Summer league swimming offers kids so many learning opportunities. One of the great benefits of being part of a team is learning to lead. Instituting a Volunteer Coaching Program is a great way to encourage new young leaders to step up and take on more responsibility within the team. Many teams have programs where the older swimmers mentor or teach the younger swimmers. If your team doesn’t have such a program yet this might be the season to give it a try!
Benefits of a Volunteer Coaching Program
Getting the older kids involved with coaching the younger ones means no one’s a stranger on your team, it helps break down the barriers and lets everyone get to know each other better. The older kids develop a sense that the little ones are their responsibility too and new and closer bonds are formed between age groups.
Watch your older kids develop a new sense of purpose and confidence as they learn to work with the younger swimmers. It’s so rewarding for the older ones to watch the younger ones improve and know they played a part in that. When you give kids responsibility and let them see the benefit of their contribution to others it can develop a life long love of leadership and inspire them to continue ‘giving back’ in other areas as well.
Safety in Numbers
The first weeks of swim practice can be a little nerve wracking as the little ones are still learning and gaining confidence in the water. You can’t have too many people on deck looking out for your little swimmers! The Volunteer Coaches add extra sets of eyes and hands to assist the little ones and keep them within arms reach when necessary.
Looking Towards the Future
Eventually your Junior, paid, Coaches are going to move on, get an internship, or a full time job, and they won’t be around to coach under your Head Coach anymore. What better place to find your future Junior Coaches than from your Volunteer Coaching Program, where your team’s swimmers have been under your Head Coach’s guidance, being ‘taught how to teach’ for years?
Volunteer Hours for School or Community Service Projects
A Volunteer Coaching Program gives your older swimmers a chance to earn some community service hours, for school or other programs, while doing something they love and learning new skills.
Easy Steps to Start a Volunteer Coaching Program
- Develop some guidelines. Your Head Coach should have an idea of what age to allow older swimmers to help. Usually it’s around 13-15, depending on the maturity of your team. Think about what aged swimmers those volunteers should be allowed to work with. It runs smoothly if kids work with swimmers younger than their own age. When peers try to coach peers it can cause some resentment or awkwardness. Decide if you need a selection criteria. Will you let everyone who applies for a volunteer position work with your younger swimmers or do you need an application and selection process?
- Get the word out. Email your team, put out a call for volunteers and let them know about your new program. Develop a sign up system for those that are interested in more information.
- Vet your candidates. Make sure everyone who’s volunteered is an appropriate person to have a leadership role on your team.
- On the job training. Host a meeting or training in advance of the start of practices to make sure your Volunteer Coaches are ready for the job. Most of their training will involve following the lead, either by action or word, of the Junior or Assistant coaches they are placed under. Make sure your Junior or Assistant coaches are mentoring your Volunteer Coaches and giving them pointers on where and how they can improve.
- Keep track of hours. Have a sign in sheet for the Volunteer Coaches, check it for accuracy after each day of practice. If you have a lot of volunteers you may need to create a schedule for them, so you don’t have too many Volunteer Coaches show up at once, this will ensure you evenly distribute the opportunities to work with the younger ones.
- Reward your Volunteer Coaches. Simple certificates that note the hours spent volunteering at the end of the season are an easy way to acknowledge the contribution of your Volunteer Coaching Team. Small prizes for most hours, or other awards, always make it fun too.
We hope this article inspires your team to try something new, and useful, this season! If you’re team has any interesting programs or traditions that help make your team successful, we’d love to share your ideas with other teams! Email [email protected] with information.