The Coaches’ Corner


In this section, The Center for the Study of Sport in Society will feature weekly tips and best practices for coaches and professionals involved in sport based youth development. Sport in Society values collaboration within the field and hopes to unite knowledge and resources, so please send feedback, suggestions for future articles, and questions here. Browse past articles in the Coaches’ Corner by clicking through the links to the left.

Celebrating Your Volunteer Coaches

by Diana S. Cutaia

The reward of working with young people is often the positive impact we have on their lives. When you see a child develop the skills they need to navigate the challenges they face and know that as their coach you have played an impactful role, there is a sense of meaning that supersedes any compensation one would receive in the form of a payment. But this doesn’t always ensure retention. Organizations and programs, however, that spend time creating ways to help volunteers connect to each other and recognize them for their commitment send a clear message that they value and appreciate that individual, thus increasing the odds of retention.  In this article, the last in a three part series discussing the retention of volunteer coaches, we will review the ways that organizations increase social capital through their intentional actions around connecting and acknowledging the efforts of volunteer coaches.

One of the many reasons that adults spend time volunteering is to expand their social networks. This desire doesn’t negate that they are looking to first support the youth development of athletes; it is a normal need that we all have to connect. We know that many of the reasons that volunteers stay with an organization is because they feel like they are respected, the mission fits with their core values, and they have built strong connections with other people in the organization. In order for this to happen programs need to ensure that they create an environment that encourages and supports the development of those networks. Below we have outlined some tips to help:

  • Be intentional about setting up a culture that makes appreciation and its expression the norm. Allow young people space and time to recognize those that have supported them, and take the time as administrators to do the same for your coaches.  Like in any job, when someone recognizes you there is a greater connection to the organization.
  • Find ways to create more social opportunities for coaches before, during and after the season.  This is a great way for them to get to know each other and for program staff to learn more about the coaches.
  • Administrators should connect with volunteers throughout the season to see what challenges they might be experiencing in regard to implementing the curriculum or connecting with the organization. Recognize the efforts within and above expectations.  Everyone appreciates being recognized for the work that they do.
  • Set up criteria where volunteers are acknowledged for the impact they make on all aspects of the program. This can include how they have helped an athlete(s), a co-worker or a community member as well as if they improve or create a better system or process for the organization.
  • Create systems that make it simple to show recognition for peers through a weekly newsletter or social media.
  • Provide them with opportunities to share stories, challenges, and successes informally, in staff meetings or through social media.
  • Create database of best practices that volunteers can review and add to as they handle situations. This is not only a great way to provide them with resources but it is also an excellent way of recognizing the innovative actions of your volunteers. This doesn’t need to be anything elaborate, it could be something that is stored online, or included in the coaches’ manual.

If you have ideas about how you have connected or recognized athletes, submit them at the link above, and we’ll share best practices in upcoming newsletters and on our social media!