Overcoming sports governance challenges

Children at the start of a running track

I’ve been on all manner of committees. Not just at work but in my social and sporting lives as well. Once people find out you know how to run things or how organised you are — basically, that you are familiar with governance it’s not long before you’re on the committee.

I’ve met people from all walks of life on committees — people with various backgrounds, education levels and professional experiences. That diversity brings strengths but also weaknesses.

My daughter is a runner, so not surprisingly I find myself helping at the club, zone, regional and state levels in Little Athletics. I sometimes try to suggest improved governance practices but have difficulty in finding keen individuals who understand what I think we should be doing differently and, more importantly, how doing things differently will be better and easier.

I have even gone so far as to complete a diploma in Sports Administration. I learned a lot but realised that the trick is how to share governance knowledge with other committee members, some of whom may have never had formal exposure to governance education.

Here are my three tips for sharing governance knowledge:

  1. for those new to governance, or don’t think they know anything about governance, change the terminology you use to everyday, common terms.
  2. when you are working through issues and peers are questioning your actions, spend a moment to explain what good governance looks like, and why it matters.
  3. encourage your peers to complete Working in Sport Essentials to give them the confidence to carry out good governance practices in their role.

I completed Working in Sport Essentials (WISE) — an online sports governance course provided by Governance Institute in partnership with etrainu and I truly believe it offers a practical solution improving governance in sports clubs.

Benefits of Working in Sport Essentials

The course is broken into seven modules that are progressively more advanced. Each module takes only 30 minutes to an hour to complete yet succinctly covers all the basics of good governance practices and explains them in a sporting context.

A lot of governance training, understandably, uses business and government examples. Many grassroots sports committee members might find it hard to see how those situations translate to their committee work. This course uses sporting examples and contexts so it’s relevant and easily understood.

The modules are quite visual and directly sports related. The graphics are helpful, one likens Governance to the head of an organisation, Management as the spine and Employees as the hands. I feel like it’s a program that works for all learning styles. It isn’t dry or proscriptive yet offers strong, clear explanations of what governance is and suggestions for how to implement good governance practices in your sports club.

The early modules, in particular, would have made sense to me even before I’d had any formal exposure to governance principles and will help even the most inexperienced sporting committee members gain a foundation in the principles of good governance.

I hope more grassroots sports officials do this course. It gives you a best practice framework. You don’t have to create things from scratch nor recreate the wheel. This program will help sporting clubs benchmark where they are now and track where they are going. Clubs who implement the learnings from this course won’t have to wait for their federations, zone, region, state or national sporting organisations to bring in top-down governance programs. They can take responsibility for their own good governance, which will mean better run sports for everyone.

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