The Alternative Sports Club Awards

Let’s celebrate new thinking, community engagement, communication and great experiences at our community sports clubs

Every week, on our travels, we come across great people who do wonderful work as volunteers within our community sports clubs. We also come in contact with clubs across most sports that are really making a difference and operate as vibrant, visible and viable hubs for their communities. 

However, many, (too many) sports clubs are run by a handful, if that, of dedicated volunteers who spend every waking hour coaching/panic fundraising/form filling etc. You sometimes get the impression that the club is ‘running them’ and not the other way around. These tend to be the clubs which struggle to adapt, grow and sometimes, even survive.
 
Also, many local authorities, County Sport Partnerships and Governing Bodies run annual Awards events where those great, dedicated volunteers are celebrated which is fantastic. But I also get the impression that some of those awards are based on the longevity of the service of the volunteers and coaches. This is great but maybe the time has come to start celebrating activities and people who are changing the way we deliver community sport, provide great experiences and engage with our communities and thus help grow our clubs,
 
So, based on our work over eight years with 4,000 sports clubs, here are some ideas for new awards categories for our sports club awards. Let me know what you think:
 
1.         Most Welcoming Club/Best Welcomer
One simple, yet very effective way of growing our community sports clubs, is simply to encourage the clubs and their existing members to become more welcoming towards newcomers and guests, and not just themselves. So, let’s celebrate the clubs and/or the people who go that extra mile to make sure that people, who take that big step to come to our club, feel really comfortable and want to come back.
 
2.         Best Community Engagement
Really successful community sports clubs operate at the heart of their communities and share value with partners from schools to housing associations. The clubs benefit from increased access to potential members and volunteers, potential use of facilities, possible income etc.
At a time where there is increased pressure for sport to demonstrate its wider value to society this is an ideal time to showcase best practice in community engagement for sports clubs. Just take a look at what they are doing at Tynemouth Cricket Club.
 
3.         Best Sporting Experiences
A great sporting experience means different things to different people. So coaches really have to be conscious of whom they are coaching and what they are offering and if that fits in with their needs. This award should highlight on how great coaches are developing an understanding that progress and achievement will always mean different things to different people and therefore have a clear understanding of those criteria and deliver accordingly. 
 
4.         Most Innovative Club
Like any other enterprise sports clubs need to adapt to changes in people’s lifestyles, the way we communicate and the rise of the ‘demanding’ consumer in order to deliver community sport initiatives which people will really want take part in – and get away from a ‘the way we do things are here’ attitude.
Listening to people, daring to develop and try out new ideas and learning from failures and successes are key aspects of successful innovation and we should celebrate clubs that take the plunge and innovate.    
 
5.         Best Finance Manager/Treasurer
Sports clubs must develop better strategies for their financial viability. Having a balanced income model where the clubs has a wide range of income sources is crucial for their growth and, indeed, survival. There is far too little recognition given to this vital function at our sports clubs – time for a change!
 
6.         Best Volunteer Management Programme
We hear the mantra “we can’t get volunteers’ far too frequently and when we then ask the clubs about how they recruit and manage volunteers, we are generally met with blank stares. Clubs with a welcoming culture, a good structure and a sense of purpose generally attract and retain more volunteers. We should encourage more clubs to embrace the concept of ‘bite-size’ volunteering and say ‘thank you’ to our volunteers as they do at Mansfield Rugby Union Club.
 
7.         Best Use of Social Media and Digital Marketing
The ever-growing use of mobile and social media is a key factor affecting people’s lives and unfortunately not enough sports clubs are embracing the wonderful opportunities created. Commercial fitness and entertainment are ‘competing’ sectors which are benefitting greatly from engaging and communicating with their members and users through digital marketing.
This award should highlight the pioneering work of the club(s) which are seeing social marketing as a great opportunity.

8.         Most Happy Club
We must encourage our community sports clubs to improve the way they run their enterprise and become what SMN call ‘Happy Clubs’. Those clubs have a clear vision of where they are going, make it a great place to play and volunteer, run innovative and efficient initiatives to generate income and play a strong role in their communities.
Imagine if we had a network of clubs which had won the ‘Most Happy Club’ awards.

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