Setting up a buddy system
What exactly is a buddy system?
In a buddy system, two people (the buddies) operate together as a unit to monitor and help each other, usually in an unfamiliar situation. Each buddy is responsible for their buddy.
How a buddy system can be useful to a club
Think of a buddy system as a support network or as a way for members to help each other. A buddy system could be used to:
- Help new members to feel part of the club. For example, introducing them to other members including key people, showing them around the facilities, and making sure they know where the venues are.
- Ensure the safety of players during trips away. Pairing up when travelling is a great idea, not only to ensure no-one gets left behind but also to look out for each other’s safety in unfamiliar places, or to make sure everyone is behaving in a way that reflects the values of the club.
- Give young members someone to turn to when they need of help. Very young members can be assigned teenage buddies to help ensure their safety and give them someone to talk to if things aren’t going right. This can also be a great way to build confidence, self-esteem and responsibility in older members.
- Encourage positive relationships between club members. Fostering relationships between peers and age groups that would not usually connect is a great way to encourage club spirit.
- Assist, welcome and train new volunteers. Pair up new volunteers with more experienced volunteers so they can quickly learn the ropes and get to work.
How a buddy system differs from a mentoring program
In some ways being someone’s buddy is very similar to being a mentor. One of the main goals of mentoring and buddy systems is to support someone else.
However, a buddy system is a less formal arrangement and generally applies to two people of equal standing in the club who help each other out. In a mentoring relationship, a more experienced or knowledgeable person is assigned to guide and support the other person to achieve a particular goal e.g. to become a qualified coach.
Unlike a mentoring relationship, a buddy relationship does not necessarily require a ‘contract' but in certain situations could be useful. It should include the following:
- A timeframe for the start and finish of the buddy relationship.
- Descriptions of what it means to be a buddy and responsibilities of each person.
- What to do if the buddy relationship isn’t working.
Set up a buddy system in four steps
1. Define the system goals
Do you want to welcome new members? Help ensure the safety of members on tour? Help orient new volunteers?
Start with one clear and specific goal.
2. Pair up the buddies
There are all sorts of ways to pair up buddies. You can choose them randomly or ask for volunteers.
A good buddy relationship relies to some extent on the personality of each person, so you may want to get to know them before you match them up.
Enlist the help of those who know the people concerned – a parent or perhaps a coach. Develop a ‘contract’ if you think one is needed and make sure each person clearly understands what it means to be a buddy.
3. Measure the success of your buddy system
Although you should allow the buddies to work out their own relationship, it’s important to monitor progress and success.
Is the system achieving results in line with your goal in setting up the program? Are the buddies doing what they are meant to do? This is particularly important when it comes to young children. Are the younger children coming to watch their older buddies play? Have retention rates for volunteers improved? You could conduct a survey of buddies to get valuable feedback.
4. Implement a buddy system in other areas of the club
If it works, replicate it. Think about some of the issues your club faces. Perhaps a buddy system can play a role in addressing other challenges.
This information was originally published as part of the VicHealth Everyone Wins initiative.