Sarah Grai, the director at One Family Memphis, shares tips for navigating the youth sports staff retention issue.
The youth sports field is not immune from the staffing pressure being experienced by the rest of the world. Even prior to the pandemic, it was difficult building a solid sports team due mostly to sporadic schedules and wages that may not equate to competitive sports.
Let’s start by examining the sports director position, typically a 40-plus hour position, overseeing at least one comprehensive sports program. Prior to COVID-19, the sports director position within most YMCAs had the most turnover of any director level position. At the onset of COVID-19, many organizations reduced the number of sports directors on staff as their sports programs paused or were significantly reduced.
I am familiar with six separate organizations that reduced their number of sports directors by 75% and have yet to reinstate these positions, despite an increase in sport registrations. With all these factors, it comes as no surprise that staffing part-time sports positions is also a challenge.
The answer is not easy. The answer includes a comprehensive review of compensation schedules, organizational culture, and training and development opportunities. However, let’s save the topics of salary and culture for another time as those are deeply rooted in individual and organizational ideals.
To tackle – pun intended – the youth sports staff retention issue, we can point towards the self-determination theory as examined through training and development. The self-determination theory notes all individuals are inherently motivated to develop their interests and skills, to connect and contribute to other people and to develop toward their fullest potential. Psychological needs evolve and include the need for competence, relatedness and autonomy.
Learn More: Leadership in Youth Sports – Revisioning Organizational Sport Strategy
Prior research has demonstrated these needs predict motivation and job satisfaction. As you’re reviewing your organizational training and development plan, if you have an active plan, how does this plan meet the employee’s need for competence, relatedness and autonomy?
Provide training and development opportunities of high quality and structure as perceived by employees. Perception of training and development opportunities, being invested in, and having developmental opportunities are associated with higher levels of task performance, organizational citizenship behavior and lower levels of turnover intention. An effective training and development program will lead to higher levels of employee competence.
Offer autonomy support during training by providing trainees with why the training is important and relevant to them and their job roles. This will increase learning outcomes and perceptions of autonomy support and autonomous motivation. It should also foster interpersonal relationships (relatedness).
Consider all organizational HR activities, including training and development, to increase employee perception of autonomy, competence and relatedness
Organizational questions to consider:
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