New swim team moms (and dads) are about to learn what veterans know all too well: swimming is NOT a spectator sport! Whether your children are involved in a neighborhood summer swim team or a highly competitive swim club, it takes a small army of dedicated, enthusiastic parent volunteers to make the season fun and successful. When the entire swim team experience is well organized, parents find that supporting the team easy and rewarding, and kids enjoy each other and are more likely to return year after year.
Here are simple tips for organizing your team parents and creating a welcoming environment that's fun and fulfilling for everyone involved.
1. Set expectations up front: ALL parents participate!
When parents know what they're getting into ahead of time, they can arrange their schedules and make better decisions about how they would like to contribute and participate on the team.
- Make it easy to get involved. Almost all teams require parents to volunteer at a certain number of meets during the season. Successful teams also offer volunteer jobs beyond swim meets. Parents are needed to shop for concession stand supplies, host social activities, supervise fundraisers, and manage the team website or facebook page.
- Plan online. Making it easy for parents to choose when and how they will help at the start of the season gives them plenty of time to organize their calendars and gives team leaders peace of mind knowing they will have help. Simple online sign up tools like VolunteerSpot (www.VolunteerSpot.com) let parents pick the job they want for each swim meet, whether it be a lane timer, ready bench helper, ribbon organizer, or working the concession stand. VolunteerSpot keeps the schedule accurate in real-time, works with the team's current website or team page, and sends automated confirmation and reminder messages that help keep everyone on track. Some teams require parents to sign up to volunteer before children can be registered for the season.
2. Welcome New Families
Giving new families a warm welcome helps parents and swimmers feel confident by the pool and encourages participation in team activities.
- Remind coaches, swimmers, and veteran parents to introduce themselves to newcomers.
- Share a tip sheet to help parents understand guidelines about parking, drop off/pick up, where to sit during practice, where to leave swim bags and towels, food rules, etc.
- Offer a downloadable roster to help parents arrange carpools, playdates and other support.
- Provide a complimentary item to promote team spirit such as a visor or water bottle with the team logo.
- Print a refrigerator magnet (or handout) with the season schedule, website address, and team emergency contact information.
- During swim meets, pair new parents in jobs with experienced parents and mix up the groups throughout the season.
3. Play Together
The team that plays together stays together. What kinds of activities would be fun for your parents and swimmers?
- Summer poolside movie night -- create an outdoor theatre with a projector, laptop, DVD and a white wall or sheet
- Pizza picnic or special treat once-a-week after practice
- Monthly cupcake party celebrating all children and coaches who have had birthdays during the month
- Field trips to local attractions like waterslides and amusement parks
- Parents-only poker night or Bunco with the winnings donated to the team
- Kid-friendly fundraisers like carwashes, hula hoop contests and ice cream socials
4. Engage Older Kids to Keep Meets On Track
Nothing's more exciting to little kids than big kids!
- Asking older kids to help shepherd younger ones during meets and practice keeps everyone on time and offers an opportunity to model teamwork and good sportsmanship.
- Consider recruiting responsible teenage helpers as stand-ins for parents who have a conflict and can't attend a swim meet. Some teens have found 'swim meet duty' to be quite a lucrative source of summer income, covering parent shifts for an hourly rate.
5. Seek Feedback Midway Through the Season
Ask parents what they like about the team experience and what they would like to see improved. Sometimes little things like shifting a practice 15 minutes to accommodate traffic, making changes to the concession stand menu, or adding a wireless internet connection can make a world of difference to parents' happiness and commitment. Free online survey tools like SurveyMonkey make it easy to gather feedback.
Adopting and improving on these suggestions will have a big impact in helping parents have a positive experience -- and that makes for more fun for the whole team all season long! Please share this post with your team parents and coaches and share your tips and best practices in the comments section below.
This post was first published by VolunteerSpot on the National Association of Swim Moms website - www.NAOSM.org. It’s a one-stop resource with helpful tips, coaches instructional videos, Olympic swimmers' testimonials, and much more. In addition, the site has an online store with deep discounts and free shipping (for members) on all your swimsuit and equipment needs!