A letter from a Volunteer

Dear Volunteer,

You seem a bit upset and frustrated and I’m concerned. I’m sure there are lots of reasons for this, perhaps it’s the challenges of your volunteer role, perhaps actions of others or a perceived lack of respect or just the impact of a heavy time and emotional commitment of being volunteer, parent or player. But we need to stay composed.

As volunteers we get involved because the sport needs us to exist and as time goes on there are more challenges, more to be done and many become more involved. That’s a good thing, but now many of us are wearing more than one hat and juggling priorities at home and in the sport. Perhaps everything is not going perfectly and certainly not as well as we would like given the effort we make. To wear multiple hats for this sport is complex and fraught, with its intractable problems, dependencies on things we have little control over, the risks and financial costs. 

All volunteers make time, emotional, reputational and often financial commitments to their roles and it’s easy for them to become a little demanding as a result. Having high expectations is good, but when it leads to intolerance and aggression it can be destructive. I think we need to accept that different members are at a different point in their hockey journey with varying objectives and understanding of the constraints and challenges of our sport and different willingness to contribute. We need to work with this diversity and find way for the widest possible range of volunteers to have productive and enjoyable roles in the sport. At the very least we should recognise it and act accordingly because most of us are in this sport for the long haul.

Those that are wearing multiple hats are not power hungry and control obsessed, they are just stepping up to fill roles that are critical to the success of our sport and should be respected and valued and they should know they are respected and valued. 

As a volunteer with multiple hats it’s easy to feel responsible for everything that’s not perfect in our sport, to fix every problem, to react to every criticism, to fight every battle. Don’t! It’s just not healthy for you or the sport and can lead to some average decisions and quite frankly some burnt bridges. Also remember that as a volunteer, how you interact with others have consequences, potentially positive and negative, intended and unintended but often multiplied the more hats you wear. So, as a multi hat volunteer, be careful, you are a most valuable part of our sport and we don’t want either your effectiveness or your enjoyment to be eroded.

So, here are some notes to myself based on reflection as my mistakes and challenges over a decade that I can take on board next time!

Respect and appreciate volunteers. Look beyond the superficial because they are mostly coming from a good place. Sure, they might be controlling, perhaps a bit more direct than we might expect, but suck it up, and make sure volunteers feel respected and valued.

Respect the position you hold. What you do can enhance or compromise your position, so you should filter what you say and do. Whether you are a coach, manager, director of a club or IHNSW, your actions are amplified, so be measured and leave the role in good shape when you depart.

It’s not a kingdom, just a role, so don’t overstep. Bring others along on the journey, trust them but don’t be afraid to be respectfully frank if things are not going well. Walking on eggshells can be painful and it lets problems fester.

Make sure you acknowledge the wins you help achieve for the sport and the team who were a part of it. It’s too easy to get bogged down with the problems.

Enjoy the experience of being involved. So many great people and the best sport in the world…… it shouldn’t be hard to have a good time.

A fellow Volunteer