owner to lead and coordinate the work.
- When should each task be completed? Set timelines and deadlines to finish each task. If you find that an action item has more than one deadline, it might be multiple tasks that are related or linked together.
Time to Execute
Finally, your action plan is in place. Make sure this plan is executed by spending time meeting one-on-one with task owners to offer help. Don’t be afraid to delegate that help to others — you can’t manage this entire process yourself. Youth sports organizations fail to consistently improve because they don’t readily trust others to get things done. You’d be amazed what people are capable of when they are expected to own an issue and deliver the solution. Now that you know how to assess your youth sports organization, it’s your job to lead your team and execute.
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.