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Running Your Club Well!

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A successful club is not just about the players.  As some clubs are realising, training the organisers and volunteers behind the scenes can make a big difference.

Imagine a struggling squash club.  One where committee members are rushed off their feet, constantly fire-fighting problems and with no time to plan for the future.  Where volunteers are hard to motivate and retain.  Where helpers are left with ever-increasing workloads.  Where participation rates gradually decline as the club loses its profile.   

Many clubs are very well run.  Most, however, will recognise some of the issues in the picture we have just painted.  While there are plenty of people organising sports in the UK - the Sport and Recreation sector has a professional workforce of 621,000 people and a volunteer workforce of a staggering 5.8 million people according to recent Sport England research - the problem is that clubs tend to rely on enthusiasm rather than the latest skills and management thinking.  Enthusiasm is, of course, invaluable.  It is even more powerful, however, when it is pointing in the right direction and supported by the right tools, tactics and techniques, as any player knows. 

This is where some clubs are beginning to look to the business world.  Businesses and academics have spent decades amassing a wealth of knowledge on how to work more efficiently and effectively.  The British Library houses over 130,000 books on management techniques, and now some forward thinking clubs are beginning to recognise the value in drawing on this expertise.  While clubs have traditionally focussed, quite rightly, on the development of their players and on giving members the chance to participate, properly training those responsible for the management of the club can have an even more dramatic impact on a club’s success. 

But are squash clubs and their volunteers ready for funding plans, marketing, and strategic planning?  Lisa Wainwright, Senior Development Manager for Volunteers at Sport England, believes so.  While noting that many voluntary clubs are well run, Wainwright believes business skills have a definite place.  “Some clubs may struggle due to a lack of resources or being distracted by other priorities,” she explains.  “Others may simply lack the type of skills and access to training that’s required.” 

Aside from the competitive and tactical aspects that sport and business have in common, there are several less obvious parallels.  Coping with financial pressures for example, striving towards stretching goals, and the coaching and training of individuals, are all areas relevant both on the court and in the office. 

“Businesses have a financial incentive to get the most out of their people,” explains Wainwright, “whereas clubs may think that they don’t.  But clubs can benefit just as much from a focused approach to management - volunteers become motivated, plans gain momentum and clubs see themselves develop.  Not only that, but this kind of approach has a positive financial impact on the club too, in relation to fundraising, increased subscriptions and better management of costs.”

Even the smallest clubs face these kind of issues – marketing, development, funding, and accessibility, for example – not to forget attracting, retaining and getting the most out of staff and volunteers.  These challenges are particularly relevant in 2005, the official Year of the Volunteer.  Celebrating the contribution of volunteers in all sectors, this year will see a nationwide focus on the people behind the scenes, including - in August - those who make sports clubs happen.  As well as recognising the achievement of volunteers, Sport England will be continuing its commitment to work at a strategic level with partners to provide appropriate and effective support to all volunteers in sport and to help develop sustainable club structures.  

So how can local squash clubs tap into this expertise?  Running Sport offers a series of workshops, organised and run by Sport England.  Covering funding, promotion, volunteer management and club development, they deliver the “need to know” essentials in short but effective evening workshops across the country.  Through a network of accredited and approved trainers - sport development professionals who understand the specific needs of people working in sports clubs - Running Sport equips volunteers with the most effective tools and techniques to apply in their own clubs. 

“A lot of people look at our club and say, ‘well, we can see you’re a very organised businesslike club’,” says one attendee, who took part in a Running Sport workshop on Funding and Promoting Your Club – a workshop that led to a 100% improvement in the club’s financial situation.  “They ask how it’s all come about.  Well we go to people like Sport England who know what they are doing and put on these valuable workshops.” 

Organisers leave the Running Sport workshops knowing how best to fund their club, how best to promote their club and how best to grow their club.

To find out about Running Sport workshops in your area, call 020 7404 2224.

Quick tips - advice from Running Sport 

  • When planning changes and developments, involve everyone who will be affected in the planning process.  This ensures that the people who need to make things happen feel some ownership
  • Perform a SWOT analysis to identify your club’s internal strengths and weaknesses and to be clear about opportunities and threats in the outside world
  • Create specific volunteer management roles
  • Retain and reward your volunteers by formally recognising achievements and thanking them whenever appropriate.
  • Be specific and precise with funding applications, selling your progress to date and a positive attitude
  • Create a dedicated fundraising committee
  • Keep a tight grip on subscriptions and fees – it is surprising how much clubs lose through lax attitudes to this


Contact Info

For many more ideas, tips and tools on how to get more for your club get to a Running Sport workshop.  Call 020 7404 2224.

 CONTACT:  SP Webmaster     Magazine Editor