Under the Floodlights: The value of volunteering

By Emily Burns, North East Regional Manager at Sported

Emily BurnsWalking into a sport camp in my local community centre at the age of 14 to volunteer for the Easter holidays was a daunting experience and one I have always remembered. My first experience of volunteering was luckily a good one and I had two weeks of getting to play games, work with young children and learn from older coaches. I loved the chance to be active and learn by doing. It ignited a passion for leadership and coaching that has never gone away.


Volunteering became inbuilt from a young age, without me even realising. I often helped out at sports clubs and community events. Coming from a village in County Durham it was just what you did – you got involved and helped others out. The understanding and acknowledgement of volunteering has stayed with me during my childhood and into adult life.


Throughout university I volunteered and it allowed me to explore the city of Sheffield and see what lay outside of the university boundaries. What I was studying at university was great, but it wasn’t actually giving me ‘real-life’ skills. When I thought about what was going to make me different and stand out from the other 180 people on my course, the page looked pretty blank until I started volunteering. Suddenly, the more I put in the more I got out. By that I mean, the more times I volunteered, the more benefits I started to see. Yes my CV started to build and yes I became more employable, but actually what it gave me was a whole lot more. My confidence grew, I learnt new skills, worked with diverse teams, stepped outside my comfort zone and experienced things no exam or piece of coursework could ever give me – I became me.


We all have different reasons for volunteering and research carried out by the NCVO shows that among those who had formally volunteered at least once in the last 12 months, the two most frequent reasons given for volunteering were to improve things/help people (59%) and that the cause was important to me (40%).


Less frequently mentioned reasons included:


-To get on in my career (10%);


-Feeling there was no one else to do it (9%);


-To get a recognised qualification (3%).


But if we didn’t volunteer what would happen? Would there be as many sports clubs out there? Would there be community-led projects and facilities that meet the needs for those around them, often the most vulnerable and hard to reach?


Join In’s article ‘Hidden diamonds: Uncovering the true value of sport volunteers’ highlights that out of the country’s 3.2m volunteers, volunteering in sport is the biggest single sector (approximately 20%). This makes sport volunteering worth £53bn – one of the most valuable sectors in the UK.  To know that I am one of those 3.2 million people helping is a pretty cool feeling!


Volunteer quoteOne of my favourite quotes is ‘Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.’  This is how I feel about volunteering. Individually offering your time, you are making a difference,
but when many volunteers come together, working towards a common goal they might start as a drop of water, progress to a puddle, create a smooth running stream, then river, before finally reaching the ocean. But when they do, they have made a lifelong change both for themselves and the communities they support.


57% of Sported members are solely run by volunteers including coaches, committee members, trustees etc and for all of you I salute you!


Volunteer don’t necessarily have the time, they just have the heart”

“Volunteers are not paid not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless”

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”