Embracing generational and “gender-ational” change within your committee

Embracing generational and “gender-ational” change within your committee

General Category

One of the great pleasures of working at Sports Community is that we get to work with grassroots sports club volunteers and be a catalyst for change. We work all around the country, from those considering a committee role for the first time right through to those with over 50 years experience.

We are in a time of rapid change for club committees. Technology is invading all crevices of club life, participation formats and options are exploding, especially social formats of sports.  Women and girls are now playing in traditionally male sports and the younger generation is now enjoying sports traditionally the realm of older participants such as bowls.

The expectations of club participants and members are also changing. No longer is it enough for clubs to only offer competitive sporting experiences. People are looking for much broader experiences and flexibility.

This is such an exciting time for local sports clubs who embrace the times we live in. The clubs that are embracing change are doing amazing things.

This time of change is not only happening with technology, sports formats and anytime sports but within club committees as well. We are seeing not only generational transition but also “gender-ational” change.  Women are now making their way in droves into the committee rooms, previously only the bastion of their male counterparts.

This period of change, inside and outside the committee room, is creating massive challenges, especially for newer, younger committee members, brought up in a modern world and for older members resistant to change.

The brilliant research commissioned by the Australian Sports Commission and released in 2013 titled “Market Segmentation into Sports Participation” found that:

“There is a perception that existing groups of volunteers can make others feel unwelcome, with tight social groups that make it hard for others to feel they can enter.  There is also a perception that these “inner circles” will reject the change that “newcomers” might bring to how the volunteer role or activity is done. It is largely believed that many see “newcomers” as threatening their power, their authority or the status quo within the club.” 1

We are now seeing these 2013 research findings becoming reality with increasing numbers of newer committee members, with their new ideas, walking away from their club committees, and are sick of having their ideas being criticised, ignored or rejected.

A continually recurring theme in our discussions with committee members is how they get their ideas and new methodologies past a committee full of experienced members resistant to change. Long-term committee members who are used to doing things a certain way and often don’t understand the potential of the new ideas.

Let’s be clear, this has nothing to do with age.  It is about a committee member’s mindset and their willingness to explore and embrace the opportunities, conveniences and methods of a modern world.  It is also not about filling committees with exuberant youth willing to experiment with the latest gimmick or idea.

So how do committees adjust to this new world?

The answer is different for every committee but at some stage the “traditionalists” must have the courage to allow the next generation an opportunity to show what they are capable of.  Even when they don’t believe in the methodology or that an outcome is possible.

Two great examples come from Harness Racing.  The first example involves a new, young, female manager of a country harness racing club who proposed to her committee to use the 24th of December race meeting as a free day for underprivileged people from their community. The second, a new, female manager who proposed to her committee a plan to create an event that attracted at least 100 women to a marquee on their cup day, race meeting.

In both instances, the respective committees didn’t believe it was possible to create cost-effective, successful events that also achieved the commercial objectives of their clubs. Thankfully though, both committees had the courage and foresight to only allow these young female administrators to run with their ideas. The results were amazing, with both events set to become traditional feature events in their club’s calendars.

So, the new generation of committee members must respectfully show what they are capable of by advocating for change but being mindful of traditions. They need to build trust within the committee for their ideas and methods.  The easiest way to do this is often to start by taking on smaller projects. New committee members should look to take the committee on a journey, educating them about new methods and how they allow volunteering tasks to be undertaken more easily than the methods of the past.

Characteristics of clubs that have successfully embraced this generational and “gender-ational” change are those that are continually communicating, exchanging ideas and learning from each other, and where the knowledge and experience of the past is respected and incorporated into the methods and processes of the future.

  1. Market Segmentation for Sport Participation – Volunteers 2012-2013 Research, Latitude Insights, page 57