Between 2014 and 2015, according to Women in Sport, 14.3 million people in the UK volunteered in some capacity or another, and sport is very high on the list. On average, each volunteer dedicated over 11 hours a month to their chosen field, and it’s safe to say there are millions of ‘hidden’ hours that are unaccounted for that fuel sport in the UK as we know it. What is utterly incredible is that this figure is on the rise.
I’m reluctant to say grassroots when using the term ‘sport’ here, although we are all aware of the momentous amount of hunger and determination that drives the volunteering army of everyday sport; but what about the hours ploughed in from volunteers at international level too? The blinding floodlights of the international platform cascades onto the premier athletes the world has to offer, but just behind them, within the fading shadows, are the reams of volunteers that holds the platform in place and are the true foundation of our beloved sports.
They are the bread and butter of our sport.
It’s Parents in Sport Week 2017 (October 2-8). How many of us can relate with the parents that, literally, drives our sport day in, day out? They are the ones who travel great distances to take their offspring to training, sit in the car for 2 hours whilst the rain chutes down, clutching their flask of tepid tea and reading a battered book they always have stuffed in the glovebox to help pass the time for times like these. Or how about the ones who throw a bike in the boot so they can go exploring whilst you’re busy beating the opposition at an away game that is an hour and a half’s journey through winding roads that even the satnav can’t find? How about the ones that spend hours in the kitchen preparing sandwiches for match teas, investing hard earned money on the essentials to uphold the old post-game traditions because the club’s only little and they’ve spent their match fees on hiring an umpire and buying tape to fix the rotting net in the goal. They are the bread and butter of our sport.
Volunteers come in all forms, yet they all remain hidden. They are there to ensure that your game is actually played through officiating, or working behind the scenes writing match reports or reporting on games in order to continue to raise awareness. Or perhaps they’re driving the minibus, washing the kits, running the club finances or organising socials, and social media. Volunteers are everywhere. They’re wearing muddy wellies in the rain, or club t-shirts at stadiums helping people to their seats. They’re even at the Olympics directing you to your event when you’re lost in a new city. They’re at Park Runs shouting encouragement when you’re legs are quivering and your breath is catching. They’re commentating on podcasts, thinking of creative ways to entertain you. They’re even stood there, in sheets of rain, yelping wind or searing sunshine, cheering you on proudly.
That’s the thing, isn’t it? These volunteers, they’re everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. They’re next to you in traffic. Teaching your children. Serving you coffee. Working in government and local council offices. They’re representing you on the bench (legal, I mean). They’re reaching for the same block of cheese as you in the supermarket. They’re even stood next to you in the pub, ordering the same beer as you. They’re there.
Why do they do it? Love. Utter passion and desire to be a part of something so unique, so special, is the driving force behind their every effort. They don’t ask for money, or respect, or understanding, or even a thank you. They don’t ask for anything in return. How incredibly lucky we are.
I challenge you to say thank you at every given opportunity. These two little words can mean the most. They are bursting with gratitude and appreciation, and it can just be that little difference to the powerful tribe of volunteers that will continue to take sport to the next level, with you at the heart of it.