The most precious commodity of a grassroots volunteer is time. Especially for managers. The more we have, the more we can do with it and the more enjoyable it can be. I’ve been involved in grassroots football, mainly as a player, for twenty-eight years and in the last three seasons as a manager. So I’ve seen a fair bit, and learned a great deal from all sorts of different approaches to team management and administration.
From the days when managers, God bless them, used to block out an evening, open up their contact book, and phone parents and players about the upcoming weekend’s fixture. To as close as seven years ago, when I ran a six-a-side team in London by email. Neither are exactly ideal for last-minute updates and real-time communication.
So, in 2019, as manager of a new team I’d set up, I opted for Facebook initially, as many do. Three of the squad didn’t even use it, so they got separate WhatsApp messages; a fair few rarely checked it, so they got chased. All in all, it wasn’t working out. It was only when I was complaining about player availability for our third-ever friendly that a fellow manager sent me this:
“You mentioned you used WhatsApp and Facebook – this season I moved to an app called Spond, which I was using last year for my daughter’s team. It’s excellent; makes managing players’ availability a lot easier, you can easily import all fixtures in at once, auto reminders so you don’t have to remember, each player can accept or decline – worth a look. I found WhatsApp a nightmare and too much banter and spam when you just want in/outs etc.”
Now this message above summarises it perfectly, and we’ve never looked back. But then I was actively looking for something simpler and clearer and that could save me time. Grassroots managers are a traditional bunch. A lot still collect fivers in a tin. Why if they’ve got by for eighteen years would they need to change? Because as managers you can do more than get by. You can streamline everything you do using Spond, and so much more, and I like the fellow manager that put me on to it, couldn’t recommend it more. And it’s free!
It has everything you need to manage your team efficiently. Setting up fixtures is effortless, whether they be unique matches or recurring training sessions. You can see clearly ahead, for as many fixtures as you upload, who is available and who is not. Forget those messages in WhatsApp that say “just so you know I’m away in six weeks time”. Players and parents can just decline the games in that timeframe. And what about chasing those who don’t respond to the invite? Well, Spond automatically does that for you after a certain time. It’s not over-exaggerating to say that it can save you hours every week. All you need to do is download the app, set up your team and share an invite link with your players.
We all receive the same questions throughout the week. We’ve all asked them as players, too. Who are we playing next week? What time are we meeting? What kit are we wearing? What’s the postcode? What numbers have we got? Is Mary playing? How do I pay subs? With Spond, players can get their own answers just by opening the app. It’s all readily available.
And what happens if the information changes? Well, it has direct messaging for real-time communication, too. The way I use it is the night before the match, I set up a message group with the confirmed attendees for that game and update if there are any issues at all. This saves me spamming those that are not there, and avoids any players missing updates on WhatsApp that have long ago drifted off screen and been replaced with numerous “good luck today lads!” or any of the above questions. Everyone is up to speed and everyone who needs to be is involved.
There can always be that part of feeling like an administrator or a project manager, more than a coach or manager. The latter is what you signed up for and what you love and enjoy. And there’s no doubt that we’ve all had excess work and stress on our plate with the numerous returns to football throughout the pandemic. New protocols, new and ever-changing information, new risk assessments and an extra feeling of responsibility for people’s health and safety. The track and trace element is something that was managed perfectly on Spond, with a clear breakdown of who is in attendance and the functionality to contact them all immediately and privately. It’s also built for grassroots sport, whereas Facebook and WhatsApp aren’t. So all of those potential pain points of GDPR, safeguarding and data privacy are taken care of. Which gives a youth team manager massive peace of mind. The next step for us is to move our subs payments on to Spond as we currently transfer individual fees into a separate bank account used for other things. This can get incredibly messy for our Club Treasurer reconciling multiple small amounts.
So, what’s the catch? Is it hard to set up? No, honestly, anyone can do it. I don’t claim to be the most technologically proficient grassroots manager in the world but if you can set up a meeting on Google or Zoom, or a Facebook event, you can do it. And if you can’t, it won’t take you long to learn. But it will give you back a ridiculous amount of time to focus on what you love doing.
“it will give you back a ridiculous amount of time to focus on what you love doing”
Are you inundated with ads on the app? No, not one. It’s completely ad-free. It’s just a simple, streamlined and well designed and executed tool. So why haven’t I heard of it? Maybe because we as managers make life hard for ourselves! If you’re looking for ways to make your life and your player’s life easier, you will come across it. It’s won awards and it has over a million active users from 25,000 teams.
I asked one of my team about it from a player’s perspective. He replied: “I really like Spond. Super easy to use and it’s really nice to see who else is playing and how many we have for the weekend at a quick glance. My other team manager uses WhatsApp and it’s also a pain asking for postcodes every week. It’s much easier on Spond as everything is all in one place.
“I’m going to suggest to him that we use Spond now.”