Fuelling local sport in one London community.

Herne Hill community of sport

Herne Hill in southeast London is one of the most physically active areas in London, where sport is thriving. It takes the dedication of hundreds of volunteers to create such an active, healthy and connected community.

Herne Hill Harriers is a community running club that prides itself on being inclusive and welcoming. They set up a Join In page in 2015 and have attracted more than 10 new local volunteers since then. “We’ve had some great volunteers come through from Join In,” Barbara, the Club Secretary said.

One such local volunteer is Sarah, who lives very close to Tooting Bec, the club’s main training ground. She volunteered at the Cerebral Palsy World Games as an athlete marshal and in the call out room. After that, she was interested in officiating and getting involved regularly at a local club, so she searched for opportunities on the Join In website and found the Herne Hill Harriers.

“Sarah is always happy to help out at meetings,” Barbara said. “She has helped with catering, signing in officials and officiating at events. She has mild CP and was worried about sploshing the tea but she was absolutely brilliant!’

Lending a hand

Another inspiring volunteer is Deborah who also lives locally. Just like Sarah, she found out about Herne Hill Harriers on the Join In website and immediately offered to help out at sporting events.

Barbara said, “Deborah is a real find and has helped at athletics matches officiating, registering athletes and officials, and in the office. She helps weekly with training sessions and gives administrative support to the club.”

The club has been helping her find a course where she can train as a British Athletics↑ official. Deborah also runs Tooting Common parkrun regularly and, like many other runners, gives back by marshalling and volunteering.

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The cast of the Herne Hill Harriers.

The Dulwich Runners is another club that reaches out to the local sport community by getting involved at Brockwell parkrun. Most of the members practise and run at the park every Saturday.

According to the Brockwell parkrun Director, Clare, “They recruit young runners to represent Lambeth in the London Mini Marathon↑ and use the run for their trials and regular training. They have supported Brockwell parkrun from the start five years ago and provide pacers and many volunteers on a regular basis.”

Lend a hand near you

Brockwell parkrun has become a true catalyst for physical activity by linking members from different running clubs and providing a relaxed, but structured training ground for beginners and advanced runners alike. It reinforces ties within the community by creating a strong network of volunteers including regulars who don’t run, but still come along to help out.

“I have got to know many people through parkrun, particularly those who volunteer,” Clare added. “Friendships have been built within the community – not [only] related to volunteering, but more about the community of runners. We have even had a number of park runners who celebrated their wedding day by running parkrun first or starting their hen parties with a run.”

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Local Leader Anna Barrett at Brockwell parkrun.

This sense of belonging to a community motivated Becky and boyfriend Rory to get involved with Old Alleynian Rugby Club. “Being a volunteer really enabled us to be part of the community when we moved to the area,” she said. “In a big city like London, it’s easy to feel isolated, so volunteering in the sport I love gave me the sense of being rooted in the area and [helped me] meet new people.”

“Being a volunteer really enabled us to be part of the community when we moved to the area,”

Becky is Head Coach of the girls’ teams from 11 to 15 years old. Like many others, she found this opportunity on the Join In website. “I was very curious to know what was available near me so I searched and Old Alleynian popped up. It was just so easy to get in touch and to find out more. The club was really keen to welcome us and had very clear information on their page.”

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Becky Jones, Coach at Old Alleynian Rugby Club.

Local businesses can contribute greatly to the life of a thriving and active community. The local Intersport store is part of the fabric of the local sporting community, providing precious advice to families and new runners.

Pete, from Herne Hill Intersport store↑, said, “We’ve got close links to parkrun because of the nature of it. It’s open, fluid and growing, which is perfect for us because we can help new runners who start parkrun cut through sometimes a very confusing footwear and sportswear market.”

The store actively engages with local sports clubs including Herne Hill Harriers and Dulwich Runners and offers newly active people expert advice, especially in relation to their running gear.

“We do support a lot of their events, like the Herne Hill Harriers’ Frank Harmer Run or the Dulwich Runners 10k in May,” Pete noted. “We contribute to their raffles by donating prizes, and we sometimes provide equipment such as post protectors to clubs like Old Alleynian Rugby.”

The store has also become intertwined with activities led by local schools and running groups and wants to replicate this in Wimbledon in the future.

Spread the word

Intersport, parkrun, and local clubs understand the importance of volunteers who make sport happen in the community. Anna Barrett, who lives in Streatham, has been a Join In Local Leader for the past two years and acts as the face of Join In in her community. Anna has been connecting with clubs to understand what they are looking for and helping other local volunteers find the right opportunity for them.

Anna is a great contributor to the success of community sport in the area, just as Pete from Intersport, Clare at Brockwell parkrun, or Becky at Old Alleynians. We have seen that clubs keep growing thanks to people joining in and volunteering, enabling more people to get active. When each element of a community come together around sport, you create a happier and healthier society.

– Does your club need volunteers to give it a fillip? We can help.

– You could make a real difference using your work skills – here’s how.

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