Volunteers by definition are those who work without pay, so when they do poorly it, can be difficult to fire them or put them on a personal improvement plan.
Increasingly, organizations are finding that gentle attempts to guide or direct volunteers are taken as insults, and too many of them walk off the job in dust clouds of bad feelings.
It’s a predicament that organizations such as South Salem Little League cannot afford.
With the regular season recently coming to a close, the league of more than 40 teams learned the hard way that some softball parents were unhappy with their off-the-field experiences.
One mom complained that the league made promises it didn’t keep. She said that when she and other parents registered their 8- to11-year-old daughters and paid more than $100 for them to play AAA Softball, they were told they’d each get their own helmets and fundraising cards, which they could either sell or use themselves for discounts with local shops.
All season, parents whose kids didn’t have helmets and were uncomfortable sharing the team’s loaners asked where the gear and cards were. They were assured they were on the way.
The parents, however, never saw the promised goods, and their calls and reminders to the coach and league officials never were returned.
Mike Spidell, the volunteer president of SSLL, admits he dropped the ball.
While it would be easy for Spidell to pass the buck and fault the volunteer coach for failing to pick up and deliver the helmets (which are required to bat in Little League and most ball sports), he won’t.
“We have cases of the helmets and hundreds of the cards, and most parents and kids got them,” Spidell said. “It was just a matter of getting the rest distributed, and that’s where the ball got dropped.
“We tend to only get the complaints when the season is over, and then it’s harder to follow through. It’s my fault, and I apologize.”
It’s hard enough to get volunteers these days, he said, and being desperate for more people to help out, he’s unwilling to take a crack at one volunteer for fear of alienating others.
Spidell said he will give the disillusioned mom(s) a full refund for this year, but he hopes she’ll bring her daughter back next year for another season. If she does, registration is on the league, he said.
“New players are entitled to a helmet, and we didn’t do a good enough job of providing that. But we hope that won’t prevent them from coming back and giving (Little League) another chance.”
He’s also urging more parents and grandparents to offer their time, and honor their commitment.
If even a few more stepped forward — he estimates that softball gets about a 10th of the attention and volunteers it needs — the organization would run more smoothly.
Below is an article written in the Oregon Statesman Journal by Carol McAlice Currie. The article is about one of our newest CoachDeck customers, South Salem Little League. As we contact youth organizations, there is an interesting phenomenon we observe over and over again, which is several volunteers doing most of the work. We often visit a Board of Directors page of the league website and see where the same person is listed in two or more positions. Or we’ll notice both a male and female sharing the same last name – probably a husband and wife, holding down four or five spots.
I like this article because I believe that too often, youth league volunteers are blamed for anything that goes wrong with their organization, while they are rarely praised for the innumerable things that go right. If you’ve ever had a gripe with your son or daughter’s youth sports league, volunteer to help. I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to find something for you to do. And if everyone chipped in, just about every complaint you had would go away.
This is not a new plea for help, and I should know. I was a softball parent in this community for 13 years.
I never met Spidell during my softball tenure, but I’ve learned a few things about him.
-He personally helped improve the softball fields at Leslie Middle School, turning them into a first-rate complex where the Little League’s District 7 softball all-star games have been held for several seasons.
-He’ll be in court next week watching the prosecution of three adults. They were charged with torching the league’s concession stand earlier this year. His league offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest because “it cares about what happens to LL softball, and were delighted when someone came forward about the arson.”
-His league continues to be a watchdog in the community, offering rewards for leads about vandalism to the school grounds as well as the softball fields.
-His passion is to promote softball, even though he hasn’t had children in Little League for more than six years.
The community benefits from organizations like Little League — and volunteers like Spidell.
Donating money is great, but your time can be more important.
The coach who neglected to pick up the helmets was an unpaid volunteer with a life that probably took precedence over his coaching duties. He might have delegated the task to another parent — if one had stepped forward.