How To Be a Great Volunteer Coordinator and Effeciently Manage Parent Volunteers for Summer Swim Team Leagues

Kids, Swim Team, Moms, Volunteering

I had a mostly love relationship with summer swim team leagues. My kids swam on a local summer swim team from 2004 through 2017. You had to be a member of the swim club to join the swim team…summer swim team fees on top of the monthly club dues were reasonable. I highly recommend “adopting” the summer swim team lifestyle. It was my life for 13 years! If I could do it all over again, I would and I wouldn’t change anything…except for a few of the parents.

The idea was that each family signed a summer swim team contract to provide food for the home meet concession stands and volunteer at 4 meets. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Your child gets 8 weeks of weekday swim practices from trained coaches for the bargain price of $150 per swimmer. And you bring food and volunteer to time races or set up for the meet. It’s a deal let me tell you. But, if parents can “muck” things up…they will…

So let’s say you are me and you volunteer to be the Volunteer Coordinator for your children’s summer swim team. And by that I mean that I volunteered to do the Volunteer Coordinator job on top of my family’s required volunteer summer swim team commitments. For about 4-5 summers, I worked a “part-time” unpaid job as the Summer Swim Team Volunteer Coordinator. I’ll let you into a little secret…I LOVED IT!

I had never coordinated much of anything but I found my groove scheduling summer swim team volunteers. I even got a full-time paid job doing very much the same a few years later! I rock a signup sheet. I love a spreadsheet. I don’t mind tracking down parents. I am “fairness” personified. I am dogged about getting everyone to do their fair share of volunteering.

Each summer, there were about 150 swimmers from 80 families. Didn’t matter if you had 1 kid or 6 kids…each summer swim team family had the same volunteer obligations. Again, this is not a hardship. This is part of the agreement each family signed.

As the Volunteer Coordinator, I had two tasks for summer swim team meets:

  1. If the summer swim team meet was at home swim meet, I would start by assigning each family a food item. We ran the summer swim team concession stand from 7 a.m. (the summer swim meet started at 9 a.m.) until 1 p.m. when the swim meet ended. We served coffee, doughnuts, fruit salad, breakfast sandwiches, “Taco-in-a-Bag” (chili and taco toppings poured into a bag of Doritos), hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, candy, snowcones, bottle water, soda, and lemon-peppermint sticks (you cut up a lemon, jam a peppermint stick into the lemon, and “suck” the lemon juice through the peppermint stick) to our summer swim team home swimmers and their families and the opposing summer swim team away swimmers and families. For one summer swim meet, I might assign a family to bring cut up a watermelon for fruit salad. And because I am not unreasonable, the next home swim meet I would assign the same family to bring hot dog rolls. Easy peasy. The vast majority of the parents understood that money made at the concession stand kept the summer swim team fees low. But there were a few parents who tried to skip the donation. They would try to check in their kids and bypass the food donation table. Why are parents like this? I had to find these parents as they arrived at the meet and remind them that we needed coffee creamer or grapes or doughnuts. The concession stand couldn’t run without all these food donations. Every volunteeer needed to do his/her part. I have sent a few parents out to the grocery store to buy what they signed up to bring.
  2. The food donations for the concession stand were the easy part. The part that was truly a thankless task was assigning families to volunteer work assignments at home swim meets or away swim meets. Again, like the concession stand we needed LOTS of volunteers to make the meet run smoothly. 20 people to time races in the first half. 20 people to time races in the second half. 4 people to manage the swimmers before/during/after races (little kids and big kids can be hard to corral). 4 people to grill. 10 people to work the concession stand. 5 people to tally times, enter times in the laptop, print the labels for the ribbons. 2 people to bring iced cold water to the timers (it can get really hot in June and July). The vast majority of parents showed up at their swim team volunteer assignment ready to work, but there were a few parents who bailed. Ugh! People scurried and hid from me when they saw me coming. People went out of their way to avoid talking to me.

If your swim club has a summer swim team, I HIGHLY recommend checking out the summer swim team for kids!

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