It's a moment most parents can relate to. You sign your child up for a sports team, submit payment, and then pause as your eyes scan the website copy – they need parent volunteers. Taking on a volunteer role for a sports team, school committee, guiding, or other organization can be a huge commitment, one that comes with many challenges and rewards. And while there are sometimes training sessions and handbooks, much of what you learn – and possibly come to love – can only be taught on the field … or the rink … or around a campfire.
Here are five tips for first-time parent volunteers.
Kids have a sixth sense when it comes to knowing when an adult isn’t organized. Whether it be a teacher, coach, leader, or any adult, really, they can thrive on your weakness. The best antidote? Being prepared. Plan out meetings in advance, reach out to other parent volunteers to share tips, and do the homework that will lead you to knock it out of the park … literally and figuratively.
No one needs to know you’ve never wrangled 20 kids and taught them how to make a cake in a mug before. Cake overflows? No problem. Run out of ice cream at your school’s social? Always happens. Not sure what a gopher ball is? Google it. It takes experience to develop your knowledge, and being a parent volunteer is largely about rolling with the punches and course-correcting. And by the second year? Piece of cake.
To paraphrase:” No parent volunteer is an island, entire of itself …” It’s important to know when you need support and to accept it when it’s being offered. Volunteer roles can quickly pick up speed and feel overwhelming – there’s even volunteer burnout. To set yourself up for success, recruit an extra parent to help on a school committee or split the weekly meeting duties evenly between all leaders. Share the work. Share the glory. Share the gossip about other parents.
Glitter at home? Terrible. Glitter at a community centre? Fantastic. If your volunteer role involves channelling your inner Martha Stewart, embrace the messy chaos that comes with crafts and hit up the Dollar Store for glue guns galore. You’ll still be on cleaning duty, but it’s more rewarding after you’ve witnessed dozens of little hands nimbly build a birdhouse. Don’t just dip your toes in the water, dive right in … even it it’s a pile of glitter.
Show up for the kids that you coach. Show up for the other leaders who give their time to be there with you. Show up for the parents who are trusting that you can give their kids an experience that they may not be able to without your support. This does not mean that you need to make every meeting, practice, social event, etc. – it’s not possible. But give it your all when you are there because at the end of the day, you’ll feel inspired and grateful for the opportunity. Guaranteed.