Mentoring is the buzzword for business, youth organizations, officials associations and just about every other organization or corporation. Officials associations see it as a way to develop new and inexperienced officials quickly, maintain the second- and third-year officials that have struggled and satisfy the more experienced officials when their physical abilities begin to fade.
Many organizations that decide to start a mentoring program find out that it is not easy. But it can work with the right steps. Here are recommendations to start down the right path to developing a solid program.
Plan for the future. Before you go diving directly in announcing the mentoring program at your next association meeting, think about what issues you are trying to resolve and how the program will resolve them. Speak with potential mentees and mentors and bounce the idea off them and get their impressions and ideas. Spend time considering your association’s future state. Where do you want the association to be in five, 10 or more years? Convince yourself and others that an effective mentoring program is the path to that future state.
Collect data. Contact the people that handle your officiating needs at a state or national level and obtain some data about average officials’ retention, reasons why officials quit officiating and other key facts. That data is critical to tailoring your program to meet those important needs.
Do your homework. Find out who has successful programs. Find out how they did it and what they learned along the way. Reapplication of successes and avoidance of known mistakes can speed the process and increase the likelihood of success.
Take a chance. Mentoring is a big effort that requires strong leadership. If you have the skills, the passion and the energy to drive your association toward a successful program, volunteer to lead the program. Be the force that makes the program happen and propel the association toward its future state. At a minimum, find a way that you can help the program. Maybe you are a potential mentor or perhaps you are a skilled administrator that can help organize the program. Get involved.
Get members on board. A successful mentoring program will require considerable support from the association. Make sure your association board members are aligned with your thoughts and ideas. Seek their support. That support could be financial, commitment of association resources or just an official backing of the program.
Draft a team. While you may be a strong leader and have considerable passion for the program, get some help. Develop a team that will focus on the key issues and spread the burden of meeting the many issues out to the entire team. Capitalize on the team’s diversity and personalities and you have a better chance to succeed.
Create a game plan. Get your team together and brainstorm ideas, draft some options, consider the success stories and ultimately create your plan for implementing the program with your officials. That should include how to identify mentors and mentees, what criteria to use to match the right mentor with the right mentee, how the interaction will occur (on the field or court or off) and a backup plan for those unfortunate mentoring pairs.
Try it on for size. Execute your plan. Many businesses and associations are excellent at creating plans, developing ideas, but many also fail in deployment. Even the well-thought-out plan has problems, so don’t be afraid to be flexible with its implementation, but never vary from the program’s core values and purpose. Stick with the initial plan for a pre-determined period of time to see if the bumps smooth out before you start making major revisions. You must realize that it is a human process. Humans are slow to change and slow to accept other human’s opinions. Therefore, the development of a successful mentoring program will be slow. Take small steps. Don’t try to get to your future state in three months.
Check for a pulse. After the first season or first year of the program, check and see how effective the program was at meeting your success criteria established during the initial planning. Use conventional tools for getting that information. Send out questionnaires, do one-on-one interviews, check statistics and retention numbers. Mentors and mentees will tell you what they think worked, what did not work and what they think would improve the program. Generate a list of options and observations and improve your program from there.