I would imagine that most people who read this would say that the clubs, centres or groups where they are involved are open and welcoming. To be honest, in my experience that is also the cause with the vast majority, with one caveat: when one first gets to know you!
But what is it like to stand outside your club or centre when you are new and would like to come in and have a go?
Spare a thought for the girl to the left. Having watched your sport on telly or on a Youtube video she googled your sport and your name came up.
She then tried to find your Facebook page to see whether she would already know anybody at your club or facility, but, sadly, she couldn’t find your Facebook page (Do you have one? How else do you think most young people search for information?)
Being persistent (how many people would not have given up by now?) she then decided to just turn up on a training night, just to have a look. Brave girl!
So here she is, standing outside your place: What do you think she is feeling right now? I would guess she is nervous and apprehensive. “Will I know anyone? Am I wearing the right clothes? Can I just have a go just to see if I like it? Will they be nice? Are they all fit?”
I would not be surprised if all those worries would cause her to walk away, scared and disillusioned. Would you?
Now be honest, please: What would really happen if she felt brave enough to go inside at your club/centre? Would somebody say ‘hello’ and ‘welcome’? Would somebody of her own age show her around and give her the lowdown? Would coaches smile and gently introduce her to your club and sport? Or…
“Amazing how we take things for granted until they are challenged: E.g. It is not possible to see our tennis courts on entering the village sports grounds and we do not have any sign indicating that they are there! Why should a nervous newcomer search to see if they are in the right place?!!”
Chairman of Tennis Club after attending an SMN Grow Your Club workshop
Now have a go yourself – SMN’s Mars Bar test
Go along to club or centre where you are not known. Don’t wear sports gear. Then just stand there, like a new prospective member of your own club. If anybody comes across and say ‘hello’ and ‘welcome’ within five minutes, then give me call or send me an email and I will send you a Mars Bar! I would love to get rid of some of these old Mars Bars here, but people always report that they were just left standing there.
Now you know go back to your club/centre and change your attitude and behaviour and become really welcoming.
You invite me to your house, what happens next?
If I were to come to your house…you would welcome me. You would ask if I wanted tea/coffee and offer me a seat. You would treat me as a guest.
You would ask me how I was. How the spouse was. Was the knee getting better? etc.
Would this happen at your club?
When my visit to your home was over you would follow me to your door, thank me for my visit, wish me a safe journey home and ask me to come back soon.
So when I left your home would I feel great about my visit and about you and would I say to myself “I would like to go back”?
Would that happen at your club?
The bottom line is: Your club and centre is in the hospitality business. You and your colleagues at your club need to think of yourselves as hosts and treat members, supporters, newcomers and regulars as guests who are visiting your house. Believe me, two things will happen: They will come back and you guys will really enjoy it.