Volunteers in Grass Roots Rugby

So that’s it then.  The end of the grass roots 2014/15 rugby season.  League matches and county fixtures ended a couple of weeks ago; Junior and Mini age groups were on tour during the Bank Holiday weekend.  Matches over.  Season over.

The Mini and Junior age groups at our club had their presentation evenings on Friday and Saturday this weekend.  For all of those involved, that’s it.  No more rugby for a couple of months.  But what about the club?

For all of those parents and players that think the club shuts down for the summer, think again.  The volunteers that make up the Committee that runs the club are still hard at work.  There’s re-wiring to be done; decorating; changing room showers to be updated; pitches to be re-sown; 2015/16 player recruitment strategy to be agreed and implemented; 2015/16 membership fees to be debated and agreed; an AGM; a new Club President and Chairman to be voted in… This is just as busy a time for those club committee members as during the season.

Many parents and players turn up for pre-season training sessions expecting that there will be RFU approved facilities, RFU trained First Aiders, five star catering, experienced bar staff and RFU trained coaches there, waiting for Jenny and Jonny to turn up.

The fact of the matter is this; grass roots rugby clubs (like many sports clubs) depend entirely on volunteers.  OK, the bars may well be managed by salaried staff, but the ‘CEO’ and ‘Board’ of a club are unsalaried people that do what they do because of the love of the game and their club.

At our club, many of the Committee are gentlemen in their 70s.  This is wholly unsustainable for a club like ours.  We need more people to step up and take some responsibility for the facilities they and their children enjoy.

As is human nature, sometimes people don’t like the way that certain things are done.  That’s OK for people to share their opinion, but for goodness’ sake, if you don’t like something, suggest an alternative and maybe even volunteer to help implement that change.

Being a volunteer can be a thankless task.  It can also be an immensely awarding experience.  In my days as Events Co-ordinator at our club, I have taken great satisfaction in seeing 300+ young players safely enjoying a festival that I’ve organised (with a LOT of help from other volunteers) and likewise, seeing members of the local community coming to our club to enjoy a brilliant fireworks display – hearing those “ooohs” and “aaahs” is something else!

BUT, I’ve done that for a long time.  To my disappointment, when I stepped down from that role, no-one else stepped in; it was down to the ‘usual suspects’ to organise these events.

Our club is in crisis.  I’m not sure that this will be a popular view with Committee members, but I believe this is the case.  Please do NOT think for one moment I’m criticising the current Committee – that’s not what I’m doing; our Committee is filled with people wholly passionate about rugby and our club.  There are far too few people trying to manage far too many aspects of the club for real change to happen.  Quantity over quality if you like.

What’s the answer?  I don’t know.  One of the things that our club implemented two seasons ago was that each age group took responsibility for breakfast duty each week (This is something routinely done by clubs up and down the country) and yet, there were weeks when not one single person from that nominated age group turned up to serve the bacon butties.

People need to understand that being part of a rugby club is like being part of a family – their rugby family if you like.  As a family, we all help each other out; we all take some responsibility and have pride in our club.

If you’re proud enough for your son or daughter to wear the colours of a club – translate that pride into something that will make a tangible difference – volunteer.

Lastly, but by no means least… For all of you that have supported your local grass roots rugby club this year – thank you.  It wouldn’t have been possible without you.

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