What it takes to be a Team Manager.
Today’s interview is with Jo Holmes who I have known for a number of years. She has always been heavily involved with sport, not just in a playing capacity but as a behind the scenes volunteer with Basketball Scotland, Lacrosse Scotland and Great Britain Basketball to name a few. I thought it would be interesting to find out what it’s like to volunteer in an essential support role, as without these roles sport would not be able to take place. I can appreciate the time and effort that goes into such roles as I myself have done various volunteer roles for clubs such as sitting on committees, funding officer roles and game day set up. A lot of people don’t really understand all the work it takes for a club or team to run so I thought it would be interesting to speak to Jo about her experiences and highlight the important work that is done throughout the country to create a lot of the sporting opportunities that are available to us.
So to start off, can you tell my readers about yourself?
My name is Jo Holmes and right now I work as a Careers Adviser in Edinburgh. In my free time I play basketball with Edinburgh Lions in the Lothian League and also volunteer as a Team Manager with Great Britain Basketball.
How did you first get into basketball and where has it taken you?
I first started playing basketball when I was in secondary school and my PE teacher at the time was the school basketball coach so it went from there really. I enjoyed the sport and the added bonus of being able to get out of classes to go and play games haha. I played U16 and U18 level for Ulster Basketball (now Basketball Northern Ireland) and with this squad we travelled to play games in Spain and England. At the same time I also played Netball (it was actually my first and favourite sport for a long time) and played school, club and international level. Most of my travel with this squad was within England.
I know that you have been heavily involved behind the scenes of different sports. For example, your team manager roles. Can you tell me more about them?
I have been volunteering as a team manager now for probably around 12 years or so. Most of my roles have been with basketball with U15 and U16 Scotland Women’s teams, U16 Scotland Men’s team, U16 Women’s and Men’s Ireland teams, Great Britain U16 Women’s teams and most recently I was working with the Scotland Senior Women’s Lacrosse Team. I was due to be the Team Manager with the GB U16 Women’s team this summer but unfortunately due to Coronavirus the programme won’t be running this summer and the European Championships that were due to be hosted in Bosnia have been cancelled.
I have really enjoyed working on all of these programmes, they were all challenging in their own ways but the experiences of each were great. With basketball I have been able to travel to places in the UK and Ireland, Portugal, Bulgaria, Estonia, Montenegro, Gibraltar, Spain, Luxembourg, Denmark. With lacrosse I have travelled to Florida and Israel. Most of these trip were to participate in preparation tournaments and friendly games ahead of the European Championships for each programme.
As a Team Manager you look after a lot of different elements of the programmes. To begin with you would sit down with the Head Coach and the Performance Manager of the organisation and work backwards from the dates of the European Championships to plan your programme. As a Team Manager it is important to know what your important dates are so that you can plan your own workload. For the team the important dates are usually things like when training camps will be, when travel will be to preparation tournaments and what the dates of your games at the Euros will be etc but as a Team Manager your calendar is a bit more detailed as we are in charge of ordering playing kits and leisure gear, have to book travel and accommodation and probably most importantly you have to submit information to register players with FIBA including any medical details for players that have TUE forms.
Another volunteer role I had with GB Basketball was Team Liasion. In this role I was a helper when travelling teams came in to play against the GB Senior Men’s programme and I was lucky enough to spend time with the Greece and Israel Senior Men’s programmes. It was great to be able to spend time with them to see how they work and train and learn a bit from their team managers about how they work and the tasks they have to do.
I think the most important skills you need for the role is being able to communicate effectively with lots of different people (coaches, players, parents, NGB (National Governing Body) staff, team medical and S&C staff, staff from other programmes and teams you will play against). It really helps knowing your timeline to then be able to plan your work and when you need to do thing by, especially if you’re like me and doing the role alongside and full time job. Being able to keep calm under pressure is also really important particularly when you are at the tournament. There are lots of things going on and lots of people needing information and your time so it can get stressful at times. It is also really important to understand you are working as part of a team and that you might need to adapt some of the ways you work to be more effective within your team or the coaching staff you are working with. Building open and strong relationships with your players and their parents will definitely help your programme run a lot smoother. I think it is important to include players in some of the decisions as it helps to give them a bit more accountability and responsibility for their team and what they get out of the programme.
Why did you decide to get into team manager roles?
I got involved with Team Manager roles when I was in my first year at Stirling University. I tore my ACL during a Netball match so was not able to do any training or sport for a long time but still wanted to stay involved somehow. At that time I had a few friends that were assistant coaches with the Scotland Underage boys teams and they mentioned that Basketball Scotland were looking for Team Managers. I contacted the office and managed to get a role as Team Manager with the Scotland U15 Girls team and our first trip was to Nottingham when we took park in the Basketball England Inter-Regional tournament.
I got involved with Lacrosse when I saw an advert on the sportscotland website and applied. At the time I applied I wasn’t working with a programme and fancied a change and a new challenge in a different sport at a different age group.
I imagine a role of a team manager can be stressful and time consuming. How do you manage your time?
It can always be tricky to manage your time when you have to do lots of different things almost at once and you want to do your best and get things out quickly. I think when I first started as a Team Manager this is something I struggled with but over time you learn to understand how to plan things out to fit around your employment, life and the sport. It definitely helps having dates that you need to work to as this can help you focus on getting things done. For the last few programmes I worked on I found it really useful to use things like One Drive and Google drive as these allow you to share documents with other team staff and you can all add in your own notes and work on the same document, this saves with sending loads of e-mails and sending different versions of the same document. I think what also helps is before a programme starts having a sit down or call with all of the team staff and having a chat through what everyone’s responsibilities and roles will be throughout, this makes sure we are all on the same page and the level of expectation and standards is set from the very beginning. It can be easy to try and take on everything to try and lighten the load for others but you just have to be careful that you are not taking on too much and stressing yourself out needlessly.
I know from experience these behind the scenes roles are often overlooked but the reality is a lot of clubs and teams wouldn’t be able to compete without this work being done. So why do you think they are overlooked?
I think sometimes that it could be the case that people in the club/team/programmes don’t really understand all of the responsibilities of the secretaries, team managers, treasurers etc and what they do on a daily or weekly basis to keep things running. Part of that could be that people in these volunteer roles are happy to get on with the work because they understand how important these tasks are to, like you say, keep teams competing. It could be the case that athletes/parents/other team staff etc are under educated on what really needs to be done to get a squad to a team and to compete successfully and that it is not all about what happens on the basketball court and maybe this is why it comes across that these supportive roles are overlooked. As a Team Manager and team captain I like to make sure things are taken care of so that when players and coaches turn up all they have to worry about is playing basketball and coaching and I guess at times because I don’t always speak about all the things I do then people probably don’t know what gets done or needs to be done. I think within the Edinburgh Lions, and I’m sure with loads of other clubs, that we have a good committee and group of people looking after the teams and club in general and it definitely
helps when you have a support team rather than one or two people trying to do everything.
For me personally sometimes I think that team staff like S&C coaches and physios can go
overlooked, the amount of work they put in to prepare players and almost literally holding them together at times is amazing and from my experience these staff members are always so positive and creative and get on with their jobs regardless of the pressures on them. The knowledge and work rates they have are unbelievable at times. For me the staff in these roles are the most important on a programme.
What has been your main highlights of working as a team manager?
I enjoyed getting to work with and meet lots of different people. It has been great to be there when young people and staff realise their dream of competing at the top level they can and representing their country for the first time. It has been good to then follow the progress of those players and staff as they moved through the age groups with some moving on and achieving their dreams of playing and coaching in America and Europe.
I have enjoyed meeting staff from other teams and countries that we have played against over the years and particularly at the earlier tournaments I was at as we would all sit in the hotel lobby in the evenings waiting on the game tapes to be delivered so that coaches could prepare for their next games. It was during these times that you got to chat to other coaches and team staff and learn a bit about their programmes, players and experiences and even years later I have stayed in contact and friends with quite a few of people I’ve met at tournaments which has been great. Creating those friendships definitely helped in future programmes to arrange friendly games and get game tapes too from other countries to help our coaches prepare and of course a free pint every now and then haha
What advice would you give anyone who is looking to get into a similar supportive role?
I think I would say don’t underestimate the workload you will have and how important it is to be organised and plan your time. It’s important to have regular contact and catch-ups with your team staff or club committee to make sure you are all on track and on the same page and this helps to remind them that you are there to help out as well.
Another really important thing, which a lot of people overlook, is to make sure you give yourself down time and time to chill out and take a step back. You will have so many people looking for you to do things and getting pulled in loads of different directions that it is easy to forget that you need a good night’s sleep and time for yourself or else you will get burned out and when you are not thinking properly it is easy to make mistakes and forget things.
The supportive roles are so vital to run teams, programmes and clubs and making sure you
understand your role, the tasks you have to do and by when will help you to be successful but don’t be afraid to ask for help or take a break when you need it.
I would like to thank Jo for her time and insight into some of the roles she has done. I’m sure many of you have found it interesting to learn more about what goes in to making a team run. For those who have maybe been considering getting involved in a similar role, I hope this interview has shown you not just the benefits to the clubs and team you will be helping but also how you can gain a lot of skills and experience that will help you in other areas of your life.
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