The importance of making a good first impression.

Written by Natalie Doyle

September 29, 2021

A multicoloured wall with the word 'Welcome' on it

If you follow me on LinkedIn you might have seen my post around the challenge of finding my eldest son a football team (you can read the post here).  I was amazed by how many people commented or contacted me to say they’d had a similar experience and it really got me thinking about the importance of making a good first impression.  Many of us know about making a good first impression if you go to a job interview, for example, but for those of you involved in sports clubs, do you consider what sort of first impression you give to prospective participants?

There are two key areas you need to consider when it comes to making a good first impression so let’s look at these in turn.  First of all is the initial contact.  This is what I’ve found disappointing in my football team quest!  Who is responsible in your club for responding to email enquiries or social media messages? Do they know what the ethos of your club is and do they provide welcoming, encouraging communications for anyone contacting your club?  Do they give the impression that when the prospective participant attends their first session that they will be made to feel welcome and have an enjoyable, positive experience? If multiple people are responsible for this, is there a consistency in your communications so that whoever is responding will provide the same quality response? Consider who you are communicating with.  If your session is for children then it’s likely you’ll be talking to parents so that might require a different tone or content to if you are talking to adults about their own attendance.

The second area to consider is when they attend a session for the first time.  You have a responsibility to do everything you can to give them a quality experience.  A parent contacted me as a result of my post and said her son had not been made to feel welcome at his first session and subsequently stopped playing the sport altogether!  The experience you give to your participants will impact not only whether they stay with your club, but whether they stick with the sport for the long term so it is important to get this right.

So what would an ideal experience look like?  First of all, make sure that the venue is easy to find and you’ve given adequate information to find your group if multiple groups are using the same facility.  Welcome the new player, greet them by name and thank them for coming.  Make sure they know the names of any of the coaches and/or volunteers that will be involved in the session and show them around – where the changing rooms are (if you have them), where the toilets are, where they can fill up their water bottle if they need to, and anything else they need to know.

Perhaps you could ask one of your existing players to ‘buddy up’ with the new player so they have a peer they can ask questions of if they need to.  If the player is new to the sport, you might need to think about how you can adapt your session so they can develop their skills without feeling self-conscious?  This is especially important for girls.  Keep an eye on them throughout the session so you can offer extra support if they’re finding things difficult.

When it comes to the end of the session, make sure you check in with the new participant to see how they have found the session.  If applicable, talk to the parent/s and make sure they have someone they can contact for details of future sessions or if they wish to discuss anything.  Thank them for coming and let them know when your next session is.  Even better, follow up with them a couple of days later to get some feedback and to see if they want to return to another session.

I know a lot of you that are involved in clubs will be volunteers and this might seem like just another thing that needs to be done, but it is crucial in engaging new people into sport and into your club. After all, if they’re not enjoying it, why would they come back?

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