When he was still alive, I once took my dad to watch my two boys practice on a cold and dreary winter Saturday morning because, like my young sons, he was up before 6:00 am (God love him) too. Connor was on the ice at 6 a.m., and Taylor followed at 6:50, so there was no point in going back and forth between the arena and home.
He and I chatted in the stands about family stuff as we watched Connor fall down and get up an awful lot on the ice – and Taylor fall down and get up an awful lot in the bleachers – waiting for his turn on the ice. My dad then casually asked me, referring to the coaches, “So, how much do these guys get paid?”
I laughed and answered, “Nothing, Dad. Not a cent. They’re all volunteers.” He just shook his head. He simply could not fathom doing what they did for free—at 6 a.m. on a Saturday, no less.
Of course anyone reading this post is very likely associated with hockey and knows very well that a hockey team runs on more than cheap beer; it also needs cheap labour. This season, my daughter’s hockey association is fielding five teams at her midget level and once again, I will act as the team manager.
And why do I volunteer as a team manager?
Because my shot at the head coach job vanished after that embarrassing mother-daughter shinny game where my inability to skate or stickhandle was pretty unmistakable.
What does a team manager do?
I just spend countless hours crafting extensive, meaningless emails, then hit send and sit back and watch them jam up your inbox. But I also help accomplish the following:
- With the coach, organize run the first parents’ meeting (which will hopefully coincide with the team icebreaker party).
- Recruit additional volunteers (assistant coaches, trainer, treasurer, statistician, den moms, social convenor, etc.),
- Prepare a team budget, open a bank account and collect team fees.
- Submit an official roster for insurance purposes,
- Distribute jerseys and socks (but only after the fight for favourite jersey numbers has simmered down).
- Generate game sheet roster labels.
- Complete tournament registrations, organize hotel group bookings, and ensure restaurant reservations are made for tournament weekends.
- Pay ice-rental invoices.
- Order parent contact cards.
- Solicit team sponsors are solicited and provide official thanks.
- … and then I help fill and empty water bottles as well as the occasional wineglass!
Not everyone would fully understand, just as my dad could not understand, that volunteers do get paid. Maybe not in cash, but they are richly rewarded nonetheless, by an intrinsic system of compensation that is difficult for non-volunteers to understand.
I think my daughter gets it. This year she answered a call for volunteers to help out with the FUNdamentals program (first year hockey players, affectionately known as Timbit players in many associations) – a program in which she herself participated some eleven years ago. I’m proud of her. Maybe she’ll come to appreciate all the hard work that has gone into her wonderful hockey experience. At the very least she’ll come to appreciate the stamina and perseverance required of getting to those early morning practices! Either that, or she’ll learn to love coffee.
Three cheers for the new hockey season – and all the volunteers who will make it happen!
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