“With downcast eyes and a microphone clenched in one fist, Brian Farley stood uneasily before nearly 400 children from the Tri-Boro Youth Soccer Club in eastern Pennsylvania. He had stolen their money.”
Stories like this one, excerpted from this NY Times article, are sad reality afflicting youth sports today. Mr. Farley had embezzled $120,000 from parents who believed their money was going towards their children’s uniforms, field times, travel, etc. Along with theft we’re constantly exposed to other articles which show the potential of some individuals in youth sports organizations to break the trust of those who depend on them.
Chances are if you’re reading a post with the title “The Importance of Building Trust” you aren’t a potential thief and any decisions you make are in the best interests of the kids. The purpose of this post is to shine some light on how you can effectively show ultimate transparency and set in place some safeguards so future coaches and executives will be accountable and remain in excellent standing with the community.
1. Make all financial decisions, statements, and board meeting minutes public. One of the most important factors in any democratic system is transparency. Unfortunately, there isn’t very much regulation or investigative powers to monitor youth sports organizations. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the approximately 14,000 youth sports organizations in the United States take in annual revenue of about $9 billion. Oversight of those sums is haphazard and not centralized, as there is no national agency in the country watching over youth sports.”
What this means is that the leadership of these organizations is the only body responsible for providing financial and executive information to the people who pay money to the club. Update parents through social media and newsletters on changes and post all board meeting minutes on the website. Address parent concerns at meetings and create a forum for discussion both in person and online. If you’re worried about information making it to non-stakeholders, make information available only to members of the club and password protect posted information.
2. Switch out the board regularly and implement term limits. Besides gaining new insights and reducing creative loss among current members, switching out the board can also eliminate the possibility of unethical activities. A board made up of static, long-term members might adopt some insider attitudes and have more potential to act in their own self interest. Once someone who has criminal tendencies has gotten comfortable in their position, they will be more likely to act on these tendencies. Set limits to two or three years at which point new members will be voted in by the rest of the club.
3. Background checks for coaches, volunteers, and board members. Although background checks may not perfectly sift through potential offenders, they can definitely help reduce the likelihood that one makes it in as a coach or an executive member. Additionally, when parents see that the individuals who will be spending a lot of time with their kids are undergoing background checks, they will definitely have more trust than a club that forgoes them. For information and resources on running a criminal record/background check, please click here for Canada or click here for the US.
4. On a more individualistic level, make sure coaches and leadership build trust with players. When we hear that our kids like their coach, we know that we’ve found a good organization. If you’re a coach reading this, you already know that establishing real trust with your players will make them work harder, work better as a team, and feel safer. This also has the macro effect of creating a positive image for the club as a whole. Some tips on building trust from Basketball for Coaches:
- Get to know your players off the court (or field, arena, etc.)
- Keep your word
- Smile and be polite
- Get to know their parents (also important for overall club trust building)
- Be organized
- Be there for your players
With total trust by your members and the community you won’t simply be keep everyone happy with the way things are run. Following these guidelines will help the club organically grow and realize it’s mission simply by displaying that it operates on an ethical and transparent plane. This is an important building block in creating an overall successful, complete, and professional organization.