BEING ON A BOOSTER CLUB BOARD
First, let me say being a part of a Booster Club as with anything volunteer can “kinda suck” depending on why you wanted to do it in the first place. If you are doing it for the love of the athletes, then it doesn’t suck as bad, but if you are doing it for some reason other than that then yea, it is going to suck majorly. Keep in mind booster clubs like most volunteer positions are thankless jobs. If you expect most parents to say “hey great job!” then you are in for a rude awakening.
I have served on the Booster Club board for the last three years at my daughter’s gym, and in this blog, I will give my honest view into what it is like being part of a board. This blog I will break down into four sections. The first section I will explain what drove me to become more active. The second section I will explain to you the bad part of being on the board. The third I will explain the good part of being on a board, and lastly, I will tell my thoughts moving forward, so here we go. This will be fun!
First off, know that I am one of those people who go around saying “if you don’t want to do anything to fix it then don’t complain about it.” You know, the “if you didn’t vote then shut up!” kinda folks. Well, I didn’t like the way our booster club was running so I decided to join the board and try to change it. There, that was it, nothing earth-shattering. I just figured I couldn’t do much worse than the current president at that time so might as well give it a try. If you only knew the messes I have gotten myself into with that line of thinking! Seriously, I felt our gymnasts deserved better than what they were getting from the booster club. Booster clubs are there to support and create a supportive environment for the gymnast, and I believed I was the man to do it……“MAKE THE BOARD GREAT AGAIN”
“If you want to mess anything positive up…throw parents in the middle of it”. – Coach Mike
I am going to write a couple of blogs about youth parents but from different perspectives. From the booster club perspective dealing with parents is the most prominent challenge. I think if you took a poll of people who were part of booster clubs or any youth volunteer organization and asked them what they disliked the most, I think most would say dealing with parents. In youth organizations, you have several flavors of parents, and each flavor of parent brings their own set of issues. Below I am describing each type of parent starting from most damaging to least within an organization.
Mr. and Mrs. problem to every solution.
This person is a particular breed of negative. They are usually cancer in the gym especially when they are also Mr and Mrs. too busy to help. Their goal is simply to point out whatever is wrong with the booster club and the gym but have no intentions in trying to fix it. They are dangerous in the fact that they have no earthly idea about anything related to the booster club but can tell you every way it is broken. They typically make statements like “I am one of the good parents,” “I am not trying to be difficult,” “it is not just me, others feel this way also.” If you have to tell me you are one of the good parents, then you are not.
Mr and Mrs. too busy to help.
This type of parent you can identify them as the person in the booster club that will make the statement. “Why don’t we do <fill in the blank>.” When a board member poses the follow-up question of “why don’t you sign-up to drive that initiative” their response is “Oh, I am too busy!”. Booster clubs are only as successful as the bodies that support it. Everyone is too busy (including the current board), but we make time to help provide a supportive environment for our gymnast
Mr. and Mrs. Butt Kisser.
This parent views the sports within the confines of only their child. In their mind, if they “make nice” with the coaches the coaches will give their kids extra attention. For bad coaches, this can be a very effective method but good coaches hate butt kissers, and I will explain why when I review parents from the coaches perspective blog. This person creates problems for the booster club in that this person always wants to be viewed as “on the coaches side.” Therefore, they are typically going to push against any ideas that could impact the coaches negatively even if it is necessary.
Mr. and Mrs. I am going to pay.
These folks probably shouldn’t have their kids in gymnastics if they don’t want to make paying their booster club fees a priority. Gymnastics is expensive and sometimes “life” happens that requires you to pay something unexpected. The average cost for a gymnast to do a meet is approximately $70.00, and that doesn’t include coaches fees. By not paying you are essentially telling the rest of the members you are okay with them paying for your child. Eventually, these parents do pay up. The board just gets tired of having to use mafia-like tactics to get the payment.
Mr. and Mrs. I won’t lead but I will help out.
I get it; you want to put yourself in a position that when you become unreliable or too busy, it won’t be on your shoulders if that aspect of the organization fails. This parent can be helpful you just have to be very mindful of what you ask them to do.
Mr. and Mrs. it is what it is.
Most volunteers love this group of parents. They understand that this is a volunteer and set their expectations accordingly. Many of these parents may be or have been on similar boards, so they know your pain. They understand the unspoken rules “if I can’t step in, I best not recommend.” They are the parents who say “you are doing a great job” with no “but” at the end. The problem is these parents typically just go with the status quo in an effort not to make waves and won’t involve themselves in drama. Unfortunately, they end up being complicit in the drama because they just stand by quietly while the first three types wreak havoc on an organization.
All these different flavors of personalities under one organization can become overwhelming especially for someone doing it voluntarily. Everybody fits typically into one of these roles, but there are exceptions. Each role effects the booster clubs differently and depending on the size of your organization and the involvement of the parents the level of damage each role can inflict varies.
Outside of dealing with parents, being on the board can be very emotionally rewarding. Personally, for me, I enjoy being involved with all my kid’s activities. I could have easily put my daughter in track, but I didn’t want to muddy the waters between parent and coach. So, being on the board is the next best thing. Watching how events we put on come together is a thing of beauty. Having things run smoothly from the board perspective is rewarding in itself. Most people underestimate the value of consistent communication. Forcing yourself to learn to deal with various types of people albeit hard is extremely helpful especially from a career standpoint. I have learned patience and developed a poker face, and I have learned to accept people for the way they are.
Overall booster club organizations are a good thing to involve yourself with. Most parents don’t want to do it because it can cramp their schedule but if you build a strong team, then it is not bad. A few warnings when building a team from my experience. Make sure you comprise the board of families with longevity in the gym. On my track team, a family has to be in the program at least a year before you can serve in any role. Most booster clubs don’t have that requirement but be smart in your selection of board members. Vary the skill set of each member. Having people with the same strengths will cause other areas to be weak. On our board, we have two people that are very good at organizing and distributing information. One person who is very good a rationalizing problems and me “the muscle” responsible for laying down the law. Never allow any of the first three parent types on your board. Remember the booster club and gym are separate entities and they serve different purposes. Gyms are there to provide a service and make money. Booster clubs are non-profit and solely there to provide a service. Keeping them separate is always more beneficial to the gymnast. Gyms don’t like to spend money because they equate that to losing profit. When gyms take over the booster club role not only is it typically illegal but the extras like banquets, team outings, and Christmas parties go right out the window.