When I was first asked to go along to a meet and greet event about sports volunteering I was slightly surprised that I didn’t know about it – although being a postgrad based at North Campus you are normally out of the loop of everything. Despite being unaware of the event, I was really interested to see what was going on and how students can get involved in sports volunteering, so I quickly looked over the poster and headed down to see what being a sport volunteer was all about.
I am the club captain of the University’s fencing club and log hours from this role onto the Sports Volunteer Scheme. Through my PhD Course I am also a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) ambassador, so I’m no stranger to volunteering. But, this can mean that you get stuck in your own circles and lose track of other great things that are going on around you, hence why I decided to check out this event.
From first impressions it was clear that everyone at the stands were really enthusiastic and committed to getting as many students and staff as possible involved in their activities. I don’t get involved in as much volunteering outside of University as I could because I always imagined it would be very time consuming and require a lot of organisation. However, talking to some of the providers, like Sale United FC and Manchester College, they’re just happy to have people helping them out! Sale United FC, for example, need people to volunteer to get people to park in the correct place on busy weekends. Manchester College need activity leaders to help organise sports sessions and make sure everyone is getting involved. Little things like this can really help out clubs and are nowhere near as time consuming as I thought and shouldn’t put you off doing volunteering (they’ve almost got me helping out!).
Some of the work the providers have done and are doing is just incredible. For example, Sale United FC started running wheelchair football sessions and have a completely changed the lives of young people who are wheelchair bound. The Rio Ferdinand Foundation are giving children aged between 11-25 in poor areas of Salford a chance to run their own radio station and make movies, which has given them more of a voice in how the area is developed. These are just a couple examples of the great things that volunteers are doing with local organisations. It has made me start to question what my club (University of Manchester Fencing Club) is doing; do you we give people a voice to comment on what they like about the club? Could we be more inclusive and start wheelchair fencing? I think these sorts of questions should always be on the mind of clubs and club captains. Without development and improvements, clubs become stale and stagnant and don’t evolve to where they could be.
As a final thought, why should you volunteer? Everyone has heard reasons about why volunteering is great for the CV and how it develops you as a person. While this is true, you will become a much more rounded person from volunteering, but I don’t think that should be the reason. We’ve all gone and done something that looks good for the CV or because “we have to”. But the real reason you should want to do it is because you can completely change someone’s life. Even in a University club, by volunteering and being on the exec or committee, you are helping to give people the chance to get involved and enjoy your sport or to give them a chance to meet new people and make the most of everything.
So , if you are finding it hard to balance your University work and hobbies, or if you’re simply looking for inspiration to join a committee or volunteer in general, just keep in mind that you could be changing someone’s life. Even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time or you feel the work and hours that you’ve put into the club are under-appreciated, keep thinking about what you are doing and everything that you have done for the people in your club and I promise you, it will make everything worth it.
By James Dix.