Entering the World of the Non-profit Youth Sports League Board

Oct 25th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Nick Kemper PhotoOver the past six months, I talked myself into running for president of our local youth baseball league, the league my son has played in for five years (he has at least four years left, if we can keep him interested). I started out like the rest of the parents: complaining. Then I moved to thinking about what I would do if I actually did something. Then I wondered out loud about it to key people already on the board. Just a word of caution: If you have a heartbeat and you wonder aloud to key people on the board of a youth sports organization, they will latch onto you like a pit bull. They are like the spirits in Poltergeist who are drawn to Carole Ann when she gets pulled through the closet floor. They’re already on the board — they’ve passed into the realm of the undead. You are still spiritually alive — you’re like a warm fire in their tunnel of cold, damp despair.

I’m making light of it, because humor is funnier that way. As I approached D-Day, I sent out scouts. I studied satellite photos. I consulted Churchill’s history of WWII. I was approaching a battlefield, and I wasn’t going in unprepared. There were factions on the board: two individuals, primarily, who had engaged in various acts of melodrama for months. I talked to both of them about their plans and shared mine. I fired shots across both bows.

Only one of these two parties was running against me. The other one was running for a different position. My gut told me that if both were elected, one would quit (not the one running for president). I wasn’t particularly interested in any other position than president. And besides, if I ran for a different position and these other two gentlemen were both elected, I would be stuck as a mediator.

As I mentioned, I had been talking myself into this for six months, so I had a six-page outline that was growing daily as my platform. When I committed to running, I forwarded a copy of it to everyone on the board. I told them it was the board’s to use whether or not I was elected. Then I forwarded it to everyone else I knew in the league and encouraged them all to come and vote. I did this in the spirit of transparency, which was one of my major platform themes.

Well, what happened on election night is that my opponent didn’t even show up. He hadn’t officially committed to running, and even though it was a board meeting that included election of new officers, he just didn’t attend. So I was unopposed. In fact, out of the 10 or so board positions open, only one had more than a single candidate. A few positions had no candidates, so people attending the meeting volunteered when they saw there was a need.

So I now enter the world of the non-profit youth sports league board, which many people have warned me against entering, not unlike a movie-goer shouting at the screen during a horror flick: “Don’t open the door!” I don’t care. You know what? I happen to believe that your attitude actually affects your reality. I think it’s going to be a lot of work, and I think there will be personality conflicts to deal with, and I think some people will be unhappy with what we accomplish, but I also think it’s going to be fun, and that we’re going to be extremely successful. I have a vision of what the league is going to look like a year from now, two years from now, three years from now, and they are nice visions.

I am more than a little mystified at the behavior of last year’s board, especially the gentleman — who sat down and had coffee with me three weeks ago and exchanged ideas with me about what either of us would do as president — who simply disengaged. He seemed to have an irrational fear of an adversary on the board trying to “take over.” I guess he felt like I was going to win the election, so he wanted to avoid the embarrassment of losing, but really? I was worried about losing, but never in a million years would I have just avoided showing up. How would I explain that to people later if I bumped into them at the grocery store or the ballpark? I think that if I had decided that I were not going to run, I would have felt compelled to attend and provide a simple explanation to anyone who showed up to vote for me.

The rest of the Board seemed to have its own share of dysfunctional behavior over the last year, not the least of which included letting individual members conduct themselves in unprofessional, unethical and arguably insane ways. I don’t consider myself to be the lemming in a crowd of lemmings who stands up and cries, “Cliff!” But I might casually tap on another lemming’s shoulder and suggest that we slow down and assess the situation.

I’m a pretty busy person. If you’re a business owner or a manager, or if you have kids and work, you probably are too. When you’re a busy person and you casually mention to someone smart that you’re thinking of putting another log on your fire, they encourage you because they know you’re just looking for a little push, and they know that busy people are the best people to assign a task to. Why? Busy people get things done. They don’t have time to dilly-dally. I wish we would all embrace this phenomenon more. You know the 80-20 rule right? Twenty percent of the people do 80 percent of the work — in almost all organizations. You know what? I’m good with that. I want the 20 percent to do the 80 percent. Have you seen the quality of work the 80 percent is putting out? It’s not good. I’m all for helping them to convert, but only under strict guidance. Who cares if it’s fair or unfair? We need stuff done right, not fairly.

For six months I woke up, staggered to the shower, remembered that I was slowly committing to running for this board position and then forced myself to not think about it until later in the day — after I had my coffee and my outlook on life was better. This week, after the election, I woke up, staggered to the shower and felt contentment and bliss. When I feel good first thing in the morning, I know I made the right decision.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper

www.TowPartsNow.com