Special Advisor for Workforce David Reader looks into the role of volunteering in the sport sector, and the positive impact it can have on a persons wellbeing and sense of purpose.
In Britain, we all know that sport relies on volunteers for it to run week in week out. We wouldn’t have the proud sporting infrastructure we have without the millions of hours people have willingly given over the years.
However, the value of volunteering is not only to sport organisation, but importantly to the individual themselves.
Recent National Council for Voluntary Organisation (NCVO) research demonstrates that those who volunteer benefit from a higher level of wellbeing and it can also bring a greater sense of purpose to their lives.
Thus, by promoting volunteering in sport we can deliver benefits for the organisation and the volunteer.
If we can create happier individuals and more functional sporting organisations who can rely on good volunteers, then society as a whole will benefit. Everyone wins.
Good volunteers and good volunteering opportunities do not come about automatically though. We all have to be conscious of what expectations a potential volunteer has and what the needs of the sporting activity are.
On top of that, we also know that one size does not fit all situations, so we have to be adaptable.
If we are to maximise the potential of volunteering then it is important we try and shape the opportunities on offer and the NCVO research tells us that good volunteering opportunities are those which are inclusive, flexible, meaningful and impactful.
So, we at London Sport need to continue to promote the value of volunteering in sport, both to ensure that sport continues to deliver organised activity right across the city, but also so that sport continues to deliver for the individual volunteer.
This leads us to reflect on our recent work with social prescribing, where we are supporting health staff to use sport and physical activity in their prescribing work.
As well as being advocates for people being active, maybe we should be equally encouraging of Londoners becoming a volunteer - knowing what we do about the benefits it can potentially offer the individual.
In social prescribing, volunteering in sport could be seen as equally valuable to people's lives as actual participation in physical activity and if you can do both, even better.
Recent Sport England research shows volunteering slightly declining in London over the last year and we also know that wellbeing is high up on government agendas, so we have a lot of work ahead to ensure volunteering continues to play the vital role we know it can.