A great mentoring program is only possible with quality mentors. Just as great officials have superior skills and instincts, great mentors have certain attributes that make them right for the job. Here are recommendations to help you identify the right people.
Step 1 — Do your homework. Check out other mentoring programs that have been successful. Find out the types of individuals that are a part of those programs. You obviously won’t be able to use the same people, but you will be able to find out from other association leaders what makes their mentors successful. Find out about their experience, their commitment, their personality — whatever will help you to find similar mentors in your group.
Step 2 — Eliminate the wrong people. There are some officials who are clearly wrong for the job of mentoring. Some groups open up the opportunity to serve as a mentor to the entire association. That can put association leaders in a tough spot if individuals who aren’t qualified volunteer. You don’t want first- or second-year officials mentoring other newbies, for example. You also don’t what individuals who don’t have the skills (officiating or personality) to be successful. You want new officials to stay with your association. Picking the wrong people to serve as mentors can chase them out the door faster than they came in.
Step 3 — Find individuals who have time for the job. There are some great potential mentors in your association who aren’t right for serving as a mentor simply because they don’t have the time for it. You need individuals who have the time (possibly newly retired association members) or those who will make the time (officials who have a full schedule, but don’t mind attending JV games prior to their own or who will make time on the weekend to work some youth games with new officials).
Step 4 — Look for leaders. The mentors you identify should be respected in your association. They should be individuals who carry themselves the right way at meetings and games. They should be individuals who have maintained current, up-to-date knowledge and skills (even after retirement, for some). And they should be people who are interested in and willing to help others.
Step 5 — Find those who can teach. An official might have everything going for him or her out on the field or court, but if the individual can’t communicate how to be successful to someone else, the official likely isn’t cut out for mentoring. Good mentors demonstrate effective coaching, counseling and facilitating skills. They are receptive to new ways of learning and able to offer feedback in a constructive manner.
Step 6 — Get feedback from mentees. After the season, send out questionnaires and/or do one-on-one interviews with mentees to see what they thought worked, what did not work and what they think would improve the program. Find out what they liked about their mentor and what he or she needs to do to improve. Share the feedback with the mentors so they can be even more successful in the future.