There is a growing desire by sport and recreation leaders to be more intentional in shaping a values-based approach within their organization. Some good practices include identifying, defining and measuring performance against organizational values, policies and training. While some organizations may check in with volunteers, coaches, staff, and parents, rarely have we seen organizations engage with what we believe is the most important stakeholder… athletes. In our opinion, one of the ways organizations can more accurately measure how well the organization is mitigating risk and living its values, is by engaging athletes.
Engaging is not just listening to athletes, although that’s a great start. It is intentionally seeking their opinions, involving them in shaping processes and then making changes based on their input. Engaging athletes gives organizations a chance to see if the reality on the playing field matches the theory in the boardroom. And it offers an opportunity to hear about issues firsthand before it escalates in a more public manner.
Organizations who are not engaging athletes risk alienating a generation of change seekers who have the courage and savviness to rewrite the playbook on expectations. #MeToo has led the charge on seismic change. And at all levels, we see athletes taking their voices to social media because they are not being heard and engaged by their organizations.
Athletes may be the most underrated stakeholders in sport, especially in their youth. But there’s no reason to continue to miss the opportunity to hear the athlete’s voice and perspective and act on it. If you don’t feel comfortable engaging with athletes yourself, invite a third party with the expertise to the table.