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Parent Volunteers in Youth Sports

Youth sports programs need a ton of parent help. Which job is right for you?

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Parents cheer at youth softball game Yellow Dog Productions

Running a youth sports program is a huge job. Parent volunteers handle almost everything there is to do (although sometimes coaches earn a paycheck). If your child wants to play sports, you will almost surely be asked—or required—to take on some volunteer tasks. Buying out your volunteer hours may be an option, but completing them is a way to save money on youth sports. Plus it helps you learn about the sport, spend some quality time with your kid, and make some grown-up friends too.

So what kind of parent volunteer jobs are there in youth sports? While it depends on the program, there are usually many options. That makes it easier to choose something that you think you’ll enjoy or that uses skills you already have. But don’t worry if you don’t know anything about the sport or the job tasks. Training will always be available for newbies; the program and veteran parents are grateful for your help.

Coach or assistant coach – Especially if you have some experience in coaching, teaching, or playing your child’s sport, his program could probably use coaching help. Some teams have paid head coaches, but rely on volunteers to assist them.

Official, referee, or judge – Large soccer or baseball leagues, for example, may have (non-parent) trained or even paid referees. And professional judges are important for subjective sports like figure skating. But many other sports count on volunteers to officiate or to time events, especially in swimming or track where many events happen simultaneously.

Team apparel – Whether players wear a simple t-shirt or an elaborate costume (say for dance), someone has to order, store, distribute, track, and maintain apparel and shared equipment.

Fundraisers – Most youth sports programs rely heavily on fundraising for the funds they need to operate (yep, that’s in addition to the fees you pay for your child to participate). Parent volunteers organize and run both one-off (say, a car wash or plant sale) and ongoing fundraising efforts (like SCRIP cards).

Team photos – Whether it’s a formal, league-wide photo op or just a quick snapshot of the team taken at practice, someone needs to be on point to take pictures, or work with a professional photographer to do so. Some studios will make a donation to the league or return a small percentage of sales in exchange for the opportunity to sell individual and group photos.

Snacks – Especially for little kids, the half-time or post-game snack can be as big a deal as the game itself. A parent volunteer usually creates the snack schedule so that all families take a turn supplying the food. Taking on this task means you can help guide the league to a healthier snack policy.

Facilities – Parent volunteers paint lines on soccer fields, rake Little League diamonds, and run the Zamboni at ice rinks.

Concession stand – Common at baseball and football fields and ice rinks, the concession stand can be both a moneymaker and a convenience for sports programs. To keep costs down, parents take turns staffing the cash register and the hot dog grill.

Communications – Coaches and other league staff have lots to communicate to players’ families, so a team parent may serve as the key information source, sending emails or maintaining a private message board. Volunteers also help get out the word about the program to prospective players, advertise public events, and help enroll new members.

Travel arrangements – Does your child’s league travel to competitions or tournaments? Then parent volunteers are the ones who determine, with the coach, which events to attend; research costs for transportation and hotels; and arrange for meal stops and kids’ activities during the trip. A parent volunteer may also organize carpools for practices, games, and other events.

Special events – If the youth sports program also hosts a tournament or competition, an army of volunteers is required to organize and staff it. Tasks might include reserving space, booking judges or other officials, registering entrants, ordering medals and trophies, publicizing the event, setting up and cleaning up the space, and coordinating other volunteers. On a smaller scale, parent volunteers might plan and host other events like team-building outings, end-of-season parties, or awards banquets.

Board of directors – Running a youth sports program takes leadership and decision-making authority, often in the form of a board of directors that includes officers such as president, secretary, treasurer, membership coordinator, and so on.

Volunteer coordinator – Last but not least, a volunteer has to organize all the other volunteers!

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