Club life: The Leading Role

24th May 2018

Club life: The Leading Role

There are hundreds of volleyball clubs around the country and one thing they all have in common is: they need volunteers to run the club. These are the committed club members who step up to organise everything from the finances, league paperwork, training, coaching, matches, events – and just about anything else that needs doing!

In a new ‘Club Life’ series, we find out what is involved in some of the official committee roles people take up at volleyball clubs. Volleyball England went behind the scenes at Wapping Wildcats to chat to the chairman/secretary, treasurer, safeguarding officer and one of the coaches.

The Wildcats, which has been around since 1994, has five teams which play in the local London league: two men’s teams, two ladies’ teams, and a mixed team which plays in a foundation league. While the club competes as fiercely as its name suggests, there is an emphasis on fun and socialising at the club too. There are social training sessions, as well as training for those looking to play for the teams and compete more seriously. There are also lots of social events to help bring people together.

In the first feature in the series, we head straight to the top to talk to the club chairman/secretary, Cormac Byrne, to find out what it is like leading from the front…

What does your role involve? What are the key attributes you need?

CB: We run a very flat structure within our club, so my role mainly involves mobilising and chairing our club committee in order to make the vital decisions to promote and manage Wapping Wildcats. As a committee, we tend to use a lot of social media to make decisions as efficiently and promptly as possible.

As the chair/secretary, I also need to officiate club Annual General Meetings (AGM) and provide many of the club-wide communications, be they official notifications from Volleyball England or London Volleyball Association or just the dates for our parties.

The key attributes required to do this role are diplomacy, approachability and entrepreneurial spirit – always be looking for opportunities to advance the club.

Why do you volunteer to help run your club and what attracted you the role?

CB: I am one of those people who always sees opportunities and thinks “why don't we do that?” and then accidentally end up volunteering myself to do it!

Being the chairman/secretary is a great role as you engage with nearly everyone in the club and you get a real sense of achievement when your plans come to fruition.

How did you first get into volunteering for your club?

I organised mixed teams at summer tournaments and slowly got more involved from there.

How much time do you put into your role each month?

CB: We had a disastrous start to this season when we lost one of our training venues. I've spent a lot of my time trying to assist with rebuilding that team while also continuing with other responsibilities.

I would guess currently I am spending about 10 hours a month working on the club overall.

What do you most enjoy about your role?

CB: We decided a few years ago that we would rename the club secretary to “El Presidente”. It always seemed unfair that the person working hardest for the club had such an unimpressive title.  So, I enjoy living in hope that someone from the club will (for once) address me by my proper title. It’s not happened yet!

What are the biggest challenges you face?

CB: Gym space is an extremely rare commodity in central London so finding and maintaining sports hall allocations is an ongoing struggle. Maintaining a good working relationship with the sports hall provider, local community, and the council is imperative. The lack of space also challenges the cohesion of the club as each team is forced to train in different gyms that are not necessarily that near to each other, so we have to find other ways to keep the club spirit alive. The lack of gym space is a real burden for club expansion.

Is there anything that Volleyball England could do to make your role easier?

CB: A great asset Volleyball England could provide for clubs would be an online player registration system. I think this would greatly enhance the individual relationship each league player has with Volleyball England and drastically reduce a lot of administration overhead.

What Volleyball England could provide to my role explicitly would be provide detail of the latest best practice in club management. For example, notifying us of new software tools for club administration etc.

Editor's note: Volleyball England promotes Club Matters - a Sport England asset which gives clubs advice and resources on all different aspects of Club Management. 

What has been the highlight since you’ve been secretary/chairman for Wapping Wildcats?

CB: Our men's team reaching the quarter final of the 2017/18 National Cup. We had a fantastic 2016, winning the London Premier League, but this season was special as we get to play the best teams from the National Volleyball League. All credit to the coach and players. 

How important is the working relationship between the volunteers at your club?

CB: Great working relationships are vital to our ongoing success and survival. Luckily, because we have an open and inviting structure to our club, I think all members feel their voices are heard. Committee decisions are made with vigorous discussion but there’s never a feeling of resentment if a decision on a particular discussion didn't go the way they hoped.

Do you feel your work is appreciated by the other people at your club?

CB: I think most members appreciate the work the main volunteers put in. I think the main volunteers feel the most empathy for each other as they understand the effort involved. We try to encourage an ethos of getting all members to help out a little, just to share some of the load.

Club life: The Leading Role