Hundreds of young children throughout the valley hit the soccer field every Saturday to relish in the sweet smell of fresh cut grass and to feel the familiar “thunk” of a soccer ball hitting their cleat laces. If you’re a parent of one of these young athletes, you’ve probably sat on the sidelines of a game or two. And depending on what you liked to do growing up, you might have even played a game on the very same field.
But growing up, you probably didn’t give much thought to the volunteer board members behind-the-scenes of your youth sports organization. The “big business” of youth soccer throughout the valley is very much reliant on a team of passionate volunteers with day jobs. Though these volunteers are not paid, their undying dedication and loyalty to their organizations is probably something that every president wishes to see within the members of their board.
“We operate a non-profit volunteer-based club,” says Ted Sonnenburg, President of Copper Mountain Recreation Soccer. “We try to keep our fees as low as possible to accommodate players of all levels of income. We also provide scholarships for players in need.”
Mr. Sonnenburg has been involved in local youth soccer since 2002, where he began his soccer volunteer career as a children’s coach for Utah Soccer Alliance (known as USA). As the soccer program grew bigger, he offered his help with collecting (and placing) goals for a local tournament and in turn was asked to help the league with scheduling.
“He stepped up,” says Naomi Foreman, Vice President of Competition for Copper Mountain Soccer, and also a volunteer. “Ted asked ‘what can I do to help?’ He started collecting goals for our tournament, next thing we know he’s running the club. I think he may regret offering to help.”
Without Volunteers, Youth Sports Organizations Would Be A Lot More Expensive
For Mr. Sonnenburg, Ms. Foreman, and many other of the volunteers at Copper Mountain Soccer, the decision to volunteer on the board or as a coach was easily made due to the fact that they already had children involved in the league. And for many, volunteering for an organization that their kids were a part of helped give their board-room cause even more purpose, and even more drive; the perfect recipe for an incredible board room.
Mr. Sonnenburg also notes that the board members at Copper Mountain (with the exception of the director of coaching on the competition side) are all volunteers, much like the boards of other youth sports organizations throughout the state. But the community involvement with the children’s leagues don’t end just with the board. Most members of the coaching staff, with the exception of the Academy program, are also unpaid volunteers with nothing but a passion for the sport.
“Our coaches are all volunteers that live in the community,” says Mr. Sonnenburg. “They typically have children on the team, but some coaches volunteer their time without having a child on the team.”
With so much of their workload resting on the shoulders of the volunteers, one starts to wonder: what would happen to these nonprofits without them? It’s simple: a business can’t function without their employees, and these businesses can’t function without their volunteers.
“It is a hypothetical question, but I think we would absolutely have to raise our fees and change the structure of our club to pay our board members and coaches,” says Alan Adams, President of Fusion FC, another youth soccer club in the valley. “But for our club, I think it would be too difficult to continue running the organization.”
Volunteer-Run Boards Keep Youth Sports Organizations Alive
And Fusion FC isn’t the only soccer organization that would absolutely struggle without the help of their dedicated volunteers; all non-profits would. In fact, it isn’t just nonprofits that may struggle without the help of dedicated board members; the for-profit board-room would struggle, too. It’s difficult to keep a board room functioning when everyone is emotionally checked out and would rather be somewhere else.
Though most of these organizations are run quite similarly to how a for-profit business would be, the differences between the two become apparent within the attitude of the board. These youth organizations throughout the valley keep their volunteers dedicated with power, a sense of community (with thousands of kids playing, the sense of community here is strongest), and recognition for their hard work, which is something that some for-profit boards may fall flat on.
The success of these non-profit, volunteer-run boards can easily be attributed to passion for their organization. It’s a simple concept that easily translates into the corporate space: it’s all about giving your board members something to be passionate about. When you instill the same kind of passion that flows so freely through these youth soccer board rooms into your own board rooms, the options are absolutely endless.