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Meet some of the Runners

I was there …..

An army of volunteers is needed to make any event run smoothly – particularly a major event. Below are some of the experiences in a variety of roles that the Runners, (or ‘pink army’ of volunteers) for the IAAF World Championships 4-13 August in London, had when they joined in to make 2017 “the best world championships ever”.
Alice Martin was part of Competition Delivery Team, which involved putting out the lane markers and blocks for each race.  She also helped with jobs such as putting out the steeplechase hurdles and setting up equipment for the field events.

Her highlight of the championships was on the first night when Sir Mo Farah ran his 10,000m race.

The noise in the stadium was deafening as the crowd cheered and gave the athletes a standing ovation for every one of the 25 laps, and then in the final lap when Mo pulled ahead and won – the atmosphere was just incredible”. 

Mei Lin Edwards volunteered at both the World Para Athletics and IAAF World Championships.  She was part of the Victory Ceremonies Team making sure that the athletes received their medals on time and that everything looked pristine for all the cameras.  For her, every day was a highlight as she had so many opportunities “to meet and serve the medal winners”.

As part of this team, Mei Lin had a variety of duties, including:

“Registration of medal winners, post event control, giving instruction sheets to winners of competitions outlining what day and time they needed to arrive at the stadium for the medals ceremonies. At the end of the shift, many of us stayed behind to roll back the flags onto the poles for storage and use later in the competition.

Above Mei Lin is carrying out one of her tasks – ironing the Polish flag for the medal presentation for the Men’s 4x400m relay on the final evening of the championships.

Simon Barlow was an Athlete Chaperone with the Clean Athletics Team. He worked in the team hotels, pre-competition and in the London Stadium during the competition.  His role was to notify the athlete that they had been selected for a drug test and then escort them to the testing station.  Post-competition testing could be particularly complex:

“If they had media or medal ceremonies, or wanted to warm down, we had to escort them to these areas and then back to the testing station to make sure the first sample gathered from them was in the station. We had to be aware of their location at all times and complete paperwork to say we had observed them; in addition, we weren’t allowed to hand bottles of water or anything else to them, they had to select these items for themselves – to make sure that that nothing interfered with the test results”.

The Athlete Chaperone Team – on the last night at the stadium.

Carol Matta travelled up from Cornwall to be part of the Off-Track Team (Marathons and Walk Races), undertaking tasks within the Call Room, Technical Information Centre and National Technical Officials Support.

Amongst other things I was part of chip distribution – where I helped athletes to collect their race timer chips (small gadgets which record an athlete’s times and split times) and attach these to their shoes – one of the final parts in their race preparation.” 

“My highlight of the championship was helping to escort a group of the women marathon athletes from the call room, then up the steps and onto Tower Bridge for the start of the race – something in my wildest imagination I would never have seen myself doing when I applied to be a Runner last Autumn!” 

Judith Gunion volunteered in the Media Services Team, working in the mixed-zone for both championships.  This is the zone where all the competing athletes come through once their competition is over.

Journalists would let us know in advance if they wanted (to speak to) a particular athlete so we always had to know who had come through and who may still be doing broadcast interviews.  Particular athletes would be wanted for interviews by all the waiting Press and thus they could take quite a while to get through to the mixed zone.

At times the mixed zone could be quite hectic, particularly when Justin Gatlin was being interviewed near the front of the zone and at the same time, we had Usain Bolt finishing his interviews up in the broadcast – area almost ready to come to the mixed zone. 

It is difficult to zero in on just one highlight.  Each day I thought it was the best ever and it couldn’t get better – and then the next day, it did exactly that!”

“But one funny memory comes from the last night.  The athletes get quite hungry waiting to speak to the many different journalists however there was never any food available.  Well that was until the last night. At dinner that last night, there was food being given away so we (volunteers) loaded up on flapjacks, some salads, cereal bars and on our way out, I grabbed a box of lemon muffins.  The flapjacks flew out of the bags and even the salads were gobbled up, despite us forgetting to bring some forks.  Then the relays came through and the British women’s 4x400m were famished, but we had run out of everything, until we remembered the lemon muffins!  They were brought out and the squeals of delight when we offered them round was special. We thought they would turn them down because of ‘my body is my temple’, but they couldn’t wait to dig in, they said we were a ‘top team’.”

Becki Ellsmore (below, far left) was a Spectator Services volunteer at the London Stadium, which involved helping people find their way in, giving out plenty of smiles and high fives, and generally getting the spectators excited for the amazing athletics they were about to watch!

“My highlights have to be a combination of hearing the cheers from inside the stadium when something good happened, and still managing to make people smile on their way into the very, rainy Wednesday evening session despite the downpour”.

Debbie Allery’s role was vital to the smooth running of the championships, yet it didn’t involve her seeing any sport.  She was part of the Accreditation Team based in the athlete hotels and the uniform distribution centre.  Every day she was …

meeting and dealing with everyone who was involved in the event, from volunteers, athletes, security personnel, caterers, broadcasters and media.   We had to check their ID, and make sure it matched what was already in the system.  A process of different stations for each person, from checking to taking their photograph, and handing over their accreditation”.  

We were away from the main event, so did not get any of the atmosphere, but it was lovely to meet all types of people, and work with a great team.  The role had both quiet days and some that were quite stressful!!  

Highlight was working in the hotel when some of Team GB and Team Jamaica arrived, and getting to meet Sir Mo Farah!”

We hope this has given you a quick glimpse into the many different type of roles volunteering offers, whether it is a big event or at grassroots clubs – there really are many opportunities you can join in with.

If you want to get involved and find a volunteering opportunity near you – simply type your postcode into the opportunity finder and help make a difference in your local community.

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I was there …..

An army of volunteers is needed to make any event run smoothly – particularly a major event. Below are some … Continued

Behind the scenes with Rosemary, Malcolm, Victoria and Sarah-Jane

Behind the scenes at the IAAF World Athletics Championships

In the aftermath of the successful IAAF World Athletics Championships, we thought it would be a great idea to catch up with a few volunteers who helped make the Championships such a great success.

We wanted to find out their motivations for volunteering, their experiences during the Championships and, of course, their highlights.  This is what they told us.

Rosemary Head has four children and six grandchildren and spends much of her spare time volunteering in her community.  Having already volunteered at London 2012 and Rio 2016, she didn’t hesitate to put her name forward for London 2017.  Her role was in Spectator Services – meeting the public and dealing with their every need.

Rosemary loved meeting people from all over the world and felt very proud to represent her country. She was surprised at the number of questions she was asked every day, but loved the buzz in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  From questions about lost property to one little boy who wanted to know…

“Are you here to make people laugh?  Yes, indeed I am, if I can put a smile on people’s faces!”

One of her highlights was to be given a free ticket for the final Saturday evening session, but decided to give it away to a very grateful lady with a young baby whose husband was already in the stadium.

Rosemary has already booked her place at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea and always encourages other people to get involved in volunteering.  Having recovered from breast cancer 10 years ago, she feels she was given a second chance and now makes the most of every opportunity, and at the age of 77, intends to “keep going“.

Malcolm Chevin’s first experience of volunteering was at the Olympic Stadium in 2012 as a Team Leader with Event Services.  Now, as a regular volunteer, he wanted to return to the stadium to relive his initial experiences.  This time he was given the role of Team Attaché for Trinidad and Tobago.

“As an Attaché you never know what you might end up doing, but I was quickly given a few jobs to sort out including getting a Javelin Case through Customs at Gatwick airport and organising getting the laundry done. It’s important to gain the trust of the team members and I was soon integrated and became one of the Team. I chose to work every day as there was always a need to help, and I wanted to make sure that once the Championships were over that I didn’t regret not doing something!”

Malcolm had many highlights at the Championships which included accompanying Jereem Richards, Bronze medallist in the men’s 200 metres, to his medal presentation. But this moment was eclipsed on the final day of the Championships, as Malcolm explains:

“We had a Team debriefing at midday on the final day to discuss how everyone felt things had gone. It was a sombre meeting as we all reflected on the past week. The big issue was the lack of funding and support for the athletes. The team only had a bronze medal to show for all the hard work the athletes had put in; however, there was just one last race left to run, the men’s 4x400m relay – the last race of the Championships. We formed a circle and held hands and one of the Team said a prayer thanking God for the past week and wishing the relay team success in the final. Our prayers were answered that night, the Trinidad and Tobago team won the gold medal in the relay beating the USA. Amazing scenes that capped off an unbelievable 14 days.”

“I would seriously encourage others to volunteer. I have done many major sporting events and they are all different, so expect to be surprised. You never quite know what role you will end up doing, but the camaraderie with fellow volunteers and the whole experience is one that you will never forget.”

Victoria Osibodu also volunteered at London 2012 and Rio 2016 and the timing was perfect for her to volunteer at London 2017.  She was working with the Clean Athletics Team which is responsible for making sure that the drug testing programme is enforced both before and during the Championships.  Victoria relished the challenge it would bring as it was an area she hadn’t worked in before.  She was surprised that the “athletes were still enthusiastic and happy to help even when you wake them up at 7am for dope testing”.  

Victoria was lucky to be in the London Stadium the night that Sir Mo Farah won his gold medal in the 10,000m, but says her absolute highlight was “being present at the first world record in the 50km women’s walk”.

As a keen supporter of grass roots sport, Victoria has already been back helping at her local athletics club at an open competition and urges others to get involved in their community:

“I would encourage others to volunteer especially at a grassroots level because there isn’t a better feeling when you see the kids develop and go on to compete on a bigger stage. You feel like you are a proud parent.”

Sarah-Jane O’Brien couldn’t wait to get involved in London 2017.  Having volunteered for the first time at the London 2012 Olympics, she became an interviewer for London 2017.  She helped interview some of the thousands of people who applied to be part of the IAAF World Athletics Championships.  She then got involved in supporting the training of the volunteers before taking up a role with the Ticketing Team in the London Stadium as a Stand Support Volunteer.

“We resolved ticket queries and showed spectators to their seats. We were in the Stadium to answer questions, take photos for them and make sure they enjoyed their experience. A lot of tickets were sold a year ago so it’s been a long wait but it was amazing to see how excited people were when they came in and first saw the track. I also made an appearance on BBC1 as Ore Oduba and Greg Rutherford were discussing the Long Jump final!”

Sarah-Jane loved talking to the public and making sure everyone had a great time. She had two stand out highlights from her time in the stadium.

“I met an 87-year-old spectator who had been a sprinter and competed in the 1952 Olympics. She came to watch 3 events and looked so happy to be there. Sport wise hearing the roar from the crowd as Mo Farah won gold on the first evening was something I will never forget. It was deafening!”

One of things which surprised Sarah-Jane the most was the number of familiar faces she met every day.

“When I volunteered at the London 2012 Olympics five years ago I didn’t know anyone else who volunteered. Now five years later, not a day went by when I didn’t see several friends as I walked through the park to start my shifts. Volunteering is like a family, you get to see the same faces at all the different events and you become friends. I was also pleased to see so many first-time volunteers who were too young to do it five years ago but saw the Games Makers and that inspired them.

And that is why Sarah-Jane would recommend volunteering and encourages people to get involved.

“I am always meeting new people and telling them about my experiences. There are so many opportunities out there and you get to meet people from all different backgrounds and locations. I have even travelled abroad to volunteer – in Amsterdam at the European Athletics Championships 2016 and Rio Olympics 2016. Some of my closest friends are volunteers, we meet up and go to see the ballet or a theatre show together. Volunteering has enhanced my life more than I ever thought possible and I would recommend it to anyone.”

Sarah-Jane is now aiming to volunteer at Tokyo 2020.

We hope this blog has given you an insight into what it is like to volunteer at an event and the many different volunteering roles that you can get involved with. There really is something for everyone.

Check out the opportunities on the Join In website today and get involved!

The "pink floyd" high five!

Insights and Highlights

We all know that volunteers make sport happen – at both a grassroots level and at major sporting events – the World Para Athletics Championships are no exception. Volunteers (called Runners) share some of the highlights from their volunteering experience at last week’s Championships in London.

Mary O’Leary –  Team Attaché for Team Ireland reflects on her week:

“Well another great volunteering & sporting event has come to an end. It’s amazing how time goes so fast but during the course of the World Para Athletics so many happy memories and experiences to cherish.  Getting selected to be a ‘Runner’ at the Championships was a real honour but then to be offered the role of Team Attaché for Team Ireland – well, just made my heart full of pride.  The atmosphere is unbelievable from the spectators, fellow volunteers, athletes and support staff – it all creates such a positive vibe that it was impossible not to feel happy to be a part of such an event. And when the school children arrive excited and asking for high-fives – their enthusiasm and spirit for the occasion and willingness to cheer every athlete in the stadium was just wonderful and very contagious.

I enjoyed all aspects of my role and loved supporting my team at all their events.  I was lucky to experience Team Ireland winning 7 medals and that meant 7 medal ceremonies. Being with the team and making sure the athletes’ families were allowed close access to the stage was part of my role at ceremonies. Singing the Irish National Anthem wasn’t compulsory, but I was not going to miss the opportunity, so the fact I got to do it four times, and also to wear my Irish flag earrings – was simply amazing. I even got the chance to wear my shamrock ear-rings on other days. The entire experience was just wonderful and my face must have shown just how much as I overheard someone saying how much ‘Mary loves a ceremony!’

The entire experience has given me so many lovely memories but handing the Irish flag to Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop after they won their gold medals, and then being able to watch them on their lap of honour and being interviewed still holding their flags, was just fabulous. Michael surprised me in the Heroes Village by thanking me for all the support I had given him and the team. What a great team and I feel so proud to have played a small part in the success of the World Para Athletics 2017.

What a great team and I feel so proud to have played a small part in the success of the World Para Athletics 2017″.

Lauren Crawley was originally selected to volunteer as a buggy driver, but through her flexibility and ability to learn quickly she directly contributed to a world record .  Following her experience, she is thinking about qualifying as a field official.

If I had finished my volunteering experience at the World Para Athletics Championships on the first night, I would have been very happy. But it turned out that buggy drivers were also part of the wider equipment team, so with too many buggy drivers signed on, I was directed to the training for fixing chairs into place for the women’s (F52) seated discus throw.

I had some quick, basic training (I heard the last sentence of how to use the very technical ratchets!) before being whisked off to eat as we would be on the field of play for the whole session. Interacting with the officials, athletes, coaches and working closely in a team with other volunteers was great fun and I both learnt and improved on the job. I can even say that I directly helped to contribute to a world record – what an inspiring evening!

 

The rest of my shifts were extremely varied. I did get to drive the buggy on a couple of occasions picking up some weights for the training room and stocking up water in the containers out on the field. Other very random tasks included marking up additional lanes for the guides in the blind races, setting up equipment for the high jump and raking the long/triple jump pits, adding plasticine to the long/triple jump boards and transporting equipment (shot, discus, javelin, chairs for the seated throws) to the training sites and field of play. Through being thrown into a bit of everything and anything, I have met some great (patient and flexible) people, I have also discovered that I am capable of turning my hand to more than I thought I could and have developed muscles that I didn’t know existed! I will definitely look into becoming a field official following these championships. I can’t think of any other sport with so much variety (or so much equipment!).”

As part of the Sport Competition Team, Mandeep Chahal spent much of his time on the track supporting the athletes and had a front row seat for the action

“Back at the call room I started my first event by accompanying the athletes out. There were only six high jumpers on the day and two were from India.  The athletes had variations of lower leg impairments and each approached the bar in a different way. I was amazed at their athleticism and determination in finding different ways to get over that bar. It starting raining lightly so there was always a danger of slipping. Unfortunately, one of the athlete slipped as he was about to take off and he fell backwards hitting the back of his head. The medics rushed on and the competition was halted for about 20 minutes while they checked him out. After a while he stood up to a huge applause from the audience. But unfortunately, it ended his competition and he was taken off for further tests.

The crowd were engaged throughout the entire competition when it finally ended with the Americans taking the gold and the 2 Indian athletes taking silver and bronze. I then led the athletes back to the mixed zone with the crowd cheering all along the walk down the finishing straight. It made me feel so proud to be part of the Championships.

It was then off to lead out the 5000m race athletes. The British crowd were incredible with their support, cheering the athletes as they enter the stadium and throughout the competition – even when they are leaving. No wonder there is a call to have the World Para Athletics in London every time.”

If you were lucky enough to have a ticket for the World Para Athletics Championships, you may well have been greeted by Ritchie Parrott and his team of volunteers.

I think my highlight of the World Para Athletics Championship has to be something that was affectionately known by the Spectator Services team as the ‘pink Floyd’.

 

During every shift, just as the crowd was coming towards the stadium and starting to slow down, a call would come through to the team leaders on the radio to come together at one bridge.  These teams would then form an avenue of Runners who were all armed with the branded foam fingers.  We would then encourage the spectators to come through the middle and to be high-fived by everyone.  We had all sorts of people come through: children, adults, grandparents, people in wheelchairs and those on prosthetic legs.  At one point we were also visited by a Channel Four film crew who had heard what was happening.
It was such a simple but hugely effective way of energising the crowds and making the volunteers feel like they had done a brilliant job of giving the crowds the best possible welcome.”
And they certainly did that!  They showed the amazing spirit of volunteering as part of team and many of them will do it all over again later this week as London welcomes the IAAF Word Athletics Championships to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Team Leader Ritchie Parrott & the Spectator Services Team

It’s all about Teamwork

One of the overriding sentiments we are getting from the amazing Runners who are volunteering at the World Para Athletics Championships is that they are part of a team.

Someone who knows all about teamwork is Mandeep Chahal from Hounslow.  After his first experience of volunteering, helping a club for disabled children take their students swimming, Mandeep looked for other ways to volunteer. He took advantage of opportunities offered by his employer, BT where he works in IT in the HR department. He joined the BT volunteering team where he participated in community and sporting events.  He found he enjoyed it so much, he now calls himself a “serial volunteer”.

“I then got involved in the BT volunteering team where I participated in community and sporting events. Through BT I applied to be a Games Maker at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  I volunteer in many different capacities. I have helped at major sporting events, at local athletics clubs as a qualified technical official, non-sporting organisations like the National Trust and at Team London to help visitors to London.”

For the World paras and the IAAF championships, Mandeep has an exciting role as part of the Sport Competition Team.

“My main roles will be to look after the athletes as they go to complete. This may be holding the banner and leading them out, escorting them to the mixed zone at the end of the competition, escorting them if they need to speak to their coaches or if they want to go on a comfort break. We cater for their needs and work closely with the technical officials for that event. As such I will be based track-side to lead them out or on the field of play if we are looking after their needs during the competition.”

Ritchie Parrott knows all about creating team spirit in his group of enthusiastic Spectator Services Runners!  He starts every day with a team photo to get the smiles and the foam fingers into action.

“My shift always starts with meeting the Spectator Services Team at Workforce Check-in. As a team leader, we are issued with a deployment card telling us which location we’ll be in. After a quick (and usually hilarious) briefing letting us know how many spectators we’re expecting that session and who is competing, etc we pick up our radios and info packs. We’re then ready to assemble our teams of eager volunteers and head off to our location. I always like to start the shift with the obligatory team photo which I think sets us up nicely for the fun times ahead. Then as the gates open we’re ready with our foam fingers, big smiles and photo frames to make sure everyone has an amazing time as they enter the stadium.”

Jo Vince had an interesting start to her volunteer experience as a Runner.  As part of her role as a Chaperone with the Clean Athletics Team, Jo is tasked with taking blood and urine samples from athletes. Lots of this will be done post competition, but for some, they will be requested to provide samples pre-competition as part of the random drug testing programme.  Jo told us how one of her pre-competition tests hadn’t gone quite to plan.

“During the pre-competition phase, we were working out of several hotels in central London, imagine the scene… We’re told that one of the teams here in the hotel is required to be tested – both blood and urine tests. It’s 7 am and so the athletes in question are about to get an early awakening. But one flaw in this cunning plan, the hotel had given us the wrong information, they gave us the NEXT day’s guest allocation instead. The athletes weren’t actually in the country yet –  oops! Some poor unsuspecting hotel guest received a wakeup call for no reason.  After all the apologies were made we fell about laughing and the guest went back to bed.”

You can read more Runners’ experiences in our next blog, coming soon…

 

Meet the Runners

Meet the volunteers at the World Para Athletics Championships

IPC World Para Athletics championships are underway in London.  Like all major sporting events, they need the help of volunteers.  We thought you would like to meet a few of them and hear a little about what they do and what motivates them to volunteer.

Mary O’Leary is a 57 year old retired Midwifery Matron who now works part-time as a Specialist Advisor with the Care Quality Commission and also as Supporter Liaison Officer with West Ham football team on their home match days.  Mary describes herself as regular volunteer.  She has volunteered at two Olympic Games – in London and Rio – but also volunteers in her community, often in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where she is a member of the Conservation Team.  We asked Mary what her role will be during the Championships.

“For the World Para Athletics I am Team Attaché for Team Ireland and I can’t tell you how proud and delighted I am to support the team during their London 2017 experience. I am based in the Team hotel but move to all areas as required. The role involves being a link between the team and local organisers and liaising with the Team manager  to resolve any issues and help make their stay as comfortable as possible”

Mary is proud to volunteer at London 2017  and contribute to making the event a success and a good experience for athletes, spectators,  and everyone involved.  As she lives and volunteers locally she is keen to share her knowledge and experience of the Olympic Park, the stadium and London.

“What a great opportunity to meet new friends, have fun and support my local community and promote volunteering”

Lauren Crawley lives in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.  She works as a Health and Safety Officer for a biotech company. Her first experience of volunteering was as a 10 year old at her local tennis club.  On her gap year in 2004 she volunteered at her first Olympic Games in Athens.  In 2012 she was a Games Maker in London and last year volunteered in Rio.  When asked what inspired her to volunteer at these Championships, Lauren said:

“At university, I assisted a student with arthrogryposis. Together we went to watch the first Paralympic world cup in Manchester. We found it extremely inspiring. I am looking forward to being a part of giving that feeling to others.”

Her role during the Championships will be as a buggy driver based at the stadium. The buggies could  be used to transport equipment to and around the field of play, kit from the call rooms to the post event control room (where the athletes go when they finish their event), or even people from the training track to the stadium.

Ritchie Parrott 48, lives and works quite near to the Olympic Park in Harlow, Essex.  He is a “seasoned and experienced volunteer” and has worked at many of the big world class sporting events including the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Tour de France and the Rugby World Cup.

We asked Ritchie what he would be doing at this summer’s Championships.

“For the Para Athletics I will be back in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park working as a Team Leader for Spectator Services.  I will be part of a daily team of around 150 who will be based in the park making sure that visitors receive the best possible welcome. We will be helping spectators find their way around the park, guiding them towards the stadium and checking and scanning their tickets.  During the Paralympics I was based in the Athletes’ Village so I just knew that I had to be back in the park to make sure that we tapped into that magic from those golden days of five years ago.  I want to make sure that these Championships are just as magical and that spectators leave with a big smile on their faces and take home some very special memories. 

Jo Vince describes herself as a “volunteering junkie”.   She works as a nurse and so when she was offered the role of chaperone with the Clean Athletics Team she knew it would be her “dream role

This is almost a “dream” role for me as I’m a nurse in real life, and have always been very critical of athletes who cheat to win medals, trophies and tournaments. It doesn’t matter what sport it is.

Jo has been working during the pre-competition phase, visiting several of the team hotels in the City, carrying out pre-competition blood and urine tests.

You can read more about Jo’s experience and the experience of other volunteers in our next blog, giving you an insight into what it’s like to volunteer at the World Para Athletics Championships.

 

Beth recommends volunteering to young people

Kent FA says a Big Thank You

Helen Seamer, a volunteer with Join In, has been working very closely with the Kent FA supporting their campaign to thank their volunteers and to encourage new volunteers to get involved.  Helen met with some of the inspiring young people involved in football in Kent and has written a blog to share her experience and inspire others.

As the football season draws to a close, you might be forgiven for thinking that the people who help to run the sport will take a well-earned break. But planning never stops and there is much to be done in the off-season to prepare for the next season’s fixtures and leagues.

Grassroots sport depends upon a huge army of volunteers and football is no exception. In England, it is estimated that there are 400,000 volunteers helping to run 37,000 clubs (source: theFA.com). Without their dedication and commitment to the sport, these clubs would simply not exist.

Around 10,000 people volunteer in football in Kent alone; a nice round number to consider their monetary worth. On average, people give 3.15 hours per week (source: KentFA), multiply that by the 10,000 volunteers, then by the national minimum wage of £7.50 for 44 weeks of the year and the total comes to a mighty £10,395,000. This is just in one county too! Safe to say, football is not just about the action on the pitch.

In a bid to boost their volunteer base, Kent FA enlisted the help of the Kent FA Youth Council to address the imbalance of younger volunteers in the sport.  According to Lee Suter, Kent FA Football Development Officer and Volunteer Coach, the youngsters were excited to be involved in and lead the project.

“They were brimming with ideas to create a successful campaign. Taking inspiration from the Join in and BBC Get Inspired #BigThankYou campaign we decided that we could adapt the idea to a county wide project.”  The result is #KentFAThanksU a celebration of the county’s most dedicated and inspiring volunteers. The project is a comprehensive social media and website campaign running for two weeks and includes 10 surprise presentations to Kent FA’s most valued volunteers.

“We are really proud to have some excellent young people helping to bring on the next generation of footballers and very happy to support them in their efforts to become the best that they can be. But we need many more!”

Clubs can often identify great potential volunteers in their younger players. Faversham Strike Force is one such club to invite two young players, Beth Dunkin (16) and Tyler Griffiths (15), to help with the younger teams.

Tyler has taken on the role of coaching the under 6 Mini Bolts team with great results. His enthusiasm for the game is infectious and the players see him as a role model. He is passionate about helping others and has willingly taken part in courses and workshops to further his knowledge. Tyler makes his sessions fun with an emphasis on the children developing a love for football. Participation has grown since he started coaching and the club are thrilled with his progress. Read more about Tyler’s story here.

Beth was also invited to assist the coaching team as she is a promising young player. “I was so happy being offered this chance as I am going into an apprenticeship in the sport industry” said Beth. “I love to see the improvement in the children’s abilities and confidence, which makes me proud that I am helping to achieve this. Volunteering involves coaching, refereeing or playing the game – which is having a huge impact on my free time. But I have been given so many opportunities and I am learning different skills which benefit me as a person. I have gained confidence and the skills will benefit me in the future and will enhance my CV. But the real reason I am doing it is because I enjoy it!”

Beth recommends volunteering to young people in any sport as a means of gaining skills, boosting confidence and enhancing employment prospects. “Volunteering at a local sports club is the right path to go down. I would like to say a big #KentFAThanksU to Faversham Strike Force for giving me this chance.”

If you would like to get involved with volunteering at your local sports club you can search for opportunities in your area here

If you live in Kent, you can get involved on social media by thanking a football volunteer at your local club using the hashtag #KentFAThanksU

It was good to meet up with some familiar faces

Volunteers Interviewing Volunteers

Sports events would struggle to take place if it wasn’t for volunteers. And large scale events also sometimes need volunteers to actually help interview, place and support other volunteers, when a large number are needed. The role for this type of volunteer is commonly referred to as a Selection Event Volunteer (SEV).

A good example of this role in action is by one of our Join In Local Leaders, Anna Barrett. She talks below about the role she played in the interview process for anyone who wanted to be a “Runner” at the World Athletics Championships in London this summer.

Being a SEV

So, what is a SEV?  Simply put – it is a “Selection Event Volunteer”.  But what do they do and how do you become one?  Anyone who has volunteered at a major event knows that part of the application process is the “interview” …but what about the people who ask the questions?

What made you decide to become a Selection Event Volunteer?

I have done a fair bit of interviewing at work, either for my own team or for Graduate assessment centres, and I was a SEV for London2012. I thoroughly enjoyed the role and meeting all the potential volunteers, finding out their stories and why they wanted to volunteer. I still remember some of the facts & figures … 250,000 people applied for 75,000 roles and the intention was to interview 125,000 +.  A small army would be required over a period of a year or so to do all those interviews.  It was an amazing year & I felt even better when all those fantastic Games Makers got their deserved praise and accolades.

Since then, I have done the for 2015 Rugby World Cup (although it was called a VIP – Volunteer Interview Program) and now I am continuing as a SEV for the World Athletic Championships this summer in London. This event is slightly smaller than the Olympic and Paralympic Games (only 15,000 applications, 10,000 interviewees for 4,000 Volunteer “Runner” roles) but nevertheless, the SEV role is just as important to the event and to the organisers.

Why?  Firstly, it helps to make sure the right people are recruited and secondly, it helps engage with the potential volunteer workforce and helps them to get excited about coming to work at the event.  A two way street – just like any employer/ employee relationship should be.

How did you find out about the role?

I found out about this SEV role through Join In and the World Athletic Championship website.  I saw that the Volunteer Runners program had an interview stage, so I asked around.  I then saw that Team London had advertised – so it pays to keep your sources open.

How were you selected?

All potential SEV’s had to complete an application form, asking about our experience with interviewing and volunteering.  They were looking for volunteers who have human resources experience or have held a recruitment role and have a clear understanding of a fair and equal interview process. It was also important to be a confident communicator who enjoys interviewing for a large scale major event.  After the application stage, we had a telephone interview which covered more background about the role and asked some questions about my interviewing experience and other questions relevant to the role.

What sort of training did you have to undertake?

After getting the good news I was successful in getting the role, I then attended a training session.  This was an opportunity to learn more about the role, what the process was going to be (i.e. some group activities and the interview questions) and how I was expected to rate the behaviours and answers against the agreed competencies.  It was also good to meet up with some of your fellow SEVs and in some cases meet up with old friends & familiar faces!

Are you enjoying the role?

I enjoy the SEV role and I usually spring out of bed on my shift days, even though I know it is going to be a full-on, busy day. It is very rewarding.  In a way, it is inspiring meeting so many enthusiastic, willing, wonderful people.  It makes you feel quite good about the world, even though some of the outside news and weather might be a bit gloomy!

What is the best part of it?

The people, the people and the people!  Also, the feeling of satisfaction and knowing you are helping the event to be a success. It is a great way to contribute to the event at an early stage, it makes you feel part of it and I am happy to be able to be a part of it in this way.

Every shift is different as well.  For the upcoming World Athletics this summer, I will get to do more than just the interviews. I will also help with the Meet & Greet, Passport scan, Check-in, Photo station and the Group assessment activities –  so there is real variety. The other volunteers come from a range of back grounds and with a lot of different interests too, so when there is a break, is it great to chat and make new friends.

What is the furthest a volunteer that you have interviewed has travelled from for their interview?

People have come from all over the UK to be interviewed.  I have even interviewed people from Germany and Italy who are keen to get involved and support their sport of athletics. I have also heard of people coming from Spain, Croatia and The Netherlands for their interviews.

Are you also applying to be a Runner?

I have also applied to be a Runner as I think it a great opportunity to be involved in a major sporting event and to help make the event a success for athletes and spectators alike. I am really proud to be able to give something back to sport and to the community.

What type of role are you hoping for if you are selected?

I would be happy to do most of the roles, but I would love a role in the Team Services area, something “back office” but that is closely involved with making sure the event runs smoothly for the athletes and helps them perform their best, enjoy the event and even London.

Fingers will be crossed when the role offers are sent out in March and I will be hoping to get the good news.  It will be hard not looking for an email every hour once news of the first offers have gone out.

I didn’t know I volunteered!

Colin Hicklin is one of those community spirited people who regularly helps out in his community –  but didn’t actually think of it as volunteering.  He has volunteered for the local Cub group, the Judo club and spent many years organising the Pagham Pram Race.

He has always loved sport and, after moving to the south coast, he became involved in the local sailing club.  He is a fully qualified RYA sailing instructor allowing him to operate the VHS radio, Power Boat, and Rescue Boat. He has been issued with a certificate of competence from the RYA which stood him in good stead when he was persuaded to apply to help at the Rio 2016 Olympics by his wife Jenny.

We asked Colin about his experiences in Rio and why he decided volunteer at a major sporting event for the first time in his 70s.

What made you decide to volunteer for Rio 2016?

Firstly, after Jenny’s experiences in London 2012 and Sochi 2014, I thought she may need me to look after her! I’ve always enjoyed volunteering and thought it was about time I found out what it’s like to volunteer at an Olympic Games. I had never been to Rio and now that I am in my 70s, I thought the opportunity just had to be taken.

What role did you have?

I was so lucky to be given a Field of Play role, Pilot Boat Team member at Marina da Gloria. I have always sailed and couldn’t believe I would be on the water in Guanabara Bay as part of the Rescue boat crew for Olympic sailors. Even now 4 months later, I still have to pinch myself. The Bay is overlooked by the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugar Loaf Mountain. It was a completely surreal experience amidst the sailors, with helicopters filming overhead and alongside.

How did you find the whole experience?

Quite an overwhelming adventure to be part of an Olympic Games especially being able to share this experience with my wife, who was also volunteering at the same venue. It has given us joint memories which we will always treasure and we are excited to be able to pass these truly memorable memories of volunteering onto our grandchildren.

What were the highlights for you?

Every day was a highlight and every day was different – for example, facing an 8-foot wave when we came out of the harbour mouth was a surprise!  We were soaked before we even started and it was at this point, we decided to don our top- of-the range sailing wet gear on every occasion. That particular day, I remained chilly and damp all day and when we finally boarded the ‘hang on for dear life’ bus home, the air conditioning was on full pelt – the one time I definitely wanted some heat!

Another momentous moment was when my son text me while I was in the midst of the finals and said he could see me on TV. He said, he couldn’t believe he was watching the Olympic Sailing with his Dad in the middle of the fleet!

Was there anything that surprised you volunteering at a major sporting event?

Just like any day of anyone’s working lives, we made our journey into work, which never took less than 2 hours, but our ‘hang on for dear life!’ bus took us through beautiful coastal scenery, past Leblon Beach, Ipanema and Copacabana beach. The bus went through built up areas shaded by huge trees, past Favelas, Flamenco Beach and finally Gloria. We constantly said, how this was all part of the experience and how lucky we were. Sometimes, we took the train, and because of the distance from where we stayed in Recreio to the Marina, we often needed help with directions. We were surprised at the miles we walked each day. Average was around 6 and over 9 miles was the most. No wonder we slept so well! We never felt alone or threatened as the Brazilians were so helpful, friendly and respectful. Several times, they even came with us on a leg of our journey to make sure we didn’t get lost. Anyone over the age of 60 was given preferential treatment, even by British Airways in San Paulo airport. Finally, the enjoyment and camaraderie with other volunteers from all over the world was something I will never forget

Has this experience inspired you to continue to volunteer?

I have volunteered all my life, but never for such a huge sporting event. I feel totally inspired to encourage others to do the same.  Some people will say ‘so how do you start the journey?’  With the Internet, you only need to Google for information on volunteering either in your area, or contact Join In. After that you turn up at an event, meet new friends, have fun and enrich yours and other lives.  Being able to volunteer at a Olympics Games was really the icing on the cake.

Would you encourage others to volunteer in sport and why?

Sport helps provide a healthy lifestyle and participating should be encouraged from an early age. It’s exciting, competitive and lots of fun. You don’t have to be sporty to be a sports volunteer but the rewards of helping can really change and enhance your life no matter what age you are.

Colin and Jenny are now planning to go to the Tokyo Games in 2020 and this time it looks like it could be a family affair with their eldest son inspired to apply too!

From the stars on the BBC Sports Personality red carpet to the clubs across the UK, #BigThankYou rang out!
From the stars on the BBC Sports Personality red carpet to the clubs across the UK, #BigThankYou rang out!

Another year, another brilliant #BigThankYou!

Andy Murray wasn’t the only winner on Sunday night. As the nation voted for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, thousands of you also helped create the UK’s biggest celebration of sports volunteers.

We are a little stunned to say that – thanks to you – #BigThankYou trended on Twitter for the third year in a row.

From Team GB stars calling up volunteers from the red carpet, to local sports and recreation clubs giving their thanks on social media, it was an incredible evening.

Below you can see our highlights and films from another special evening, all in support of volunteers.

Ryan Giggs makes his #BigThankYou call

Ryan Giggs makes his #BigThankYou call.

L-R: Sisters Ellie and Becky Downie with Claudia Fragapane

L-R: Sisters Ellie and Becky Downie with fellow gymnast Claudia Fragapane.

Swimmer Mark Foster almost couldn't fit in the iconic golden phone box

Swimmer Mark Foster almost couldn’t fit inside the iconic golden phone box.

Plus, the sport sector supported the campaign:

So many clubs got involved too, sharing their thanks for the volunteers that keep them going:

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Football clubs across the UK rely on volunteers

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Scropton RDA Centre celebrates its volunteers

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An overwhelming #BigThankYou for one volunteer

And a final #BigThankYou from all of us at Join In, we couldn’t do it without you!

 

 

Volunteers being thanked
Let's make the Big Thank You even bigger this year!

#BigThankYou toolkit for clubs and groups

If you’re a member of a community sport, recreation or physical activity group that relies on volunteers, then here’s your chance to be part of the UK’s biggest thank you to the people who make them tick

On the weekend of 17-18 December 2016, we’re asking you to be part of #BigThankYou. There are no limits to how you can get involved, but here are some suggestions to get you started:


Create a #BigThankYou moment

We know clubs and groups are busy and many are already run by tireless volunteers. So a simple way to help retain your volunteers is a Big Thank You moment in an existing session.

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