Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
In response to a comment on a recent story—here are my thoughts about serving on the swim team’s board.
Here’s the comment:
“Could you please write an article about what it is like to be a board member/fundraiser/publicist/recruiter to a summer age group program…..All the behind the scenes stuff & how we work for FREE! That small things such as reading your email before you ask questions or remembering that we have to be at work in the morning and maybe your question can wait until the sun comes up…. We are also swim parents who really want to see our kid swim as well.”
Personally, I never wanted or intended to be a board member. But, when I was asked—for some unknown reason—I agreed. I served several terms on our parent-owned, year-round team.
One of our requirements was to attend a class by USA Swimming, the Club Leadership and Business Management School. We learned how to create a mission statement and what our roles should be. We broke things into “wet issues” for the coaches and “dry issues” for the board. Keeping the team afloat financially was our first responsibility.
Prior to joining the board, I had absolutely no idea what the swim team’s board did. Or, that our team had an annual budget of more than $150K. After I became a board member, I learned that members were often unhappy with us. Like when we voted to combine Saturday practices for our team, versus holding practice at two separate pools. Our objective was not to treat the families from the satellite pool like “a red-headed step-child,” of which we were accused. We wanted to get the kids together one day a week for team bonding—and save $1,500 monthly in pool fees. Better communication might have helped get our side of the story out.
Here’s a few tips to understand the roles of your board members:
- Board members are swim parents, too. They want the best for their swimmers and the team. They’d like some time to enjoy a swim meet and to watch their swimmers race.
- Being a board member can be time consuming. Many unscheduled issues arise that have to be dealt with right away. Plus, we still have our families, our kids, and very often—full time jobs.
- We take our service seriously. Often we have hours of debate and do tons of research before we vote. If you question a decision, talk to board members and ask what led to their decision.
- Board members need help. I remember feeling overwhelmed with writing the newsletter, press releases, going to schools with fliers, signing people up to help with team banquets, etc. I was thrilled when I could get other parents to volunteer.
- We work for free. Although serving on the board sometimes felt like a full-time job—it wasn’t. It was a volunteer position that didn’t give me or my kids any perks. Swimming is the best activity my kids have ever been involved in. I was happy to give back and I wanted our team to be successful.
- If you have an issue that you’re concerned about, please talk to a board member or your kid’s coach. Don’t talk about it with other parents on deck. After 14 years, I have never seen a problem resolved with parents discussing it among themselves.
What tips do you have to better understand what it’s like to be a board member?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.