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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 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.


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

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!