Volunteers are the heart

By Tom Cheek, Sported volunteer

Tom Cheek, Sported volunteerVolunteers are the heart-beat of many sporting organisations and clubs.  They bring with them passion and energy with the diversity of experience, values and ideas.  One of the key challenges is to retain these individuals.


A great way to do this is through rewarding them with learning and training opportunities.  These don’t necessarily have to have an impact of financial commitment to your club or organisation.  Additionally, learning and development doesn’t have to always be formal and accredited.  Some of the best learning comes through social, unaccredited events and activity.  Ultimately, its’ about developing a culture in your organisation and club that embraces and engages with learning in all its aspects.


So, here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. County Sport Partnerships 

It’s well worth approaching your local county sport partnership (CSP), who often work with Sport National Governing Bodies to increase the availability of qualified coaches with heavily subsidised training costs. You can find your CSP by using this link: https://www.cspnetwork.org/your-csp


2. Creating a digital space 

A small investment in time can develop an online space, such as a protected Facebook page or virtual learning environment , which volunteers can access to raise questions and share ideas and thoughts with set or open topics. Peer learning is incredibly powerful when a dialogue is available through an accessible platform.  Advice and an idea to get you started is available using this link on how to use Facebook to create such a space:  https://www.facebook.com/business/products/pages


3. Open Courses 

These are often free, online and available to those who are seeking to develop an interest and would like to learn with others. They are often delivered by well-respected professionals and experts in their field.  They encourage access to learning, with many individuals moving on to study more formal provision.  A good starting place is the Open University with their OpenLearn provision.  More information can be found here:  https://www.open.edu/openlearn/

Topics covered include:  Money & Business; Sports & Psychology and Developing Active Lives to name just three.  But don’t be limited to just Open University, many educational establishments offer online courses, so with a little bit of research, a suitable course can be found.


4. Adult Funding 

If an accredited qualification is the preference, a selection of qualifications, including those in sport, fitness and leisure, can be delivered if individuals meet the entry criteria. Approach your local college who can best advise as course availability and entry requirements is often open to change.


By offering to your volunteers access to learning, it demonstrates that you have an interest in their personal development.  This encouragement of learning can ignite a passion for developing knowledge, skills and behaviours that will impact positively, not only your organisational function, but also support the life-long learning and social mobility of the volunteers themselves.  It’s a win win.


Tom is a Sported volunteer and has 18 years’ experience in designing, coordinating and managing work-based and online learning for multi-vocational sectors, including Sport, Fitness & Leisure.