Sport and Life Training (SALT) gets a lot of calls from local sporting clubs when things have gone wrong.

‘We need a course on respect and equality’ explained the President of this typical suburban footy club. He went on to explain why.

‘Our women’s teams do the warm-ups with our men’s teams at training. One of our young blokes said quite loudly, ‘Why do we have to train with these ****s?’ The Pres explained that they had dealt with it strongly. ‘We suspended him for 4 weeks and during those weeks he had to run the water out to the women’s teams. We need to follow up with some in-club education,’ he explained.

I agreed that they had dealt with the issue strongly and that some education would be a good idea. I went on to add, that really, the education is best when it comes before the punishment.

At SALT we have learnt that there is an order that works best when it comes to strengthening culture and changing behaviours. To create a new ERA in your club, you start with Education, you then make it clear whose Responsibility it is to act in accordance with what has been learnt.  Finally, if people who are responsible do not behave in accordance with what they have agreed is right, we hold them Accountable.

Too often clubs wait till there is a crisis and then respond reactively. The offender gets blamed and punished for acting poorly. They are asked to apologise and then sent off to get some education.

If we ask any team or club these questions, we invariably receive answers that demonstrate that people want to be the best they can be:

  • What kind of club do you want to be? (excellent)
  • What kind of reputation do you want to have? (strong but caring, respectful, welcoming)
  • What kind of influence do you want to have on the kids coming into the club? (we want to help and support them to have healthy lives)
  • Where do drugs and alcohol fit into this? (they don’t help)
  • Where does respect and equality fit into this (it really helps)
  • Whose responsibility is it to uphold the values and standards of this club? (all of ours)
  • What do we do when someone knows what is right and does what is wrong? (we firstly check that they are ok but we hold them accountable)

People don’t set out to hurt others on most occasions. If we can explore and draw out, through good questioning, what our values are and who we want to be, then we can build a strong sense of shared responsibility and hold people to account less often. This is the Clubs With Heart way, and everyone wins this way.

In summary:

  1. Identify the barriers and provide quality education
  2. Ensure that the whole community accepts responsibility to uphold the club’s standards
  3. Hold people accountable when they don’t. Do this with kindness and strength
  4. People want their clubs to be excellent. Don’t settle for less

Comments welcome!

About the author:

Dave Burt is the Founder of SALT Sport and Life Training. SALT deliver highly interactive, enjoyable education sessions into grassroots sporting clubs.  

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