Volunteer or Community Hero?
I have volunteered most of my life in some way in various roles, and it has provided me with enjoyment, friends, valuable experience and a sense of wellbeing.
I started at the age of 17 just after I started playing football, I became the club’s press officer to start promote the club in the local area, writing articles for papers and advertising for new players. Around this time after being bit by a passion for the game I decided I wanted to work in football so I grabbed at any other opportunities that came up. I first became the Surrey Representative on the Women’s league my club played in, which then led to me becoming the Women’s County Coaching Representative for Surrey FA. At that time (I’m showing my age) there were no paid roles in football development. During these early years of volunteering, I met some great people who helped support me on my journey through football and got valuable experience.
I have always believed that if I wouldn’t have got as far as I did in football without my volunteering experience and the contacts I made along the way. I often advocate to those at the beginning of their careers that they should consider volunteering for these very reasons.
My family life and career took off and volunteering took a back seat for a while, but throughout my roles with London FA and Surrey FA, I worked with many other volunteers that are essential to football in clubs, leagues and at the County FA’s. Having had a background in volunteering myself meant I understood their challenges and enabled me to be better at my role.
More recently, now I am working for myself and the kids are older, I have a bit more time and volunteering allows me to give back to the sport by supporting clubs and organisations as well as providing me with a sense of wellbeing, a feeling of making a difference.
My current volunteer roles include being Trustee at London Football Trust and Chair at Tooting & Mitcham United FC. Pre Covid-19 I supported my local park run as a marshal every few weeks and during the first lockdown, I helped deliver food parcels for my local authority, inspired by the need to want to help the community in any way I could through this difficult time.
Often sports clubs say they struggle to get volunteers and whilst the current climate has seen many people rally around in their community and help others, the challenge will be when life starts to return to normal. Clubs need to understand the nature of volunteering has changed and people cannot commit as much time as they used to in previous generations, so there needs to be a flexible approach and maybe a rota system, a team needs to be built around a role where before there may have only been one volunteer and clubs need to engage with the younger generation, those looking for experience and trying to build a career.
Saturday 5th December is International Volunteering Day, an opportunity to thank your volunteers that keep your club going and perhaps to take some time to review the way your club approaches volunteering. To find out more about finding, keeping or recruiting volunteers, visit the Sport England Club Matters volunteering page at http://www.sportenglandclubmatters.com/club-people/volunteers/