The temporary shutdown of sporting clubs that has been brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic will have critical, long lasting implications.
Dave Burt, Founder of SALT (Sport and Life Training), has spent years using the strength of sporting teams and clubs as the springboard for cultural change, and he believes that this forced shutdown presents a tremendous opportunity.
He believes that while club leaders wait for the restrictions to be lifted they can critically assess the values of their club and if needed, look at ways of re-invigorating the club’s purpose and culture.
“It’s important for leaders to consider why their members play sport,” Dave says. “Sport is not about sport; it is about people. Sport is about connection. We do something we love with people we grow to love. Our team members, our club members.”
This being the case, Dave strongly recommends that club leaders are already ensuring that social (but virtual) contact is continuing through this hiatus. “Houseparty, Zoom – there are any number of great platforms where lots of people can catch up at the same time. And don’t discount the value of a phone call to someone you sense may not be coping well.”
Checking in with everyone and assessing their mental fitness while motivating them to keep their physical fitness going is a workload that can be shared. “Make sure that all senior club members have a small list of people to reach out to and check in on”, Dave advises. “It’s so important that no one falls through the cracks. And it’s not just team members. Reach out to your volunteers – the guy on the gate, the scoreboard attendant, the trainer.”
This down time also provides an opportunity to identify people in the club who are willing to play a different role. A role of connecting and supporting. “These people may not be the usual committee servers but family members of players, volunteers – players themselves. After COVID-19, these people who excelled in supporting the club community may fill roles within the club’s Wellbeing team.”
Clubs will need to make up for lost finances. But this is the perfect opportunity to increase ways of fundraising that don’t involve beers across the bar. “Sponsorship from local businesses is critical”, says Dave. “But it has to be a two-way street. What does a business get in return for sponsoring you? It needs to be more than a sign on the fence. A sponsorship is an opportunity to enlarge your community, to strengthen ties within it. Who do you have in your club who has the skills to come up with a sponsorship plan and then execute it? “
What other ways are there to make money? “Give someone in your club the role of connecting with other clubs and finding out what they are doing to raise money and obtain sponsorship,” is Dave’s advice.
“Make no mistake, these are tough, unpredictable times we are going through,” says Dave. “But it’s also an opportunity to re-evaluate, re-assess and take steps to firstly, ensure that all your club members come through this time mentally healthy, but to also take some positive steps to broadening club values and enriching your club culture.”