what went wrong with my club?

my club is a failure.

since i have closed it i have been thinking non stop what went wrong.

in essence my club in serbia and its international club network can be described as attempts in change.

there were no attempts in real results.

any performance was a side effect of change.

that worked well actually.

however as my distance from this event grows my point of view gains some objectivity.

i notice serious errors in my management.

here is an example:

goal: substantial amount of triathletes in city of belgrade. city of belgrade is a 2+ million city with only a dozen triathletes. natural idea was to increase the number of triathletes in belgrade. it was important not to insist these triathletes are part of my club but any club so all partnerships and projects were absolutely open source and actually working for the benefit of other clubs in belgrade. another issue is that there is only one semi active triathlon club in the city which was not interested in using these benefits, but that is besides the point.

more concrete goal: maybe 30-40 active triathletes in 3-4 years in several belgrade based clubs.

execution: to increase the number of triathletes we needed:

1) equipment,
2) pool,
3) coaching,
4) marketing.

equipment was arranged through partnerships with scott and garmin importers. with both i established a friendly relationship which allowed flexibility and improvisation. that was only to grow in time, together with the project.

within several months triathlon governing body would have signed a contract with a local olympic pool granting us one lane for 10 hours a week. this does not sound a lot but it allowed us to start with some 10 sessions a week, half being more serious training and other half being technique for beginners.

through a project called hermes plus selected number of members were engaged in coaching activities and a very cheap level one licence course was organized. also there have been negotiations with some renown international coaches to visit us and organize further training or give us virtual support.

marketing was prepared through sponsorship of anyone who was willing to blog – at least ten people got blog based websites, very simple branding and some basic training. hopefully they would keep writing about their own experience in sport, what they learned, etc and this would inspire others. after five years i realized mass media has no effect on such a niche sport so this seemed like a next thing to try. facebook was very useful. the more they mentioned triathlon on facebook the better.

on paper it was all good.

in reality every single step reached resistance.

i failed to establish contact with people who offered resistance, it was just not possible. i have invested 10s of hours on 1-to-1 explanations, wrote articles and emails. if i would say 100 things and only one had a chance of turning out bad that would happen. people who reacted with resistance were extremely effective and i have not been prepared for such resistance.

the nature of sports club does not allow certain control, not legally but just culturally. methods applied in corporate management which ensure some success in change were not possible here. everything is loose, and it is just not possible to marginalize or exclude people who were negative.

also a lot of people have shown absolutely no interest. this is maybe a bigger problem. passive attitude.

so lack of support, huge amount of apathy and few people who offered resistance were enough. since these projects were done on zero budget and were taking my free time, after i realized that i am not moving forward even with much more energy, time and money i hoped to spend, i was forced to cancel the whole project.

the closer i thought i was to some kind of resolution the stronger the resistance was and in the same time the bigger the apathy is. both reactions which really did not help and just increased my energy requirements but did not get me any closer to realization.

i do not know what would have happened if i was even more precise in my communication.

corporate methods do not work at all in such environments.

lesson learned.

i got a lot from the club in terms of experience and knowledge.

unfortunately a lot of people lost a lot by its closure. the club was a great source of knowledge and it offered a niche position on serbian sports market, everybody could benefit and people who offered resistance had not reason to do so, objectively there was no damage to anyone or anything.

resistance was a purely irrational instinct – i do not dress like them or talk like them or something?