Defensive Leadership for Sports Nonprofit Boards

Sports Nonprofit Defensive Leadership

It’s always helpful to review best practices for keeping young athletes safe and protecting a great organization’s reputation. In that spirit, we provide this brief overview of defensive leadership habits for a sports nonprofit.

We conclude with a few words about connecting with people. As a board leader, you’re a coach to your team of directors. And no matter how up to speed you are on your own responsibilities, you still have to earn the respect of your team.

"Defensive leadership" is necessary for a sports nonprofit to avoid the common pitfalls of a youth recreational organization. Does your board know the basics to cover?

Communicating Expectations and Standards at a Sports Nonprofit

All youth sports clubs have expectations of the team, parents, and mentors. Your board should oversee the drafting of a code of conduct that conveys these expectations. It’s up to the sports nonprofit board to make sure that there are plans and protections in place for emergencies, general safety, injuries, and disasters before they ever happen.

    Furthermore, examine your practice and playing areas for hazards. Have a readiness checklist for every use of the playing area. Be sure your board discusses insurance, in case an accident occurs despite organization’s care and best efforts. Boards should research liability and sports accident insurance, directors’ coverage, and any needed event coverage.

    Leaders must make sure their youth sports club follows league and local regulations. If an incident occurs, non-compliance with the rules is a recipe for liability.  Be sure staff and coaches know the rules enacted to protect young athletes and to respect the community at large. Additionally, have a communication plan in place for any unusual circumstances.

    Following Club Rules

    Be sure coaches are well versed in:

    • Correct choice, use, storage, inspections, and maintenance of equipment.
    • Basic first aid.
    • Obtaining professional medical assistance when necessary for illnesses and injuries.
    • Adherence to recommended warm-up, cooling down, rest and recovery requirements.

    To protect children, staffers, and the sports nonprofit, be sure players’ medical forms and emergency contacts are on file, as well as signed, up-to-date consent forms from the parents and guardians.

    We recommend placing forms, medical histories, wellness questionnaires, and training notes in a software system that your club and the parents can access.

    Heading Off Personnel Problems

    Always run background checks when hiring, provide multiple interviewers and interviews, and verify references. Also, select accountants and treasurers carefully. The news is full of scandals that could have been averted if someone had caught bad actors before they had a chance to do harm.

    Have training in place for coaches. Focus on acceptable interactions with young team members. Keep up to date with sports nonprofit best practices for security and background checks.

    Even in perfect circumstances, parents want to know what’s going on with anyone influencing their kids—as they should. Help the community trust your group by valuing transparency. Youth sports nonprofits need a reliable protocol for announcements and communication. Show parents where your policies are, who your board is, and how your finances are doing. Tell them how they can contact you.

    Earning the Respect It Takes to Coach Your Board

    If you’re a board leader, how can you make sure policies are followed by your colleagues? Consider what we all seek in our mentors. Be that person who:

    • Tells the truth.
    • Cares about the organization’s success.
    • Cares about the other individuals on the sports nonprofit board.

    Let your board know it’s a privilege to be their “board coach.” By acting defensively about these common sports nonprofit board challenges, your team will be ready for anything. More importantly, you can focus on the actual game!

    RELATED: Sports Nonprofit Case Study: Gulf Swimming

    Want to know how your nonprofit board of directors and staff can be more productive and efficient through the use of technology? With Boardable’s board portal, you can centralize board information and communications, where everything (and everyone) is just a couple of clicks away. Click below to get started with Boardable.

    Start Free Now


    Try a better board experience for yourself.