Scott Latta has been a Little League® parent, coach, manager, division director, Board Member and, for more than a decade, President of Coon Rapids National Little League (CRNLL) in Minnesota. Over those many years, he has come to realize that when recruiting volunteers, you can’t be afraid to ask people to help.
“I found out people always want to help,” said Mr. Latta, who sees himself as the “root ball of the league.”
First volunteering as a coach at the behest of his kids, Mr. Latta later managed at the Major Baseball Division before becoming a division director. He coordinated the league’s Minor Division that includes Tee Ball and coach-pitch programs. When he was elected as President, the first commitments he made were to trust the volunteers, delegate responsibility, and get assistance.
“Like a tree, a league is only as strong as the root ball … I am the root ball,” said Mr. Latta. “We guide and help young directors for the first year to nurture their confidence. After they are comfortable with the operation, we let them run their divisions. If they ask for help, we will guide them.”
Scott oversees a 22-member Board of Directors for a league that averages nearly 300 players per season. In his opinion, leadership does not require a heavy hand. As he sees it, providing direction, guidance, and support are more important.
“If you are not willing to ask others to help, often you don’t receive it,” said Mr. Latta. “I am not afraid to ask people to help us get things done. One of the things I do is walk up to people and ask flat-out, ‘I need your help. Can you please come do this?’”
The average tenure of a CRNLL Board member is 5-to-6 years. Mr. Latta attributes the longevity of service to a sense of family and community that has been created within the league. “We are not just a baseball league, we are a community that comes together through Little League,” he said.
Coon Rapids is a suburb of Minneapolis. In four of Mr. Latta’s first five years as President, his league was represented in the Little League Baseball® Midwest Region Tournament in Indianapolis. In 2007, Coon Rapids National Little League won the Midwest Region Tournament and played in the Little League Baseball® World Series.
The advice that Mr. Latta offers is not revolutionary, but rather rudimentary and to the point.
“Ask people to get involved,” he said. “People want to get involved, but they need to know you need them. If they have a sincere desire to help, they will make the effort to fit Little League in their life. Once they find out how gratifying the experience is, they will want to keep on doing it.”
Here are some tips from Mr. Latta on how a local Board can engage volunteers and improve their experience.
- Don’t be shy about asking anyone for help.
- Educate and then delegate responsibilities.
- Develop an election process that lets families know their vote is important.
- Encourage all family members to take part in the league.
- Let your division heads run their divisions without interference.
- Be responsive to volunteers and parents.
- Embrace current technology to communicate with volunteers and parents (Internet, social media).
- Be approachable and pleasant.
- Enjoy what Little League is about.
- Make being part of Little League a community-wide experience.