Helen, right, was the Results Announcer at the Aquatics Centre.
Helen, right, was the Results Announcer at the Aquatics Centre.

Lending a hand (and a voice) at the European Aquatics Championships

The 2016 European Aquatics Championships have taken place this week at London’s iconic Aquatics Centre, where Europe’s best swimmers, divers and synchro swimmers are competing for the coveted title of European champion.

We go behind the scenes to meet Join in Local Leaders Helen Seamer and Jo Bartholomew – and find out about their experience of volunteering at such a major event.

One of approximately 140 volunteers, Helen was asked to help out as results announcer at the synchronised swimming event, having gained some experience in the role at national level. “It was a great opportunity to be involved in sports presentation at the next level” says Helen. “I now have a whole new perspective on how a major event is presented to a live audience and learned such a lot from the professionals on the crew.

I had a clear view of all the action from my poolside seat and it was fantastic to see what is happening at the top of the sport – with the world champions Russia there to defend their European titles. It was also exciting to see the British team in action, including the duet of Olivia Federici and Katie Clark who have secured a quota place for Rio. They must have been thrilled with the reaction from the hugely supportive audience!”

“I had a clear view of all the action from my poolside seat and it was fantastic to see what is happening at the top of the sport”

Volunteers at the Aquatics Centre

Volunteers taking a breather beside the pool.

Giving and gaining skills

To be able to volunteer at the Championships gives many synchro volunteers the chance to enhance their skills in judging and officiating. The coaches among them will have gained inspiration from the innovative performances in the pool and can try ideas in their own club training sessions.

Many other general roles were available to volunteers without a background in aquatics. Among them were Join In Local Leaders Jan Gittings from West Midlands and Callum Hanslip from East London; both seasoned major event volunteers who were happy to help out on the Sport Information team.

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The Sport Information team volunteers

Join in’s research into the behavioural science around volunteering in sport, Making Time, shows that volunteers value the opportunity to learn new skills or apply existing skills in new situations. Jo Bartholomew, a Local Leader from Essex epitomises this as her experience as a Games Maker shows. Driven by the desire to do something completely different to her day job as a nurse, Jo accepted the role of Team Leader, Medal Ceremonies for the London 2012 Weightlifting event – which certainly fit her brief!

Fast forward to 2016 and Jo was assigned to the Athletes’ Services team, covering the three aquatic disciplines. “It was a privilege to be selected, knowing very little about synchro or diving or even swimming” says Jo.

“I think we all have skills that are transferable to whatever we put our minds to do. I made a point of trying to greet athletes in their own language as they arrived at the venue – I did this in Spanish, French and Italian! Who would have thought I could be any help to some of GB’s most famous athletes, such as Tom Daley and Tonia Couch?”

“Who would have thought I could be any help to some of GB’s most famous athletes, such as Tom Daley and Tonia Couch?”

Jo feels she played her part in the small things she did: “filling the ice boxes, distributing water and keeping the athletes safe – making sure everyone who came through the access control had the right accreditation. The athletes were really grateful for our presence and to have people thanking me for just doing my job made it even more worthwhile.”

“We can all do more than we think we can”

Join in patron Eddie Izzard said at the launch of Making Time that “we can all do more than we think we can” – and many of the volunteers working at the European Aquatics championships are testament to Eddie’s belief.

Our research shows that what is good for a European Championships is also good for grassroots sport, in that you don’t have to be fit or sporty to help out in sport. Both Helen and Jo regularly volunteer at grassroots (in synchro swimming and Hadleigh Park parkrun), in clubs which rely entirely on volunteers covering a wide variety of roles and skills. From parent-helper to coach, from treasurer to webmaster, there is a role for everyone.

Sign up to hear about major opportunities

– If you’re interested in volunteering in swimming, see the British Swimming site

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