Three Strikes and you are Out in the OLE Ballgame

The number one problem with voluntary sport leagues is the lack of a "structure" document or an organizational document that is "dead".

A structure document is a constitution or set of by-laws. Many organizations start out as a handful of close friends who form the group as an informal activity. Between friends, who needs something in writing? If this informal group has fun, they bring in other friends, then start allowing strangers to join and before you know it, a group is now a "league". But guess what? During all this growth, nobody thought to write down any statements about organization or rules. Everybody was just so happy that they had a new recreational outlet, nobody thought of the dull, tedious task of drafting a structure document.

Finally, after about two years of fun and sun, there is a dispute between one of the original organizers and one of the new "strangers". The old-timer argues that it is "his/her" league and what they say goes. The new person says that the organization has outgrown its original design and all members now have a vote.

A similar situation that this office has experienced is the dead document. We worked recently with a group that originated with just six people. They devised a structure and put it in writing. However, it was approximately three-quarters of one page long. It was a completely functional document ... for 6 people. However the organization grew to its current membership of about 90. It was now six years after that original document when they came to us with an internal dispute between the group and a particular member. That piece of paper from six years ago was absolutely useless. It took 4 months to resolve an ordinary problem that almost all voluntary associations experience.

The bottom line is that a set of by-laws, if initially prepared and timely amended, will serve as a guiding light for a voluntary organization. It must contain procedures and rules for resolving the common disputes faced by these organizations in their daily operations. Should a dispute become so overheated that one party does resort to the courts, the by-laws, if current, will significantly aid the organization, and depending on the circumstances, the member who feels offended.

If you belong to a voluntary recreation or sport league, especially if you are an officer of that organization, double check the groups records to see if, one, a structure document exists and, two, it is reflective of the group's actual state-of-being.