Volunteering in cricket is something I frequently think about, because it’s so integral to the fortunes of the recreational game. It’s a well-worn truth that club cricket wouldn’t exist without those stalwarts.
I was walking with my wife the other day and a gentleman was in a high-vis jacket collecting litter in our neighbourhood.
More and more reflective orange bibs were spotted as it dawned on me how many were out giving up their Sunday afternoon to make our town nicer for everyone.
While you don’t want to get me started on the blight that is litter, my immediate thought naturally turned to cricket:
‘Well, if they’re prepared to pick up discarded Coke cans then surely they’d be open to doing a few overs from square leg.’
It’s how my mind works, I can’t help it.
While the selflessness that courses through everyone volunteering at our cricket clubs is a triumph in these otherwise difficult, Covid-affected times, what else can we be doing?
Volunteer recruitment is as hard as it’s ever been; a reality made worse by coronavirus and all the extra admin and responsibilities that cricket clubs have had to do.
If I’m honest, I think many cricket clubs could do more to try and attract help. It’s really simple things like having a dedicated Volunteers section on their website, clear roles of how someone could get involved (incl number of hours) and case studies from volunteers of why they love doing it.
If I had a pound for every club official I’d interviewed down the years who said something like: ‘My mistake was offering to do a shift behind the bar and 22 years later, I’m Secretary, Treasurer and U11s Coach.’
Not everyone wants to do that, nor should they have to, but they might be open to a shorter-term commitment. There are all kinds of things clubs can do, tie-ins with colleges and universities for accredited work experience being just one example.
Incentivising volunteers more is a missed opportunity. Coaching courses, non-cricket career qualifications and actual, personalised rewards will all be appreciated.
If you already volunteer at a cricket club, you might be thinking, ‘well, I don’t get any of that!’
Fair enough but maybe you should and the fact it doesn’t happen is no reason not to make changes – if the outcome is more volunteers and less pressure on a select few.
Is it time to pay for an administrator?
If you dig a little into the operations of many cricket clubs, what you’ll find is that they are already paying for all kinds of things. Utilities, insurance, repairing the nets, kit, the list goes on.
But what clubs are also doing is paying people and I don’t just mean an overseas player or a gun batsman who coaches a bit on the side.
Groundsman. Bar staff. To name but a couple. All of which is absolutely fine, by the way. I’ve never understood the nobility behind struggling on and welding the bank account shut, just for the sake of it.
I understand that there isn’t a magic money tree – but is it time that cricket clubs paid for the one thing that would instantly add years to their lifespan?
Someone to do all/some of those jobs that cricket club officials hate, don’t have time for or lack the experience in. Membership administration, chasing payments, sponsorship, I imagine you could draw up a list as long as your arm!
I can hear the cries of indignation from here. Waste of money.
Well, you’re either not involved in the many hours tied up with running a club or aren’t seeing the bigger picture.
It’s not an either/or equation either. Could be part-time, a few hours a week, nothing revolutionary. Why? To take the strain off those who run cricket clubs and, in some cases I’ve heard this summer, are at their wits’ end.
Every cricket club will still need to continue to rely on volunteers to do the countless jobs that get done each week of the year.
Yet, it puzzles me that cricket clubs will buy the infrastructure for facilitating cricket but are reluctant to invest in the people who actually deliver it.
What about all those clubs for whom a paid position in any capacity is pie in the sky?
Well, if the ECB can offer grants for a course in film-making, there must be a few quid down the back of their sofa to invest in volunteering-specific initiatives.
It doesn’t have to be paying wages; I see no problem with it but it’s normally a red flag for funders. How about we start with better resources, advice and support for volunteers?
How about examples of best practice at clubs, what has proven to work plus small changes to really look after the folk at clubs who keep the lights on and cricket continuing.
That’s not a dig at what’s being done already as there is an enormous amount, only a fraction of which I cover on Cricket Yorkshire, but I do think there’s a shortfall on caring for the people who facilitate the lions’ share of cricket.
If the headlines were to be believed, there was meant to be millions heading to recreational cricket from the UK Government via Sport England.
Showing cricket clubs how they can develop and grow with volunteer recruitment and retention, especially online, would be a really positive, long-term step.
I can think of no better way of spending some of that than taking pressure off volunteers at an unprecedented time of crisis.
If you’re involved in running a cricket club, you might be interested in this free guide with tips that any club of any size can put into practice to make a difference to their income.
I’ve also now launched the Make Money For Your Cricket Club e-course with 4 Modules covering Membership, Events & Fundraising, Sponsorship and Grants & Funding.
If bite-sized video lessons and lifetime access for your club sounds good, check out what’s included. Buy a single Module or the whole course. Thanks for reading and have your say on volunteering in cricket with a comment below!
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Hamzah Hussain says
Great article. In my experience not rewarding those who do good for the club is a huge missed opportunity.
People can give and continue to give without expectation, but it gets to a point where for young people time/commitment is better served elsewhere.
If a youngster can be paid to play, why not pay someone who gets you £15k in grants? That sort of bias is what pushes youngsters away from contributing full heartedly.
Invest in those that do good and they’ll reward you long term.
Only about a fith of the players i played with over the years have ever put anything back into a club.
The small group of volunteers give up most of their time to provide good facilities for players who probably stop for an hour at most after games and are not seen again till the Saturday after.
John Fuller says
Thanks Chris, I’ve been both club volunteer and player who just wants to play. I’d argue both are fine and it’s the club’s job to persuade its members, beyond just goodwill, why they should volunteer.
I do appreciate it’s very frustrating if members don’t stay around after games. There’s no quick fix on this. Honest conversations perhaps!
Aden Biddle says
I agree with the point above that young people specifically get a rough deal from the “old guard” many people volunteer for short periods of time and do little bits when they can, I am busy a lot and have helped with a few Friday nights at my club but I struggle to do much more. Young people now are transient moving from city to city for jobs, they work several jobs in the modern world of “side hustle” many of which earn extra money in effect doing a hobby of some sort, so if you make money in your chosen hustle why volunteer for free. Without harping back to teas a lot of this is asking someone to do work for free that others (coaches, charity workers) do as a living, yes it might be a sad inditement of the modern world but its reality. I recently fed back about how the cricket board awards were still skewed towards your classic club stalwart, maybe awards for social media or best streaming service at a club etc would maybe show what people do that isn’t cutting grass or throwing the windball at under 10’s.
John Fuller says
Hi Aden, good to hear from you. Players not volunteering can cause resentment but someone who joins a club doesn’t have to volunteer. Encouraging and rewarding them to get involved isn’t easy but I’d say is the best route. Carrot rather than stick 🙂
As for awards, I did the Cricket Yorkshire Awards a few years ago and was thinking of bringing them back so I’ll give that some thought: https://cricketyorkshire.com/2974589/
Aden Biddle says
Totally agree with John, someone who turns up every week (or as best as they can) plays and pays their match fees membership is still vital to a successful club, sometimes junior coaches etc play for other teams on Saturdays for example. An incentive is a good idea I think to encourage (money off at the bar, reduced or no teas or free kit) I think my point is a paid up club member has as much right to play as one who pays and does loads for the club (coaching groundwork). I am worried sometimes there are situations where people feel volunteering feel that owes them a place in a certain Saturday side or they automatically deserve committee/decision making responsibilities. Only the very dedicated do this for ever I think all lifelong cricket people go through phases of lots of volunteering to then going back into the shadows, with so much more on offer (social media, streams, videos, modern advertising) more people can feel valued as a volunteer even if they cant go down the ground every night.