board of directors

We're Doing Board Run Teams Wrong

Over the weekend, the news came out from back in Denmark. Sigma, the perennial "best" or almost best club in the country, was breaking up into two. Why? Well, put simply, because the (parent) boards of both teams simply couldn't get along.

In America, the conventional wisdom is that coach run/owned teams are a better competitive model than board run teams. It's true that many coaches prefer this model, especially because of the volatile nature of board run clubs. The situation is much the same in Denmark, where not one of the major Copenhagen area clubs has the same head coach that they had when I moved there a little over four years ago.

But coach run teams have their own problems too. I'm personally uncomfortable with the lack of oversight that many coach run programs exhibit. Coaches need checks and balances just like anyone else, and they need productive ones.

Enter the board. Here's the problem with almost any board I've ever heard of in swimming: It is made up mostly of parents of swimmers on the team. The inherent conflict of interest is the root of most problems on teams with boards. It's an impossible expectation to put on parents to set aside the interest of their own child or children when serving as a volunteer leader for a team.

I feel for the parents who serve on team boards. Their hearts are in the right place, and often times they are filling a role that no one else will even step up and do. 

So who should serve on the board? There is actually a more important question to answer first. How do we get people other than parents interested in serving on the boards of club swimming teams? I don't pretend to have all the answers to how to do so.

A good start would mean identifying people with strengths outside of the the typical "parent" group who would be able to contribute something to the board. They could be local business people, former athletes, educators. Then ask them some questions: what would it take to get them interested in serving on the board? What would they value in return for contributing to running a team?

I can promise this: the process alone of attracting new talent outside of parents to team boards would give you a huge competitive advantage.

Want to learn more about how to structure your team? Write me