Introducing CRUCS – SMN’s Campaign for Real Urgency in Community Sport

Complacency: a feeling of contentment and-self satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or trouble, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

We have a serious problem in too many parts of community sport.  It could grow more serious in the future if we all (yes, that does include you, sorry) do not act now. The good news is that there is a solution.

The problem is complacency. We have all seen it, yet we underestimate its power and how widespread it is. Highly destructive complacency is in fact all around us, including in places where people would vehemently deny its existence.

Complacent people are mostly content with the status quo. “Yes, the numbers are down but that is down to X-Factor, the Government, funding cuts or the Internet. Nothing to do with what we do, and don’t do here.” (Yes, I am sure you have heard all the excuses and more).

There is certainly not a lot we can do, the Complacent agree amongst themselves. In the meantime, everything around them is sliding downwards. Classes are closed, teams are disbanded, events are cancelled and the cash reserves are dwindling – but as you will notice in the definition above this is about feeling and self-satisfaction. Complacency is very much a feeling that a person has about his or her own behaviour, about what he or she needs to do or not to do.

 The Complacent never think they are complacent. “We are doing what is right – so why should we consider new opportunities or be concerned about hazards – we know what has worked in the past. If only others would change, all would be well.” And so the vicious spiral of complacency continues. “Crisis? What crisis?”

Too many sports clubs and other activity providers focus primarily (if not only!) on day-to-day operational issues from the quality of the swimming pool water and staffing and/or volunteering issues to complaining about bosses/politicians or the Governing Body. It is too rare that I experience activity providers which spend any significant time and resources considering and planning for the impact that changing lifestyles, technology and economic and political factors can have on their enterprise, both positively and negatively. The challenge is to change and innovate before the bailiffs are at the door; then it’s too late.

 How to overcome complacency and introduce real urgency

With the help of a few quotes from Wayne Gretzky (in italics below), not just widely regarded as the best ever ice hockey player but also his intelligence and reading of the game were unrivalled, I would like to put forward some suggestions as to how you, and your organisation, can overcome the smugness that can be so detrimental to your future survival and growth.

It all starts with real urgency. Real urgency is about getting things done and moving forward – day in, day out.  False urgency happens when panic strikes due to some unexpected external pressure. As no one is prepared for or skilled to deal with the situation, everyone runs around like headless chickens and nothing really happens. However, too often this flurry of activity is mistaken for progress.

Real urgency happens when you and like-minded people start to make changes on a regular basis, because, you want to move forward, now.  You have it in your hearts that you want to make progress.  Initially, you are a bit vulnerable, until you have gained some success (however small) and earned people’s respect.

Deal with opportunities and challenges NOW – don’t wait until next month’s meeting. Give people the facts: ‘We are losing money, members and community support – here are my/our thoughts on how to deal with it; for all of us.’

 “Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.”

Stop believing that ‘it can’t be done.’ As Henry Ford (he of Ford T fame) commented: “When people say they can’t or they can, they are normally right.”  Do the things you can do and gradually you’ll start having small successes and other likeminded people will want to join you in your quest.

Have a vision of where you want to go yourself and where you would like your group/provider to be. Warning: If it’s just about survival of yourself and your organisation, most other people won’t care. What is your BIG Vision? Is it about ‘helping people change their lives through sport’ or is it just ‘make sure we survive here?’

Make sure that you have communicated that vision and that you get buy-in from as,many like-minded people as possible. However, don’t waste time on convincing the NoNos (see para 4).

 “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be. I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

 Seek to better yourself and your club/activity provider. The more open your culture and the wider and more up-to-date your skills base is, the more likely you are to be able to embrace change and benefit from it.

Send people out. Visit outstanding clubs, leisure centres, community sports enterprises or even great hotels, leisure parks or community centres and learn from them.  Attend one of SMN’s workshops (or talk to us about running one in your area) and keep learning and implementing new ideas.

Do not accept the limited what I/we know here (which leads to the way we do things around here) – that will be your downfall.

 “My success is not about creative genius. It’s all practice. I got it from my dad. Nine out of ten people think it is instinct, and it isn’t. Nobody would ever say a doctor had learned his profession by instinct; yet in my own way I’ve put in almost as much time studying hockey as a medical student puts in studying medicine!”

 Stay determined and ambitious Do NOT settle.  It is easy to give up when the going gets a bit tough and then to lapse back into the status quo. The two main reasons why change initiatives fail are culture and habit; so get urgency, power and determination going from the beginning – big time and more!

Distinguish between Sceptics and NoNos and create a guiding team of like-minded people and earn some quick successes. Sceptics will need convincing through your facts and arguments and that can be done, but NoNos are more than just sceptics. They are always ready with ten reasons why the current situation is fine, why the problems/challenges others see don’t exist and why we need to consider this and that a bit more.

Left alone NoNos can kill or mortally wound your organisation and I have, sadly, experienced situations, particularly in voluntary organisations, where long-standing NoNos would rather see their club go down than change their mindset and behaviour.

Do NOT waste time trying to co-opt NoNos – but don’t ignore them. An ignored NoNo can create much mischief; you are, after all, disturbing/ruining their disturbed view of the world.

There are three ways of dealing with NoNos: a) distract them with urgent jobs that take them away from the real issues b) expose their behaviour and let social pressure do its work and they leave c) force them out.

To be honest: I know it is very difficult, but my recommendation is option C.

While I am not suggesting that you immediately get rid of every NoNo, every time I come across a really successful Community Sports Enterprise, there’s not a single NoNo in sight.

Some ‘stuck-in-the-mud’ people see innovation and change as something that disturbs their finely tuned policies and procedures that have served them well for decades

“The highest compliment that you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day”

 Learn from your failures and successes – then your hit rate improves. Be honest with yourself and your colleagues as to why new initiatives work and don’t work. Gradually you will increase your knowledge and understanding and become more successful – which is great. But you have to set some ships into the sea, that’s what ships are for – not to sit safe in the harbour.

 “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

 Enjoy the challenge – try to have fun while you are moving forward; otherwise, you are too easily de-motivated and thrown off-course, when the sea becomes a bit choppy. I know – easier said than done, but that’s where continuous progress, however small and slow, becomes so important.

 “The only way a kid is going to practise is if it is total fun for him… and it was for me.”


What do you want to stop, start and continue?


Every now and then get as many people within your club together to discuss and agree on what they want to:

1. Stop doing – because you know what practices and habits are getting in the way, preventing you from being efficient, or simply they aren’t good for you!

2. Start doing – because there’s always some new idea waiting in the wings that you just haven’t got around to trying out yet, and you know what needs to change

3. Change doing – we are all guilty of ‘the way we do things around here’ syndrome. Could you benefit from using technology better in your membership communication? Introduce a representative from the junior section to your committee?

4. Continue doing – because it’s not all bad! It’s important to remember the good stuff and to think about how you can build on your achievements and successes


Good luck with your own CRUCS campaign.

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