So you want to start a Leaders' Club?

The YMCA Leaders’ Club is a time tested program that builds the leadership skills, self-esteem, and overall development of young men and women ages 13-18. It does this while supporting and enriching the other program offered by your YMCA. A fully functioning club can have teens placed in Child care program, aquatics, youth sports, membership and really just about any aspect of the Y that uses volunteers. The key to this success is the full support of each department director or supervisor. While the weekly work of meeting with the leaders falls on the club advisor, he/she will use the knowledge and talents of the other staff to train, monitor, and improve the performance of the teens. This program is not for every teen, just as a triathlon is not for every runner. The Leaders’ Club program should set high standards for those who wish to represent the YMCA in a wide range of programs. It should seek to identify some spark of leadership in a teen and then show them a bar to clear, an expectation to measure up to. The club is not a program to just boost impact numbers, to be a “one size fits all” leadership development program. But rather one program in a much larger department. Just as and YMCA group exercise program has Zumba, Spinning, Body pump, and many other to allow members to self-select the one that they enjoy and benefit from the most. So too should the teen department, with the Leaders’ Club being the “varsity” program that becomes an aspirational goal for the young folks to strive to attain.

Click the sections below to learn more!

CEO / Executive Director

You play a key role in the success of the Leaders’ Club program as your support will be seen and felt by all those who work for you. Being open to having a teenager in most areas of your operation is a bit scary until you remember that the Mission of your Y is be open “to all” and that youth development doesn’t end when a kid gets too old for youth sports or afterschool. When properly supported and trained by all the directors in your operation, the Leaders’ Club members will actually be some of your best ambassadors and the most loyal to how you want things done. They do not come to the job with how they have seen it done better elsewhere…… They soak up the intent of the director and the guidance of the teen advisor and really try to please/serve the kids that they work with. It is also important that you look at the program as an investment, not an expense. This is where some Y’s fail the teens. The more you pour into developing the program, the more it pays back. Teach the teens to officiate youth sports…. Reduce salaries paid to adults. Educate the teens how to support a swim instructor either on deck or in the water… at least one staff per session. Invest in teaching them how to add value to an afterschool program…. And see them connect with a site and enrich the experience. You name it, the leaders will try and find a way to support it. There are YMCA’s where a 25-30 teen Leaders’ Club is a division unto itself in the Annual Support Campaign. Imagine the story you can tell when THEY raise $1,000 per leader for other programs. So talk to your staff, find ways to weave the Leaders’ Club into the fabric of your YMCA, and grow the next CEO of Atlanta or Seattle.

Program Director / Teen Advisor

You are the person charged with ensuring the leaders get the guidance and training needed to make the programs of the Y even better. It is you who the teens want to hang out with, listen to, and be like. It is you who will set the tone and tenor of the club and along with the officers, drive the weekly meetings and plan the work of the club. While the club builds and challenges leadership in the teens for sure, it is you who must keep them on the straight and narrow. It is you who must filter their decisions through the lens of professional practicality. It is also you who has to help them learn budgets, training in their roles (sports officials, afterschool helpers, front desk support, etc.) how to plan a calendar and most importantly, how to practice and grow as a Servant Leader. This website has a wealth of information provided by those who have grown their clubs over decades and want you to be successful from their examples (both good and bad) Whatever your challenge or your opportunity, there is a club advisor who can relate and the tight knit and far-flung community welcomes you to engage and be a part of it.


The Leaders’ Club model strives to challenge and develop the leadership skills, communication skills, and many other valuable traits over the years your teenage is a member. It will do this by setting high standards and holding them to achieving. By doing this we must all acknowledge the possibility of missing the mark, or coming up short of a goal. We do this so that the teen may grow from adversity in a safe and supported environment. The club is not the program where “everyone gets a medal” but rather one where the members reach for big goals and work with each other and the advisor to achieve them. One such way the club operates is with limited direct communicant with parents. We expect the leaders to engage with you regarding the commitments they make to the club and to gain your support for the work they do. We believe that the teens are fully capable of knowing their schedules, making commitments and discussing these with you for the needed support. So, by not doing this for them, we begin to make them fully invested in their own success. This is just one of many purposeful ways the Leaders’ Club will nurture and elevate the skill of the members.