What you need to know about starting a club

PING PONG: At the winter spirit assembly. ANTHONY WU

Anthony Wu | Head Editor

January 27th, 2023

I wish I could tell you a cooler story about how I became president of the school’s ping-pong club, but everything has its humble beginnings, and for me, it started with a random text in the middle of October.

“Hey, we couldn’t find anyone to run ping-pong, so we’re just going to leave it to you. Have fun!”

Have fun? So not only did sophomore-me just get a dumpster load of responsibility dropped on him, but he also got hit with a casual “have fun.” Here’s something I should tell you, which most incoming presidents and VP’s need to hear.

It’s not all fun and roses. It can be if you manage things right, but it takes passion, persistence, and a lot more time than you think.

Truth is, most clubs die out by their third meeting. Many clubs started as a muse to look good for colleges, and funnily enough, they die once the president submits their application.

But regardless of where your club stands, whether in its infancy or a full-blown menace, there’s always a path forward through the chaotic mess you’ll find yourself tangled in.

Trust me, I’ve been there before. I’ve felt the disappointment when no one showed up to meetings; I’ve seen the chaos that ensues when you put forty random people in a room, and I’ve been let down by the people I trusted who didn’t do the work that needed to be done.

Sometimes you’ll have to be a one-man army, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from my experience, it’s that you can’t go at it alone forever. A club is about other people: the friends by your side, the members you serve, and the communities you build.

“Beat Me To Win $20” for Club Rush. PING PONG CLUB

A club starts with a team. Number one is to find a good VP–someone who genuinely cares about your mission and is willing to stick with you through thick and thin. Having someone you can rely on is critical in managing the doubts, fear, and anxiety that come with being a leader. For the same reason that you wouldn’t want to walk alone in a dark tunnel, having someone next to you will be a great relief, even if you yourself are quivering in your boots.

There’s also the teacher advisor. Now, here’s the thing, teachers are busy people and they can’t run a club for you. They’re just there for moral support, and they’ll give you a classroom if you need one.

On to your first meeting! Here’s the best advice I can give you: Do something epic.

“The biggest problem I faced was getting people to come,” Chess President Trent Hermann said.

New leaders tend to overestimate how much strangers care about their clubs, and unfortunately, people nowadays have very short attention spans. People will show up to your first meeting, less on the second, and very few on the third unless you make them really want to come. DO NOT let the first meeting slip by presenting a boring slideshow. No one wants to wait, so get on with it!

Here’s a truth that you should bear in mind: only around 10 percent of people who sign up will actually stay in for the long haul. That’s okay! Focus on making your next meeting better than the last, and you’ll have done your job. Papa will be proud.

Always have a strategy and a plan. What is your club going to do to achieve greatness? That is your strategy. How are you going to execute it? That is your plan.

Years ago, when I was part of the chess club, I realized that the most popular clubs held meetings out in the open during lunch, where anyone from across the school could join. It’s accessibility and advertising all in one, and if you’re doing–I don’t know–a ping-pong club, that may be exactly what you want. If it’s a climate change activism club, that’s probably not your go-to. At some point, you really should whip out a piece of paper and plan out step-by-step the milestones you’ll need to reach to make your dreams come true.

So that was my strategy. Play ping-pong outside and let anyone come over. Sounds easy enough, right? Unfortunately, ideas are not as simple as they’re made out to be, and plans often go sideways. That’s why communism doesn’t work.

See, the thing is, within any organization, there will always be…how do you call it? Right. Unsavory people.

There will always be people you don’t want to deal with and others that don’t do their job. And you may even come across that one person who seemingly has no other purpose in life but to make your short time on Earth the worst it could possibly be.

Former President of the Ping-Pong Club. SPENCER HERBERT

Inevitably, things will go wrong and conflicts will burst from hell. Poor communication will lead to some people doing absolutely nothing while Atlas bears the world on his shoulders.

There are two types of people-problems. Some people are trying their best to help. They’re on your team but just have conflicting ideas for where the club should go. Talking with them and building consensus on the next step forward is the only way to achieve a win-win. “Take their criticism and suggestions” Grace Khalili, Co-President of Tritons for CHOC said, “It can improve your club and they’ll be more likely to actively participate.”

On the other hand, there are people who mess around and don’t care. In these situations, you have to be assertive. Tell them to get their act together or leave. It’s hard, but it’s also an integral part of being a leader and standing up for the people around you. Don’t let one person ruin the fun for everyone else.

If you’re bad at communicating, I get it. I am too! It’s not easy, but you have to make sure everyone is on the same wavelength. It’s only once you have the tough conversations that the storm of anxiety and conflict can calm down.

So, if you’ve got all this down, you should have a successful and healthy club with a strategy to boot!

I want to share this with you because my club is still alive, and (some) people look up to it as a model. Truth is, I’m not perfect. Many problems during the club’s infancy which arose from my mismanagement and inexperience are still around today. But honestly, running a club has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my life. I found an amazing community, and I wouldn’t be the same without all the challenges and adventures that came with it.

Thank you, Andrew Winkler, for randomly handing down the ping-pong club to me. Thank you for doing me the greatest favor of my life.

1 Comment on What you need to know about starting a club

  1. Excellent article! Helpful, and full of memorable and funny lines. “…conflicts will burst from hell.” Great lede, too!

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