Developing a Club Culture

Related to the vision and mission statement is the question of what is the culture at your club? Within a city there are people with widely different views and motivations. Each of these will be attracted to different things. In soccer terms there will be parents who want their kids to be on the competitive elite fast track to college scholarships and others who are looking for a way for them to find friendship and some exercise. Similarly, your coaches and staff have chosen to work for your club for some reason.

It is important to capture what this is and align your various programs towards supporting it. Focusing on what you do well is generally a better approach than trying to be all things to all potential customers. Over time though you might find that your club culture changes – maybe you get bigger and start to have more successful teams, or a rival club sets up across the street and starts challenging for customers. In either of these situations your club must be able to adapt to take advantage or survive.

Even better than be responsive to change, is anticipating it before it happens and being prepared to take full advantage when it does. By surveying your membership, having group discussions and individual meetings you can begin to get a picture of what people like, what they want and what drives them to be here. Often clubs will set up a committee to collect information and try to pick out trends. Two common questions are: –

  • What are your priorities for choosing this club and sport?
  • How do you define success?

For the first question keep in mind that you are not just competing with other clubs in the area, but other sports, or simply doing something versus not doing something. Competing with not having to bother can be more of a challenge than you might think! For the second question the answer might be the same or slightly different. Success could be measured by the improved soccer ability of the players, by results on the field, by the player retention from one year to the next, or by the level of enjoyment. For some clubs success might even be measured by revenue or profit. Working out which one you are will significantly impact how you go about what you do and which priorities you give your staff and volunteers.

Probably the most common (surface) answer to success and priorities questions is player development. This can be difficult to measure though and mean different things to different people. Technical ability, tactical understanding, physical capabilities could all have different priorities to clubs who coach in a certain way. Some are highly technical, others hide technical weakness with tactical understanding, and still other teams focus more on physical fitness and direct play to achieve results. Finding a style of play that fits your coaches and players can be a good step towards measuring each year and team against the standard. It also allows players to know what they are getting in to before they sign up, if your club has a reputation for playing in a certain way.

How important are your coaches to your organization? They are probably 80-90% of the relationship players have and so represent the face of the club. How do you select coaches? How do you further their development with coaching sessions and paying for courses for them? Find out what percentage of your budget goes towards coach pay and benefits (clothing, education, recognition etc.) and decide whether that is appropriate for their value to your culture.

Some clubs are firmly embedded in their local community. This could be in the form of being a branch of the city athletics program, using city fields or by incorporating non-soccer programs to benefit the local area. Some clubs require players and parents to volunteer as part of their membership – helping with homeless shelters, trash collection or similar schemes to improve citizenship. Some take the opposite approach, trying to stick to what they do well (and are being paid to do) – coach soccer. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches forming your club culture.

How important is financial success to your club? If you are looking to make money in business, it is unlikely that club soccer would be the first choice you would make. There are some out there that have a strict business model and generate great revenue for their employees and investors. Equally though, there are a significant number of mismanaged clubs who continue to hemorrhage money away through incompetent accountancy, lax application of rules (giving away scholarships, wasting money) and bad decisions. Finally, you might be in a battle of survival with other clubs where every player you lose steps you closer to financial meltdown. In all of these scenarios your financial success could become one of the leading priorities in your culture.

Back  Club  Forward