The importance of volunteering and how it has helped me to where I am today

By Shaun Marshall, Sported Volunteer

Volunteer Community Hands imageI remember being in year 9 (aged 14) going through that transitional phase where you begin making choices you feel will impact your life forever – like your options for GCSEs. All of a sudden a stampede of people including friends, family and teachers begin to interrogate you with questions like: What do you want to be when you grow up? Have you thought about if you’ll need to go to a sixth form or tech college? What GCSEs will the college expect you to have? What will you study at university, and have you spoken to someone working in the field about the job to get their advice?


It’s a massive amount of pressure and responsibility for any teenager – and the prospect of planning your future in that moment is daunting. Fortunately, I was always of the opinion that my career would be something I enjoy, and what I enjoyed most was sport, and the people who inspired me most were my teachers. Also, in hindsight your career is not being decided in that moment and it’s important to step back and realise there’s always opportunity to change your pathway in life.


However, in answer to the interrogative questions above it just so happens I wanted to work in sport development/teaching when I grew up, and I decided to go to sixth form, who needed me to have done GCSE PE, and it led to attending university, and having various discussions with people in the field further down the line.


A pivotal moment however was my enrolment on an extra-curricular programme at college called ‘Step Into Sport’. The purpose of the programme was to get young people (like me!) to volunteer at local sport events and in schools, highlighting the important role volunteers have in sport. I ended up delivering over 100 hours of volunteering in the community in my two years at college – and this volunteering is the most valuable achievement in my life to date, regardless of degrees, coaching awards and other various qualifications.


Volunteering in an area you love and are passionate about is so rewarding – particularly in sport when often it is younger people looking up to you as a role model. I made some friends for life in the role, I was extremely motivated and crucially I made some amazing contacts in the field of sports development. There were two mentors on the programme I regularly had contact with – one a Sports Development Manager and the other a School Sport Partnership Manager and former teacher.  Through working with these individuals, and shadowing their roles – I became really inspired and my desire to work in sport intensified. Some of the roles I carried out included working in schools on volunteer placements (primary and secondary), as well as marshalling sport events and delivering small game based activities under supervision.


With the desire and determination in hand to succeed, off I went to university to study Sport, Leisure & Culture – and after losing contact with my two Step Into Sport mentors for three years, we were brought back together when a job opportunity to work as a Sports Coach appeared. The contact for the job was none other than the Sports Development Manager I had volunteered over 100 hours for. I applied, the interview seemed to go well – and I got the job!


There was no doubt in my mind the volunteering I had done at this point was the most valuable thing I had ever chosen to do – I had benefited the local community, and my efforts were paying off.


The story advanced further after one year as a Sports Coach – a new role came up, to be a Sports Development Officer for the same team, a fantastic promotion opportunity. Competition this time was very tough, with other coaches in the team applying too – but the job role was to specifically work alongside the School Sport Partnership Manager, a perfect opportunity for me to achieve one of my ambitions, and I am pleased to say I now have 5 years’ experience in a Sports Development role.


The greatest part of my role now is that I am responsible for coach development, leadership and volunteering. I have delivered vast amount of leadership training days and courses, mentored young leaders who are on very similar volunteering programmes that I was on at their age. I will never underestimate the power of volunteering and the importance of it in sport. Volunteering, especially at a young age, equips you with essential life skills such as confidence, working as part of a team, motivation, maturity, being a role model, communication and the list goes on. It is these skills and experiences that develop individuals and make sport great. I am really grateful to have empowered more volunteers in my role as Sport Development Officer, and I also continue to volunteer for Sported.


If you’re thinking of volunteering and giving back to others, my advice is to do it! No matter how much or little time you can give, it will be appreciated – and I really believe that, sport will not survive without volunteers.


If like Shaun you are interested in utilising your professional skills as a Sported volunteer, we have a range of flexible volunteering opportunities across the UK!


To join the Sported volunteer team, please click here.