Thoughts and other Miscellany

Adventures in organising amateur sport

Over the last 12 years, I have been Secretary/Fixture Secretary/occasional captain/League admin contact/general responsible person for 5 cricket clubs/teams/sports organisations. That doesn’t sound a lot until I admit that it was 3 in 2 years 2006-2008, and 2 between 2013 and 2017, and nothing in between.

Lessons learned:

1. No one ever reads the League rules. Certainly no one reads them enough to actually understand them.

My last club had got into a lot of trouble in the preceding year by not following the rules for player registration properly. Mostly this is an annoying admin exercise, but when the club tried to pass one unregistered player off as someone else, and accidentally played overseas players as homegrown (the players hadn’t provided enough information), the league came smashing down on their heads. The general response was “huh?” “why are they picking on us?” and “the rules don’t make any sense/are discriminatory/illegal/impinging on my human rights” (this in Brexit Britain!).

I and one or two other individuals spent HOURS (days?) figuring out each player’s registration status, whether they were a risk for having been misregistered, what paperwork we had for them and so on. I had very awkward Whatsapp conversations with a bunch of cricketers I didn’t know asking for copies of their passport. I had any number of conversations with people who told me I was misreading the rules and that the League couldn’t possibly care whether someone had a UK passport (they really did). Ugh. At least the League administrator told me at the end of the season that I had done an excellent job.

2. Most members of a cricket team don’t realise what’s going on behind the scenes, or indeed that anything goes on behind the scenes at all. I’ve been one of those people in the past. They  show up on a Saturday and play, and ignore the pleas from the Committee for people to fill vacant positions / show up to the AGM / make contributions to pretty much anything, because they think it can’t possibly be that bad. 

I’m quite proud of the fact that we managed to keep a club running with only half a committee for a year. Admittedly, we all wanted to quit for most of the year! I think by the end of it we had got it into enough people’s heads that if they wanted to play any cricket next season, they needed to contribute to the running of the club and take up committee posts. And pay their membership fees on time. Well, I hope they absorbed those messages anyway.

3. A team that is fun to play for and that has a strong sense of belonging and ownership is very easy to run.

There is a very strong correlation between people who recognise that administration is work, and value that work, and contribute when requested, and people who are loyal, forgiving, entertaining, fun teammates. I’m not sure which way the causation goes in that correlation.

4. You absolutely can split the on-field and off-field “captain’s” (i.e. organising person) responsibilities. 

The outcome is that there is an on-field captain who defers at all times in everything other than bowling selections, field arrangements and batting orders to the person who gets stuff done and/or the person who controls the money. It worked pretty well. Also I acquired the nickname “the Puppetmaster”.

5. Having a weird name means that people identify you as the source of the emails the second you introduce yourself in person. 

Most of the time, my unusual name is a source of frustration as people spell/pronounce it incorrectly, or an effective ice-breaker as people ask “Is that Welsh/Russian/French/[insert anything other than Irish here]?”. When you have a lot of email communication before meeting in person, it’s memorable. I get a lot of “oh! I thought Yvann was a man’s name!”.

5b. Except when your nickname is used by everyone within earshot and someone new never actually hears your real name.

We had a new recruit who had only heard me referred to as Shakey and so was completely mystified when she received emails from Yvann!

Anyone else out there with experience organising amateur sports/leisure activities?