Tips for Managing Youth Sports Volunteers

By Jason Schaitz, MBA, CPRE | Posted on January 28, 2022

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For many park and recreation agencies, volunteers are going to be the face of your youth sports programs and leagues to most kids and parents — and in many cases, your programs cannot happen without them. Recruiting and retaining great volunteers will make your league better and your job as the administrator much easier.

Larger programs can have hundreds of volunteers to manage, so it is important you stay organized while putting in the extra effort to retain them. Many youth sports leagues have volunteer coaches, which will usually account for the majority of your volunteer group, but some will also have volunteer referees and scorekeepers, as well. Here are some tips to manage your volunteers and keep them coming back!

Background Screening

This is a must for any youth program and paramount for the safety of your participants. Make sure to follow your state's guidelines on volunteer screening. If your state statutes do not clearly define volunteer screening requirements, you should be screening all your volunteers at least once annually.

Volunteer Policies

Have written policies for your volunteers such as background screen requirements, a volunteer job description, waivers and code of conduct. Have forms available for detailed contact information and require them to sign off on your policies on an annual basis.

Say Thank You…A LOT

One unfortunate thing that gets overlooked with managing volunteers is the simple gesture of thanking them for their service. They are doing the job for free, but it is an essential part of any program. Tell them how much they mean to your program any chance you get.

Train and Educate

Put the necessary effort into training and educating your volunteers before they ever step foot on-site in your program. Review your program goals and expectations as well as sport-specific rules and policies. Provide everything you can within the time constraints of your face-to-face meetings and provide them with a list of resources they can use on their own throughout the season. Teaching them how to work with kids, manage practices and run games will go a long way in developing your volunteers and make them more comfortable and confident when they are on site.

Be Flexible

Try to be as flexible as possible with your volunteers when it comes to scheduling. Make sure they get their desired practice times. If they have a known conflict prior to the season, look into it and see if it can be avoided as best as you can. If they coach multiple teams, make sure you schedule those teams in different time slots so they are able to do both. Don’t try to rearrange schedules mid-season due to a request — it should all be considered only before the season starts and make sure they understand that scheduling changes cannot always be guaranteed.


Give your volunteers the tools they need to succeed and get out of their way! Don’t micromanage your volunteers, let them do their own thing and have fun with it. You don’t need to tell them how to do their jobs, just provide them guidance and tools and help them along the way.

Hold Volunteers Accountable

Have a process in place to monitor your volunteers and hold them accountable if they do not follow your policies. Make sure you set clear and concise expectations for your volunteers and if they fall short, take action as soon as possible to prevent a larger incident from occurring down the road.


It is extremely important to communicate with your volunteers throughout the entire season — from when they sign up to the last day. Volunteers will be frustrated if they cannot find the information they need or feel like they are out of the loop on league activities. Send weekly updates, make sure to listen if they have questions or concerns, and be responsive.

Give them a Keepsake

One last thing to do at the end of the season is to give them something in appreciation for their service. Work a deal with your league photographer to give all coaches a free team picture. A couple of other examples would be a plaque or certificate of appreciation. Another great idea is to have a volunteer appreciation event at the end of the season, such as a luncheon or barbecue. Anything you can do to leave that lasting impression will end the season on a high note and keep your program in their mind when it is time for the next season.

Be Fair

Make sure to treat all volunteers equally and apply the same rules to all. It’s frustrating for a new volunteer when it is clear there are favorites within the program. If volunteers who have been there for a while are getting all the best players, or not playing by the same rules, it will turn your new volunteers away and could be detrimental to your program.

Knowing how to manage your volunteers is an essential part of any youth sports program. Falling short in this area may cause the program to go away for good. Have a plan going into each season on how to manage your volunteers and use all the resources at your disposal to welcome your volunteers to your program and keep them there for the long haul. The better and more well equipped your volunteer base is, the stronger your program will be.


Jason Schaitz, MBA, CPREis a parks and recreation director in the state of Florida with 15 years of experience managing youth sports, camps and recreation programs. He also created and manages League Source and The Summer Camp Source with the goal of providing free high-quality resources for any type of youth sports or camp program. Take your leagues and camps to the next level by visiting our websites for free resources and education!


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To raise awareness about the benefits of youth sports programs, NRPA also has developed a communications toolkit, in partnership with the Walt Disney Company, to help park and recreation professionals make connections and encourage participation in park and recreation youth sports programs. This toolkit provides data-backed messaging, sample social media posts, template graphics and more.