It’s Volunteers’ Week and the perfect time to say thank you to the millions of people who give up their time to help others get active.
More than six million people regularly volunteer around sport in England and they play a huge role in ensuring taking part in physical activity is a happy and enjoyable experience.
Kristen Stephenson, our Head of Volunteering, hailed those whose effort and enthusiasm provided the foundations for all sport in this country.
“They help make people feel welcome, ensure people have a good time and bring a really unique feel to big events,” she explained. “It’s often the volunteers that really make the day and shape the experience for those taking part.
“The theme for Volunteers’ Week this year is Volunteering For All, so we’re also encouraging all organisations to consider how they can make volunteering in sport and physical activity more inclusive and share examples of good practice to inspire others.
“We want everyone to be able to get involved in volunteering and experience the benefits; from developing their skills to improving their mental wellbeing. This is a great time to showcase the exciting range of ways people can get involved and help people find a volunteering opportunity that suits them, whatever their background.”
BENEFITS OF VOLUNTEERING
Society tends to think of volunteering as something people do for the benefit of others. Whether it's marshalling a fun run, managing money, driving people from A to B (and back) or even washing the muddy kit on a Sunday afternoon, it’s always been those taking part that everyone focuses on.
However, there are many benefits for the individual too. Volunteering can be a hugely rewarding experience and gives back in many other ways
Volunteers are happier: People who volunteer in sport often feel a sense of pride and say that their life has a sense of purpose
They meet new people: Volunteering in sport is a great way to make new friends and connections. Volunteers at a sports club often work as part of a team of volunteers. A shared love of sport often leads to new friendships
It’s a great way to develop new skills: Volunteering can help to improve current skills or develop new ones. Different roles will offer different opportunities. Some clubs might also offer you training to develop new skills that will help the volunteer in their role.
To give volunteers and recruiters all the support they need, we’ve compiled a comprehensive question and answer section that covers everything from how to find opportunities, to getting the most out of volunteering.
VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES NEAR YOU
Be Inspired also has information about how you can get involved help out across a variety of sports.
LIVES CHANGED BY VOLUNTEERING
A shy teenager found his confidence after volunteering to help visually impaired people play cricket and football.
David Howells, who is visually impaired himself, became involved with the See My Voice project as part of his Duke of Edinburgh award.
The 14-year-old was keen to help people in a similar situation to himself play sport, but says his involvement has also helped him to develop his social skills after he accepted he would not be able to play fully sighted cricket and football.
“Sport has always been very important to me and volunteering has meant I have been able to do something I love whilst encouraging and helping others to have new experiences or build on their skills,” he says.
“It has given me the confidence not to see my visual impairment as something that should get in the way of playing sport. It has built my self-assurance in dealing with others both in sport and social settings.
“Being able to talk to others, sharing experiences and knowing you are not alone in what I am feeling or experiencing has helped me manage the deterioration in my sight.”
See My Voice is a young leader programme for 11 to 18 year olds. The project supports visually impaired youngsters to develop life skills that increase their confidence and enhance their employment prospects, as well as providing an opportunity to develop, meet new friends and improve lives.
A handball volunteer has travelled all over Europe refereeing after becoming a match official.
Craig Swanson, who first became involved in the sport as a player with Newcastle Vikings Handball Club in 2013, now helps out during events in community parks and school competitions.
Being a great communicator, it was a natural progression for Craig to try his hand at refereeing and he has spent the last few years completing his courses. He is now one of the top handball referees in the country.
As well as officiating the Vikings home matches, Craig has refereed at the highest level and made recent trips to Norway and Spain.
Marlen Slinning Goulty, head coach at Newcastle Vikings Handball Club, hailed Craig as a “fantastic role model who has inspired many people” to take up refereeing.
“Craig is such a valuable member of our club,” she added. “The time he gives up helping to develop handball in our region is priceless.”
A woman stepped up to the plate to save an exercise class that would otherwise have been forced to close.
Denise Barnard volunteered to take over the Low Impact Functional Training sessions at the Fitness and Friendship Club in Wiltshire when no one else was available.
The class is specially tailored to older people and allows them to stay physically active in their advancing years.
“Seeing people become stronger and more independent through exercise is really rewarding,” explained Denise.
“Working in domiciliary care you see how quickly people can deteriorate. Being active really helps people stay fit and healthy. I have a real passion for helping people become more active and being independent.”
Denise admitted her original motivation was to save the class but says her involvement has inspired her in many ways.
“If I hadn’t taken on the volunteer role for this class it would have come to an end,” she added. “But I have learnt how to be able to adapt exercises to suit a range of people and I would love to take this into people’s homes who are more restricted and can’t make it out to the sessions.
“At the moment classes are run fortnightly and only term time, but I would like to deliver them weekly and throughout the year to ensure sustainability and keep peoples interest and activity levels high.
“It has also helped me to focus in getting back into regular exercise myself. I have been quite relaxed and it is too easy to just stay at home and do nothing.”
A participant on Active Lancashire’s Challenge through Sport Initiative (CSI) was so impressed by the scheme he now helps run sessions.
Neil Mclean was introduced to CSI as it was believed the programme would help with his mental wellbeing and anxiety issues.
But the 34-year-old found that it was by helping others that he experienced the biggest boost to his self-esteem.
“Volunteering has given me structure and purpose, especially in the evening when I’m at my lowest mood,” he explained. “I have made some new friends, which has moved me away from isolation.
“When I started at CSI I didn’t expect anything like what I now have as my self-belief was at rock bottom. I have undertaken first aid, safeguarding, fitness and cycling training and I am now out and about meeting new people. I have also regained my love of cycling and am now doing more than 100 miles per week.
“I’m definitely much more active than I was. I was isolated, spending 90 per cent of my time in my flat. Now it feels like I’m never in it.
“The difference it can make to individuals like myself is massive. Without this, my life would be very different. Without lottery funding I wouldn’t be able to volunteer. The project has developed my skills and confidence.
“Being involved has helped me overcome my anxiety. I was shaking like a leaf at the beginning and now it’s like I have a different life.”