Watkinson drives collaboration between board and membership
Marking just one year into her term of office, England Handball Chair Tracy Watkinson believes much has been achieved – but says there is still plenty to do.
Tracy, who was elected into the role in Sept 2017, following four years on the Board at Volleyball England, came into the sport as an impartial outsider.
She said: “I am completely independent. I’ve never played handball, and my impression of it was purely from research when applying for the role. Which is that it was a very exciting, growing sport and it was just underfunded; and, I felt, under-represented in England compared to its presence elsewhere in the world. So it had a similar parallel to my experience being on the board with Volleyball England. In that, again, a great sport that has so much more potential, like we see in other countries.”
Tracy’s day job is as a Senior Director at Credit Suisse, where she has been since 2013. Her current role is as Chief Operating Offer (COO) for UK ServiceCo Business and Program Director of Strategic Change Initiatives.
Tracy’s aim from the start was to make sure the Board works hand-in-hand with the membership, and shares the ambition for the sport held by handball players, coaches and volunteers. She recognised communication needed to improve through the whole organisation.
“What I very quickly realised at my first AGM, and speaking to the members, was that actually a bit of a step change needs to happen in the relationship between the Board and the membership.”
A number of directors were coming to the end of their tenure and Tracy started by looking at the composition of the Board.
“[We needed to] rebuild it with the right experience and skills, that would enable us to support what the membership needed. We tried to create a real sense of enthusiasm and excitement, about what a great time it was to come and join the Board for England Handball.”
Tracy explained that running a highly professional recruitment process enabled England Handball to attract a high calibre of board member.
The new Board members brought in expertise in areas such as governance and other sports related disciplines. In addition, Board members have advised on areas such as safeguarding and data which will filter down to improve the experience of playing the sport for all.
Tracy said: “What the new Board members bring are some really great specifics in how we are looking at our safeguarding, how we monitor and use data and metrics to understand where we are with the sport today, and how we measure and communicate really well to our members and all our stakeholders how we are progressing. And it’s those other sporting insights, in addition to improving our governance, that really help to take what was a bit of an idea a year ago, to become something tangible.”
At a recent board meeting, new priorities were proposed which Tracy is eager to receive feedback on from the membership, so England Handball is on the same page. These include:
1. Safeguarding - Improving levels of safeguarding across the sport through the introduction of an agreed standard and an increase in safeguarding support for clubs and the organisation as a whole. This will also be used to assess what processes need to change and to articulate how this risk is being managed. Concerns previously raised are being addressed and safeguarding will be a standing Board agenda item going forward.
2. Stakeholder Engagement - Creating a full engagement plan for the season covering the specifics of what we are offering a club and all touch-points. Partnership Managers to organise quarterly meeting time slots with clubs for the entire year ahead, track interactions, log key actions and follow up on discussions. Where possible Partnership Managers will run drop-in surgeries at training sessions, matches or events.
3. Governance - Continuing to improve governance within the association. Review policies, consider board operation and support for the management team. Help clubs enhance governance structures to support operation, ensure compliance and attract investment.
4. Data Metrics - Investing in data metrics to facilitate tracking and assessment, measurement of progress and quantification of impact. Utilise data metrics in reporting and compliance, as the evidence base for future funding bids and sponsorship opportunities. Highlight the diversity and inclusiveness of Handball.
“Now we can communicate our priorities out to the members to check that resonates with them and everyone in the sport is lined up for that. There is a huge amount of energy – particularly from a volunteering perspective – in the sport. And for me personally, the more we can funnel all of that energy into the same set of goals, I think we’ll be astounded by just how much more the sport can achieve.”
Communication and co-operation will be the keys to success.