Saturday, May 25, 2024

BLOG: Time to give your club a wake-up call

Many squash clubs, big and small, seem to be struggling to survive in an era when electronic stimulation is preferred to athletic endeavour.

Squash is battling to hold its own against a backdrop of problems never envisaged a generation ago, namely, that young people would spend large parts of their life attached to computers, laptops, I-pads and mobile phones and gain all of their information, entertainment and social contact from those sources.

In short, it’s getting harder to persuade young people to stop texting for five minutes and try to kick a ball, run across a field or swing a racket.

How you address these issues will determine the future of your club, whatever your sport. Clearly, some clubs need more help than others when it comes to managing their affairs and planning for a healthy future.

Finding volunteers is never easy, but how you manage, motivate, involve and reward them is often the key to delivering successful projects at local level.

I was very interested to receive an email this week from a guy called Svend Elkjaer, who runs a company called Sports Marketing Network.

He’s not very good at answering emails (I’ve written to him without getting a response) but he does produce regular newsletters which provide some fascinating insights into how we might improve the structure and performance of our sports clubs.

His latest offering is reproduced below. Having seen how committees across the world are responsible for strangling our sport, I recommend that you share this vision with as many clubs as you can.

According to Svend, it’s time kill off committees, replace them with teams, move on the old buffers who block progress, and encourage and embrace new ideas.


Over the seven years I have been working with clubs and other community sports providers I have to come to realise that leadership is the key factor in their successful development and growth, and dare I say it: survival.

At our Grow Your Club workshops I often hear people comment that all my thoughts, ideas and examples are great, but then it comes: “How do we actually get the leadership right to drive the club forward through people?”

In response we have now developed a new workshop called Leadership and Management of Your Sports Club – Getting things done through people and in September we will be launching its sister 48-page Guide. Packed with inspiring case-stories and easy-to-use templates and tools readers will have access to best practice from across community sport on how to develop the right leadership and management for their club.  Below are some brief tips and hints taken from the workshop and guide – I hope they are of use to you; remember they are based on experiences from the real world! Let me know what you think.

  1. From committee to team – change your structure and culture: A committee decides, is boring, exists to set policy, will drain the life out of you and is for those who desire status. Whereas a team does, is exciting, exists to win, will add to your life and is for those who want to make a difference.  The word team connotes vision, goals, purpose, unity and accomplishment. On the other hand, the word committee just sucks the life right of you!
  2. Fuel the pioneering spirit – keep the momentum going by building regular events and WOW moments into the life of your club. Many times a club loses that pioneering spirit as it ages, becomes complacent and gets stuck in the rut that deters new ideas and pushes away new people. Build momentum, involve more people, dare to think new and see your club grow.
  3. Good leaders let people go. If you want to drive your club forward, on and off the pitch, you will no doubt experience people who simply cannot see any reason for any changes. They have been here for 29 years, so they know best. Those people can present serious barriers to your club’s health and that must come first. It seems harsh to suggest to ask a long-standing member to leave, but if they are holding your club back and deterring good, new people from getting involved…what are your options?
  4. Visit other clubs and steal their stuff and don’t worry about being original – learn all you can about the principles from others, but then apply them in the context of your own setting and club
  5. Be careful who you listen to. When you start making changes and showing leadership, you will be met with criticism from the stalwarts and ‘the way we do things around here’ brigade.  Answering every criticism and explaining every questioned action will wear you out. Ask the people who want to drive the club forward, listen to them and act.  Don’t waste time trying to placate the Victor Meldrews!
  6. Get geeked about gadgets. Yes, I appreciate that technology is developing at an amazing rate but that should not stop you from benefiting from using it. You simply ignore this at your peril.  If you want to engage with people in a timely, inexpensive and relevant way embrace these tools, saving you hours stuffing envelopes. If you feel that all this is not for you, then ask and involve other people, perhaps younger members.
  7. Innovate or die. Yes, I know trying new things is messy and requires dare – but without it your future is going to be bleak. So try walking football for 60 year olds, doggie swimming in the lake, football golf, float-athons in the pool to generate income or crolf (a combination of golf and croquet).  By the way, all these activities already exist!
  8. Involve both artists and administrators. We all like to be with people like ourselves – we feel safer and more comfortable that way.  A club run just by administrators runs the risk of being boring and unwelcoming. If you only have artists in charge of your club, it may be very exciting but probably out of control!  Get the artists and administrators to work together and respect each other and you are on to a winner.
  9. Somebody has to live and die for your database. Having correct information about the people you are involved with through your club and then stay in contact with them is absolutely critical.  If you, week in, week out ensure that people who you engage with are added to your database over time you will have an incredibly powerful tool to provide people with targeted information – at very little cost.  But one person must be in charge and ‘own’ this.
  10. Say thank you, send birthday cards and give people small cool gifts. I don’t really have to explain this, do I? So why do so few clubs actually do it?
  11. Keep budgeting simple and get everybody involved. In all the clubs I have come across, budgeting rarely takes place and if it happens then it’s something that the treasurer does and then presents to other people. Wrong! Determine what you want to achieve with your club over the next one, three and five years. Have a thorough analysis and discussion of how you want to generate the income required. You must all be involved. The treasurer should not decide how to spend your money.
  12. Tell stories. There’s nothing better to bring your point across than telling stories. Internally, tell stories of how people have made a unique contribution to driving your club forward. Externally, tell stories of how your club makes a contribution to people’s lives and to your community.
  13. Focus on cool projects. When your club focuses on the right thing and does it well, it transforms lives. Do it! Don’t get held back by always discussing minutiae.
  14. Find reasons why people should get involved.  People need a reason to join, volunteer, sponsors, partner etc. Give them several that matter to them – not just focusing on you.
  15. Have fun. Celebrate. Learn. Dare
  16. Try and be the best at something.  Friendliest. Cleanest. Best neighbour. Most supportive. Most welcoming place for sport.  Your choice.
  17. Create one strong vision for the whole club. Avoid cliques and ‘sub-clubs’ like the plaque.
  18. And finally, put this word in your vocabulary: Newness. Clean. Paint. Repair. Tidy up. Replace.

If you want learn more about SMN, contact Svend Elkjaer on 01423 326 660 or email [email protected]



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