It’s Volunteers’ Week! To kick off our celebrations, Mark Bingley Sported’s Volunteer Services Co-ordinator, tells us how volunteers have played a role in his life…
Having spent the last 8 years working in the sport, health and education sectors, I have had the opportunity to work alongside, and support in some capacity, various voluntary organisations, community groups and sports clubs who rely on the time, commitment, skills and enthusiasm of volunteers.
Before I started my role as Volunteer Services Coordinator at Sported 15 months ago, I had done some one-off volunteering at sporting events – to be honest, more with the aim of improving my CV to get a job in sport rather than aiming to make a positive impact. I think I was of the opinion that as I worked in the charity sector that was enough and I struggled to find time to do anything outside of work. Since starting at Sported, my outlook has changed and helped me look at volunteering in a different way.
One of the major things I hadn’t appreciated is just how much organisations rely on volunteering; for example, at Sported we have 3000+ members and around 59% of them are entirely volunteer-led. Despite a childhood spent charging around sports fields I am pretty sure I never once thought or cared if the people refereeing/officiating, coaching or running the all-important tuck shop for that post game bag of sweets were paid staff or volunteers. I also viewed sport as mainly a great way to get fit and help with your health not fully understanding the true power of sport. Yes, it helps improve health and wellbeing, but it can also bring communities together, help young people at school, tackle inequality in participation and prevent crime.
We are very lucky at Sported to have so many amazing volunteers with such diverse backgrounds and skills who we simply just couldn’t do without. I often wonder how our volunteers find the time to offer their support. They may be CEO of a charity, yet at the weekend they are reviewing the business plan of a boxing club!
While chatting to one of our London volunteers, he talked about how it is good to have side projects outside of work, something to motivate and challenge you. This was probably the lightbulb moment that should have happened years ago but I thought, why not volunteer? I looked in to volunteering opportunities near to me in North East London and found a Sport for Development initiative called ‘Behind Every Kick’. They support young people in Hackney engaging them on and off the football pitch, running various workshops and providing mentoring. As someone who loves football and helps support mentors I thought this would be a great fit.
I now spend my Friday evenings being embarrassed on the football pitch by people half my age – and enjoying the experience! It feels great to do something positive through sport having gotten so much from it myself over the years. I’m not sure I would have taken on the role if it wasn’t for interacting with our volunteers and members, so I would like to say a massive thank you for inspiring me to do more and I would encourage anyone who hasn’t volunteered to give it a go!
We are always looking for skilled and passionate professionals to join Sported’s volunteer team, so if you are interested in finding out more, please click here. For information about other sport volunteering opportunities in your local area, please visit Join-in.