Dawn, centre, runs Guildford Saints FC with a great team of volunteers and members
Dawn, centre, with the walking footballers.

“Why not make a difference?”

Like many grassroots clubs across the UK, Guildford Saints FC wouldn’t survive without volunteers. But they do, thanks to having their very own saint, Dawn Davies: coach, director, mother, grandmother, administrator and BBC Unsung Hero award winner.

Why did you start volunteering?

My son started playing football at Guildford Saints FC aged 6. I felt it was a very well run club, well supported with lots of members. When the committee asked for more volunteers, I didn’t hesitate to put my hand up and say “I can do that!”.

What has been your most valuable experience of volunteering?

I first started volunteering as a coach and Guildford Saints FC paid for the coaching courses. I have learnt a lot, met some incredible people. I think the most valuable part of volunteering for me is that I have made a difference by becoming a volunteer. I have been the Club Secretary for many years, taking over all the admin duties associated with running the club.

The most exciting experience has been being presented with the BBC Unsung Hero award↑ for London and attending BBC Sports Personality of the Year in Belfast in 2015.

Dawn holding her BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero award

Dawn holding her BBC Get Inspired Unsung Hero award

What have you gained from volunteering?

A great knowledge of football and understanding what children want from their sport. I’ve built knowledge of how the sport is run at grassroots, including the pros and cons – it’s like running a small business. I attending all sorts of meetings and seminars to learn even more.

I’ve loved meeting lots of people within the sport and of course working with the fantastic volunteers at GSFC. Together we are providing a great environment for the youngsters in our community.

“I think the most valuable part of volunteering for me is that I have made a difference by becoming a volunteer.”

I have also realised a dream. Having always loved football, I used to mix in footie sessions with the boys as a young girl, now I have actually been able to play in a ladies football team. I am so pleased girls football has taken off and hope it continues to grow, so that girls of all ages can get to play the beautiful game.

What are your volunteering goals for the club?

To provide a club where young people can learn a sport, make friends, have fun – but also introduce them to the competitive side of football; to ensure our youngsters are in a safe environment; to ensure the club is run efficiently and that we have enough funds to survive.

The ultimate goal being to find a home for GSFC, complete with a clubhouse and pitches, something we have as yet been unable to source.

The younger members of Guildford Saints FC

What impact have you had on the club?

I would like to think huge! 🙂 But of course we are a team at GSFC – together we have made GSFC a good club with a great reputation.

When I first became involved our financial side was very poor so this was the first area that needed to change. We worked very hard to promote ourselves to gain sponsorship. I am happy to say that now we break even which is our aim.

Our biggest turnaround was achieving Charter Status Development Club↑ with Surrey FA which has raised our standards. We have even been awarded Charter Development Club of the Year on a number of occasions. These, as well as two projects that I took on personally – the start up of our ladies section and our PAN disability teams – both of which are currently thriving, have all raised our profile in the community.

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We also wanted to move the club forward in terms of the quality of training and now have five professional coaches for training sessions. This takes some of the stress away from our parent volunteers, whilst providing our members with good quality training sessions.

Has volunteering helped you deal with a difficult period of life?

15 years ago I was diagnosed with cancer, at that time I was organising our annual six-a-side tournament. It was a very stressful time for my family but GSFC gave me a focus. I was able to take my mind off the illness and it kept me busy, which helped us all through the situation.

What do volunteers mean to your club?

Everything. Without our fantastic volunteers – who are all parents who volunteer because the children are members – we would not be such a great club.

Sometimes there is a little reluctance to become a volunteer because time is precious, and volunteering is a commitment. But once people come on board they really enjoy being involved.

I am always on hand to help all our volunteers, new and existing. We want our volunteers to flourish and enjoy their involvement, so we all help each other.

Any parting thoughts?

GSFC is a special place for me, it has been part of my life for a good few years.

I have worked with lots of volunteers over the years and they have all brought something special to the club. I have a great sense of achievement that I have made a difference.

I would urge others to volunteer in a local club – you could be the difference between the club surviving or closing. Clubs are always looking for volunteer helpers – why not make a difference?

See the Big Thank You at BBC Sports Personality of the Year in Belfast.

– Does your club need a few saints? Set up a free profile on Join In.

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