Why Nonprofit Youth Sports Needs Visionary Leadership Now More Than Ever

Jul. 10, 2020

Adam Norse

[This article was originally published by Adam Norse in LinkedIn on 07/10/2020]


As a director of a nonprofit youth soccer club in downtown Manhattan (dusc.net), I’ve personally witnessed the transformational power sports can have in the lives of young athletes. Sports provide us with the ability to speak quickly and directly into the hearts of young people — inspiring and teaching life lessons, and equipping players for success on and off the field or court. For many young people, the positive, uplifting voice of a coach may be the only one they have in their life.

Challenges Common to Many Nonprofits & Mission- Driven Organizations

My direct involvement in youth sports also taught me several important lessons about what’s too often missing from these programs. Many suffer from financial instability—a problem that is sure to be exacerbated as the financial effects of the Covid crisis continue to unfold. Further, many organizations lack the basic structure or leadership, at the board or day-to-day management levels, to outrun and withstand those financial challenges.

Youth sports in the USA is a $19.2 billion market (according to a 2019 Wintergreen Research report), surpassing the $15 billion NFL. Participation costs are skyrocketing, putting financial pressure on families. Worse, without strong nonprofits who can provide financial assistance, youth from under-resourced communities are excluded from taking part — meaning they miss out on all the benefits discussed above.


Three Key Takeaways for Your Youth Sports Nonprofit Organization 

  1. Senior talent makes all the difference. The multiplying effect of having quality senior people is limitless; enlarged vision, increased participation and community outreach, more volunteers, opportunity for bigger donors, bigger grants, more giving, media exposure, and increased impact. Once your mission picks up pace, people will want to get on board.

 Takeaway #1: I have seen the difference having the right talent can have. Hiring experienced people who care about your organization’s mission and who can execute on a strategy is key. With the right senior staff in place and organization structure, coaches can be freed up to focus on working with the student-athletes. Often coaches end up working in the office, or in admin roles (worse, grant writing) and there is a skills mismatch. Hiring the right senior talent, and building an organizational structure, lets other staff thrive.


2. Board development is crucial. Cultivating an active, diverse board whose primary goal is supporting your mission—not just their own professional aspirations and LinkedIn bragging rights — is incredibly important.

 Takeaway #2: Recruit board members with specific skills that compliments your mission. Consider individuals whose background is different from your own, to add alternative perspectives. Having board members from another industry, with no original affiliation to your sport can also bring fresh insights. Review your board regularly to ensure everyone is still in alignment with the long-term objectives.


3. You need a strategy—and a plan to measure its success. I have seen too many nonprofits confuse doing “good” work with being effective. To help your organization fulfill its potential and create measurable impact on the youth you serve, it’s important to set specific goals and define a plan to achieve them.

Takeaway #3: This can start with gathering input from key stakeholders on your organization’s most important strategic priorities. For instance: who exactly are you serving and how are you doing that? Having a strategic plan also means checking back regularly on progress, and having mechanisms in place to hold the team accountable for their contributions.


Ready to have a conversation about what your organization needs or your current challenges?

DRG believes in order to transform youth sports, we need to transform the leadership at the top of youth sports organizations.

DRG is here to assist with any executive search or talent advisory needs (board development, organizational strategy, executive coaching, talent assessments, 360 feedback, culture audits) . Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss how we might be able to partner with your organization – drgsearch.com


#nonprofit #leadership #youthsports #SBYD #nonprofityouthsports #sportsphilanthropy #missiondrivensports

Adam Norse

About Adam Norse:

Connect with me on LinkedIn  or email me here: anorse@drgsearch.com



[This article was originally published by Adam Norse in LinkedIn on 07/10/2020]