Volunteers are the lifeblood of community sport. They tirelessly dedicate their time, energy, and expertise to help create healthier communities and ensure the survival of grassroots sport. People from all walks of life volunteer in community sport, and for many different reasons.
Clearinghouse for Sport has compiled data from a number of recent studies and estimates that nearly 3 million people offered up their time to help community sport in 2022. People are increasingly time poor and volunteering continues to compete with greater work and family responsibilities; so we believe it’s more important than ever to take the time to recognise the efforts of volunteers.
As a part of National Volunteer Week, which is taking place from May 15 to 22, we’d like to acknowledge and applaud the contributions of volunteers to their clubs and wider communities and take this opportunity to explore the importance of volunteering across community sport.
This year’s theme for National Volunteer Week is ‘The Change Makers’, highlighting people who take action to make the world a better place.
Increasing participation & community engagement
Volunteers are at the heart of driving participation and engagement in community sport. We know it takes a lot of time and effort to run a club, and volunteers are largely responsible for making sure things happen. Running quality fundraisers, events and game day operations is vital to maintaining a strong participation base - and giving people a reason to contribute to the club.
Volunteer coaches, managers and officials are to thank for making sure that community sport continues to operate around the country. These community members are often role models for younger players and volunteers, contributing to creating safe and inclusive environments that encourage individuals to embrace an active lifestyle and a love for sport.
Bringing the community together
Grassroots sports clubs are at the centre of many communities. They bring people together and create a sense of genuine belonging and mateship. Volunteers around the club are instrumental in instilling a positive culture for participants, families and supporters.
Around 3 million Australians volunteer their time at sporting organisations. By contributing their time and effort these volunteers are providing opportunities for people from all walks of life to interact, share experiences and develop lasting friendships.
We know that in many cases, too few are doing too much at clubs. On average, committee members in a community sports club turn over every 2-3 years, forcing those left behind to rebuild and find new help. This can often be because the club doesn’t have the right structure to support its volunteers. Setting up your club in a way that encourages and supports people to help while rewarding the dedication that volunteers bring to their roles is a great way to ensure a thriving volunteer program in any organisation.
Providing Skill Development and Mentorship
To help out at a community club you will likely need a set of skills to operate in your chosen area. Clubs with strong values, culture and communities have plans in place to make sure that new volunteers at the club are properly trained and are given the guidance they need to succeed.
Volunteers become involved with community sport for a range of different reasons. An increasing number of younger people are volunteering in community sport to gain valuable experience for their education or work life. When the club is operating effectively, volunteers become mentors to younger participants and other members of the club.
In addition, volunteer coaches and managers are not only there to impart sports-specific skills, but also to teach meaningful life skills such as teamwork, sportsmanship and a growth mindset. Their mentorship extends beyond the sports field, instilling valuable qualities that contribute to personal growth and character development within the community they serve. This is an often overlooked and underrated aspect of volunteering.
Running the club
Approximately 13.8% of the adult 15+ population in Australia are involved in sport as a volunteer. Without these volunteers, there would be no community sport. Running a grassroots club is sometimes a complex task, with many different areas to consider.
Volunteers are tasked with managing the club’s finances, maintaining facilities, organising fundraisers, overseeing sponsorship, taking care of members, registrations, running the website & social media, and navigating the day-to-day governance of operating a community organisation. All of that is before game day, where volunteers are again asked to put their hand up and coach, umpire/referee, keep score, run canteens and make sure everything happens on time.
The contributions of these small teams of volunteers enable community clubs to function smoothly and efficiently, so that sport continues to be played and enjoyed.
Celebrating Your Volunteers
By contributing to community sport, club volunteers are absolutely making their communities healthier and more enjoyable places to live.
National Volunteer Week serves as a vital reminder to recognise the crucial role of volunteers in supporting Australian communities and encourages people to put their hand up and start volunteering.
During this week, we invite you to highlight the contributions of other volunteers at your club, league, or association, and to celebrate their efforts. Sharing great stories via your social platforms is a great way to recognise the hardworking people keeping your organisation afloat.
The Australian Sports Commission has released a National Volunteer Week Toolkit, with a number of email, social media and message templates to use. You can insert organisation’s logo and share ‘3 cheers for volunteers’ via your platforms.