Vision for the Future of Paxton Youth Soccer

Paxton Youth Soccer is at a troubling crossroads; at a time where we are seeing record levels of engagement in our entry-level U6 and U8 programs and enjoying financial stability, we are in danger of having to dissolve the league due to leadership and volunteer challenges.

I believe PYS can not just survive, but thrive. The challenges we face are real, but nothing we can’t overcome with appropriate changes to PYS’ structure and leveraging new volunteers and a more inclusive Board structure.

From my perspective, PYS’ challenges are:

  • Lack of a stable organizational structure
  • Declining Board membership
  • Confusion/lack of clarity among Board members and volunteers 
  • Communications challenges (getting families and volunteers the information they need before they need it)
  • High barriers to volunteering
  • Minimal cultivation of PYS parents/guardians/sponsors/friends
  • Lack of a clear vision for the future

A small, but dedicated number of current Board members have been holding PYS together and tackling an increasing number of vacancies despite strong player enrollment. We have benefitted from the longterm leadership of Dan Fontaine who had taken on an increasing number of roles in order to keep soccer alive in Paxton, but this is no longer sustainable and Dan’s kids have since moved out of the program. Dan has moved onto a Past President role and appointed me as Interim President with a goal of working together with existing and new volunteers to redesign the structure of the PYS organization and to leverage new volunteers and those who want to help us ensure the viability of our town’s soccer programs. We plan on using the June 2 Emergency Special Meeting as a way to serve as an opportunity to “reboot” and to expand our volunteer base and the types of opportunities available for involvement.

The PYS Reboot Includes:

  • Updated bylaws to meet current compliance & regulations and support the modernization of PYS
  • Lowering the barrier to volunteering – “I want to help but I’m not sure how much bandwidth I have or what I’d like to do. But I want to help.” We need to say “YES” to this natural, cautious approach to volunteering for PYS for the first time.
  • Providing clarity of roles and opportunities to volunteer 
    • Passive – “Voting Member” (anyone 21+ years who attends a Special or Annual PYS town-hall-style meeting)
    • Interested but wants to learn & understand PYS more before committing themselves; “Board Member” (1-year term; self-commit through an easy electronic form; can choose to stop participating or renew each year; Any type of volunteering, coaching, membership on a committee bestows the status of “Board Member”)
    • Active – Board Officer and Non-Officer roles (3-year terms by election or appointment)
  • Adding one-year, self-renewable Board Membership to any adult in Paxton 21-years-old (or older) who is interested in being involved in discussions – and votes – that pertain to PYS without committing themselves to a full Board Officer role with a range of responsibilities. This is our talent/volunteer pipeline. They may end up taking on a formal Officer or Non-Officer role or may choose to just stay in discussion and participate in Regular Board meetings with voting rights; either level of participation is a win.
  • Growing & modernizing the Board Officer roles while strategically staggering their terms initially to ensure only a few positions may need to be replaced each year, allowing us to target the cultivation of new leaders and/or to support someone looking to renew their term.
  • Creating standing committees that provide support and advisement to Board Officers while growing engagement with parents/Board Members.
  • Creating inspiring goals – like designing a scholarship program that will ensure that no Paxton child will be excluded from high-quality soccer programs that offer technical skills development, social skills development, and build self-confidence and connections to other players. I believe the right(short- and long-term goals will appeal to the mission-centric type of people who want to volunteer their time to worthwhile causes. Initially, those goals include the scholarship program, saving in-town soccer/PYS, building community by engaging parents purposefully, and reopening the Snack Shack.
  • Rebranding PYS in an exciting and helpful way – Reboot visual identity, enhance the website to offer timely, accurate information that answers the questions that parents, coaches, and the public might have before they can ask them. Providing regular and expected email communications both season-specific and general emails to current and past PYS families & friends.
  • Building a normal, manageable cadence of meetings (with a master calendar visible to the public prior to the start of a new calendar year) including regular board meetings, committee meetings in between, team selection, coach & referee trainings, and an annual meeting.
  • Building year-long engagement and opportunities for fundraising and friendraising that supports our core objectives above and beyond the soccer programs that we provide.

If you review the bylaws, you can see how changes to the organizational structure of PYS are designed to support all of these things. Ultimately, the positions – if we can fill them leading up to/during our June 2 Emergency Special Meeting – are more manageable than existing roles, provide more clarity, and are supported naturally through standing committees filled by PYS Board Members of various backgrounds and levels of engagement. This lowers the barrier to support PYS, spreads the work around in manageable ways, and positions PYS to not just “reboot” itself, but to become a thriving organization providing meaningful contributions to families in Paxton and the broader community.

I believe this will only help to grow our enrollment and retention of players and help us deliver on our core objectives of offering affordable, high-quality soccer programs that focus on building soccer skills, social skills, and self-confidence.