What I’ve learnt as a Sported volunteer

By Carla Malhotra, Sported Volunteer

Photo of Sported volunteer, Carla Malhotra, standing next to a Sported promotional bannerI started my volunteer role at Sported four years ago, keen to be involved in an organisation so passionate about using sport for a social good and driven to ensure the third sector can be self-sustaining.


Having worked in private sector, social enterprise and more recently public sector I felt that I had a broad range of experience that I could offer to a purpose I was aligned to. When starting on my mentoring journey I thought I could not be surprised by organisations, either in a good or bad way – but I was wrong! The opportunity to mentor has provided me with a chance to work with some inspirational, dedicated social entrepreneurs who whilst occasionally frustrating, can inspire and mentor the mentor!


I’ve worked with a number of different organisations for varying lengths of time throughout my Sported time. Throughout each project I learnt something new about myself and have also taken inspiration away. The whole experience had also broaden my eyes to just how entrepreneurial many of these organisations are, I have always been inspired by the determination of the third sector but for me I was impressed by ingenuity, tenacity and creative thinking that so many third sector organisations demonstrate. And actually the corporate world could learnt something from the way in which many of these organisation operate within times of real austerity.


So the top three things I’ve learnt are:

It’s OK to say no

As a mentor all you want is for the organisation you are working with to succeed and part of the responsibility of a mentor is to recognise when the time or challenge might not be right for you or the organisation itself. I learnt this through a situation where the organisation simply did not have the ability to bring decision makers together for the mentoring process. I don’t like letting a problem beat me and learning to say ‘no, the time is not right’ or ‘I am not right for you’ was a tough lesson for me to learn. Thankfully I had a great Regional Manager who absolutely supported me in reflecting on the challenges and the reality of the situation and helped me to recognise it was time to say no.


You don’t have all the answers – but someone does

There have been many moments when I’ve been sat with organisations and I have realised I simply don’t have the answer they are looking for. But the great thing about Sported is that I know that there is always someone there to ask, be it the Regional Manager, my own wider networks or other volunteer mentors – someone always has the answer!


Learning to say goodbye

I don’t like to use the term goodbye as it always seems so final so as I say to all organisations I work with it is only ever au revoir! There is a strong temptation to keep involved with an organisation, especially if like me you are nosey and always want to see things through to the end. I have to confess I may hold a NE record for the longest mentor relationship which is not something you are supposed to do! However I have had to learn when it is the right time to say goodbye and the original purpose of the mentoring has been completed. It is so very easy to move on to other areas as organisations move, grow, change in such short time period and new challenges present themselves. I have learnt that if I can’t say goodbye its because I haven’t done the role of the mentor well enough as the right support should ensure the organisation is ready to say goodbye.


In short, mentoring has helped me to be more reflective in my approach to problem solving and to recognise how and where support is appropriate. I have taken these skills back in the workplace with me and used them within my own personal development. Mentoring is an amazing opportunity to not only support passionate organisations delivering amazing projects, but also to reflect and build on your own skills as a professional. And I really can’t recommend it enough!