Whilst players generally bring the glory, they are standing on the shoulders of a far bigger team. That selfless army of volunteers who, in this return to COVID Normal, need recognition, care and understanding – maybe even more so than others in your club.

Many volunteers might be pressured into supporting clubs initially by their kids who want them to get involved – in fact need them to get involved.  The trick has always been to glue these people to your club, to embed them in your culture so that they continue to support you – providing the vital free labour that allows you to operate.

Just think about what volunteers do:

  • Man the gate and collect entry fees from the public
  • Direct car park traffic
  • Cook the sausages and sell them
  • Look after the canteen – ordering stock, unpacking it, selling it, cleaning up afterwards
  • Providing first aid when needed – including training, ensuring kit is well stocked
  • Sourcing uniform suppliers, costings
  • Organising rooms for meetings
  • Cleaning up after meetings
  • Organising fundraising events including set up and cleaning
  • Helping with strapping if needed
  • Looking after equipment – hauling it around, cleaning it, storing it
  • Taxis – for their own kids and others whose parents can’t help
  • Holding down positions on committees
  • Collecting the balls
  • Wash uniforms
  • Keep score
  • Umpiring
  • Cheer squad, banner makers and supporters

It’s important that, as you pick up the reins for the next season, you understand that your volunteers, particularly in Victorian clubs, may well have suffered hardship and mental distress during the club’s hiatus.  Some will have lost jobs, had reduced income, be worried about paying bills. Some will be just worn out working full time from home as well as handling home schooling.  Others may have suffered isolation and be struggling to adjust. There will be parents who have enjoyed not having to be involved in their kid’s sport and are resentful of the incursion it has again on their time.

Be mindful that everyone has been through some form of difficulty and re-engaging is going to take time.  Treat your volunteers with the same care and respect you would your players.  Ask how they are really going, listen to their answers.  Have a conversation with each one and tell them that you will understand if they can’t provide the same level of support as they did in the past and that if they are struggling to devote the hours to the club, that you are happy to work with them to find a workload that suits.

Go out of your way to thank them for everything they do and encourage players to do the same. Be as clear as you can on timetables, rosters etc well in advance. Allow people to plan their lives, and don’t subject them to adhoc calls for last minute help.  And if there are people missing from your club, pick up the phone to them and see how they are going.  It’s not about getting them back; it’s caring for them as fellow human beings who have supported your club in the past and may need your support now.

All clubs need to set up a Wellbeing Team to focus on dealing with the mental health issues that your club community will have as a result of COVID-19. At SALT we can train the members of your Club Wellbeing Team.  It’s just five virtual sessions and we will provide them with information on how to spot people who need mental support as well as some tools and strategies to help.  We do have some funding still available, which means that some clubs won’t have to pay for this training.  Contact SALT to find out more.

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