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Where have all the volunteers gone?
by Tyler Isaacson, February 24th, 2012 1:25AM
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TAGS:  youth boys, youth girls


By Tyler Isaacson

Running a volunteer soccer organization today can be very challenging.  The old 80/20 rule where 20 percent of the people are doing 80 percent of the work seems to have slid to the 90/10 rule today. It seems that people running these organization are doing more today than ever before. The result is many good people get burned out faster, step down from their positions sooner, and the club has a revolving door of volunteers wearing multiple hats.

We hear it all the time “you just cannot find volunteers anymore” or “people are too busy to volunteer.”  While those statements have some validity, your club may need to make a few changes to attract more volunteers.  What if you could create an atmosphere where volunteering for your soccer club is enjoyable & rewarding even if I can only give a few hours a week.  As an administrator can you change the perception that you must spend hours and hours in order to be a part of your organization? Here are a few suggestions:

The Almighty Board of Directors
Sometimes referred to as the “club” or the “untouchables.”  Times have changed and so should your board. Out with the old ways and in with the new ideas from the new people. Do you have a clear entry and exit policy in place for your potential and current board members, or is the guy/gal saying “whenever the next sucker comes along I will step down.” There maybe people who want to get involved but they have no idea how to break into the “club.”  Change that perception and become a friendly inviting group with clear policies. Include detailed descriptions of the available positions and the expected time commitment. (Be realistic with this in order to attract good people) 

Various Duties
Fields, uniforms, creating teams, web site updating and the list goes on. Take a look at your club and you probably have people covering multiple duties.  Many of these things can be handled by competent volunteers who don’t have to be on the board. List some of the lower level things (maybe once a season jobs) with complete descriptions and estimated time involved. Send an email to your membership that conveys the message of community support, whether one can spend an hour a week or 5 hours a week, you are looking for all types. You will be amazed at the response. 

Last but not least: The Coach
This is your front line which sometimes can look like a beaten and battered group that is being held together with duck tape.  This group really demonstrates how well you are doing at the top (the board).  You will not attract volunteers without a clear, easy to understand, plan in place to guide these coaches.  It all starts with the first year they jump on board to coach (many for the first time) the youngest age group.

Why is there such a decline in volunteers after the first year of coaching? I think the main reason is that they are frustrated by the lack of information, training and/or support that they receive. Common sense would tell you that if coaches are provided with a well supported curriculum that is easy to follow and translates into fun effective practices from the start they may be more inclined to volunteer again next year! If your coaches are not returning to coach next year, they probably did not have that type of experience.

Attracting volunteers is not easy but it can be done. With some good planning and delegating many of the lower level (once per season) duties, it can relieve some of the pressure that is currently put on existing board members who work extremely hard. Take the initiative and come to your next board meeting and call it project “Spring Cleaning,” and take the load off your 10 percenters!

(Tyler Isaacson is a club president, travel coach, recreation coach, youth player, college player and dad. He has 30 years of playing and coaching experience and has developed a Recreation Support System that is currently used by clubs/coaches in 30+ states & Canada. For more information, go to:

  1. john haley
    commented on: February 24, 2012 at 12:50 p.m.
    Very good information. I am a 12+ year coach, board member, assistant DOC, DOC, and lover of this greatest game on Earth. I am very frustrated by the discontinuity and lack of cohesiveness in our soccer community. I appreciate that we as American's can and should voice our opinions, but it can be detrimental to a club and coaching a team. I have seen incredible damage done by board members, and so called well meaning parents. A lot of kids are playing other sports, and or not playing sports because of it. I would like to compliment all that are serving this game and community for the betterment of the athlete and the community. I love it when kids that I coached for years, come back from college and play with me in the adult league; as they still have the love for the game that I had a part in instilling in them.
  1. Timothy Shelly
    commented on: February 24, 2012 at 5:11 p.m.
    I think that as the number of paid coaches, paid trainers, and paid administrators increases, the number of people willing to volunteer is going to continue to decrease. There are too many people involved in clubs whose primary motivation is collecting a salary and wouldn't be there otherwise.
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: February 27, 2012 at 11:37 p.m.
    Interesting assessment, Tim. The only "volunteers" I see at tournaments are parents that are required to volunteer by their club. Of all the people in our all-volunteer rec league, the only paid people are referees and an office admin. We don't have the dynamic you describe, but I find it worrying that you are forecasting a worsening of the pay-to-play model. Maybe it's the economy that has caused the pool of volunteers to dry up?
  1. Paul Giavanopoulos
    commented on: February 29, 2012 at 11:08 a.m.
    All of us--volunteers---have gone home. we are being told that pro's are needed to coach kids. is this not the stance of US Soccer? so many have found ways to make comfortable living from being "pro" coaches. I just want to ask US Soccer to do a study. how many Pro players have these Pro coaches produced?? just asking.

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