Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

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The role of municipal park and recreation agencies in enacting coach and parent training in a loosely coupled youth sport system

By: C. Dykstra

Barcelona & Young (2010) speak to the identified need for municipal parks and recreation departments to accept their role in offering, managing and enforcing sport parent and coaching education and training. Though municipalities offer or support sport programming to 38M children nation wide (resources, leadership, program support or facility infrastructure) there are no standards set or enforcement for facilitators of youth sports programs with regards to coach training or parent education. Voluntary youth sport organizations (VSOs) cater to fewer participants, though they are still reliant on municipal recreation agencies for support (facilities and programmatic support) with approximately 70% of VSO programming being delivered through various affiliations with municipal recreation agencies.

Both municipalities and VSOs have identified the need for coach and parent training/education, though it has been identified that they are unable to offer this support for various reasons (lack of resources to administer, track and enforce sport training, lack of qualified personnel to serve as trainers, lack of budget to finance training).

I felt that the article accurately portrayed gaps within service delivery from a municipal perspective, though the findings to me indicated that further research should be conducted to get at the qualitative perspective of these gaps. Through qualitative research, researchers may be able to better bridge the gap between delivery systems and allow for opportunity to build organizational capacity, volunteerism and more succinct hiring practices of both paid and volunteer staff.

Furthermore, future research could be conducted around process and policies regarding hiring practices or partnership development to mitigate the strain on resources both human and capital between both sport and recreation delivery systems.

Thus, this leads to question of who should be taking education and training responsibilities for coaches and parents, municipalities or VSOs.

Questions raised:

1) Who should be responsible for the training and education in question? Why?

2) It was noted within the article that poor sportsmanship among parents was a significant problem within sport programming among municipal agencies.

  • What would be your first step in rectifying this issue?
  • Who are the key players in these steps?
  • What are the budget allocations?
  • How are decisions made?

3) Good leadership of youth sport involves adults – adults who for the most part are well intentioned, but often untrained in making administrative decisions about community based sport programs and as such, appropriate training is needed. What approach would you take to ensure that coaches were qualified to do their job (either VSO or municipal perspective)?

  • Background checks, prior experience, coach education, expert volunteers
  • Train the trainer model
  • Share resources such as facilities for training (bartering)

Like the Sharpe (2006) article discussed by Ries, there is a dependency on volunteers (generally parents), but these VSOs have the human capital; just not the expertise à Expert volunteerism is needed

4) As researchers, athletes, coaches and participants, what impact do you feel that qualified coaching has/had on your personal sporting experiences? Based on the information presented today, do you still feel that your first choice is still appropriate?

Aside from my municipality and my current research project; here is a great example of other communities beginning to bridge this gap through partnership, sharing the role of training and education. Though this community is in Ireland, the process and implementation are very similar to a Canadian or American context. Enjoy!


Barcelona, R.J. & Young, S.J. (2010). The role of municipal park and recreation agencies in enacting coach and parent training in a loosely coupled youth sport system. Managing Leisure, 15, 181-197.

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What to do about lack of Volunteers at Grassroots Recreation Organizations?

By: A. Ries

Erin Sharpe’s article, Resources at the Grassroots of Recreation (2006), explains that grassroots organizations have an enormous issue with getting the resources needed to provide recreation to the community. This is especially true when it comes to “manpower”. She explains that over 95% of work done at a grassroots organization is completed by volunteers and that over 75% of organizations don’t even have any paid staff. It is also mentioned that low funding can be a good thing for some organizations as it lets them operate how they want instead of how the funder wants (e.g. funder may want money to go towards a baseball league, but a basketball league is what the community wants). Furthermore, volunteer run organizations usually must rely on individuals with little or no managerial experience, unlike paid not-for-profit organizations.

From my personal experience in recreation, I can say that volunteers are a huge benefit to organizations, in particular to grassroots organizations since they are almost fully dependent on volunteers. Sharpe’s case study on the Appleton Minor Softball League saw that although the league was small and personable, with some players coming from out of town, the lack of funding, in turn because the league didn’t want to make money and only wanted to offer baseball for the players, had issues finding “secondary volunteers”, volunteers to fill extra roles. (snack standing, secondary coaching, site convener, newspaper, etc). Although not necessary to run the league, it would have helped the league run more effectively.

From this article I ask the question: “How can we entice parents, or others, to volunteer?”

What was surprising to me was that the class explained that some parents tend to be at every game, yet they do not volunteer to help out the league that their child, or children, participate in. When I was younger I competed in many competitions as a swimmer. Since my dad went to every meet with me, he decided to become an official as he would rather help run the competitions instead of sitting around for almost the entire competition waiting for my five to ten minutes of competing in an entire weekend.

Other articles, referenced below, have also raised the same issue. There are simply not enough individuals are volunteering to help run grassroots organizations. I believe that the recreation field needs to look more into how to convince citizens to volunteer more, or even to start volunteering.


Sharpe, E. K. (2006). Resources at the Grassroots of Recreation: Organizational Capacity and Quality of Experience in a Community Sport Organization. Leisure Sciences, 28(4), 385-401. doi:10.1080/01490400600745894

Martha L., B., & Erin K., S. (2009). Looking Beyond Traditional Volunteer Management: A Case Study of an Alternative Approach to Volunteer Engagement in Parks and Recreation. Voluntas: International Journal Of Voluntary And Nonprofit Organizations, (2), 169.

Sharpe, E. (2003). “It’s not fun any more:” a case study of organizing a contemporary grassroots recreation association. Society & Leisure, 26(2), 431-452.

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Volunteer Management and the LMX Theory

As a graduating undergraduate in RSS, an article I would recommend reading is:

Bang, H. (2011). Leader–member exchange in nonprofit sport organizations. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 22(1), 85-105.

Not-for-profit sport and recreation organizations rely heavily on volunteers to help deliver successful programs. Proper management of these volunteers is important to retaining those volunteers and maintaining culture within an organization. In this article, Bang suggests that the best way to manage volunteers is by using the leader-member exchange theory of leadership. This theory focuses on the dyadic relationship between the leader and the follower. Because volunteers are contributing their efforts for purposes beyond monetary gain, developing a positive relationship with volunteer workers is key to providing a good volunteer experience, and retaining these workers. This is particularly relevant to sport and recreation because of the numerous organizations who are managed by one executive director, and rely on volunteers. The article is a must read for anyone seeking employment in the not-for-profit sector.



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Volunteering: The Who and Why

Who volunteers and why do these individuals give up their free time to volunteer? According to Statistics Canada, the majority of volunteers come from those that are under 50 years old. The largest number of volunteers comes from the 15-to-24 age bracket at 58 percent. The lowest percentage of volunteers come from those that are 65 years and older. The main reason behind the high percentage of those under 50 volunteering the most, comes from youth and their community service commitments and resume building. At the opposite end of the spectrum, poor health was attributed to the lower percentage of those over 50.

older volunteer

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