Built by professionals, put there by volunteers

A new sports facility for shared use by a school and community clubs has been built in Guildford, UK. The idea for an all-weather training pitch arose from discussions between the school and a parent support group and the project was led and funded by volunteers.

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“A sporting legacy that is benefiting clubs and young people”

Our vision was to apply for “2012 Olympic Inspired Facility” funding from Sport England to build a floodlit 3G pitch. Initial discussions with potential sports club partners, the County Sports Partnership and other stake-holders started early in 2011. Throughout the excitement of Olympic Year, the project plodded through planning permissions, neighbour consultations, an exacting application to Sport England, appointment of a consultant and build tenders. The pitch was built over the 2013 summer school holidays and was completed in time for the start of the Autumn term. The total build cost was £250,000 of which £122,500 was Sport England Inspired Facility funding and the remainder, the match funding required by Sport England, was raised by parents of students at the school. These parents organised a plethora of events including running races, a summer ball, quiz evenings, a promises auction, a car boot sale and craft fairs.

“Before this facility, outdoor sport stopped in the dark winter months”

The pitch is managed by the school and is used by the PE department during the day and for extra-curricular clubs after school. It means outdoor sport can now take place when the grass field is waterlogged and can continue all year even through dark winter months. In the evenings and weekends, clubs including hockey, football, rugby and lacrosse hire the facility for training. This brings new sport opportunities to the area and joins up community clubs and school participants for the benefit of both.

Acknowledgements

I would particularly like to credit Julie Dickson. It was our synergy and sense of humour that kept Julie and I working long and late on this project. Julie – your legal brain and tenacious approach were key. Thank you. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the “Pitch In Team” who stepped up and organised fund-raising activities. You all know who you are. We have all left a fantastic sporting legacy that will benefit young people long after our own children have grown up and moved on.

 

Want to join in and help with a local sport event?

Saturday 27th July 2013 is the anniversary of the London Olympic Games opening ceremony. If you were inspired by the Olympic Volunteers a year ago, do you want to dip your toe in the water of volunteering now? No big commitment. No long journey. If you do, Join In UK has the answer by offering you a way to find a sports even near you that needs some helpers. There are more 10,000 events to choose from all between July 27th to Sept 9th.

I was lucky enough to be at the Olympic Park for the launch and I recommend you watch this video now for some inspiration!

And you can listen to Dave Moorcroft (Director of Join In Local) talking to Danny Norman of parkrun.

If you want to be part of the Olympic Games volunteering legacy, then Join In is the place to start. And if you are a club or group looking for volunteers you can register here.

School sport since London 2012

….. have I mentioned I was on TV?

I recently had the opportunity to take part in a UK Parliament House of Commons Education Committee enquiry into school sport. Anyone who knows me will be aware that I am passionate about sport for young people and I welcomed the opportunity to give evidence to this committee. I was free to speak my mind and had no employer or political masters preventing me from saying it as I see it! You can see the written report below, and view the BBC Parliament footage (which was broadcast live). Jonathan Edwards, Olympian and triple-jump World Record holder, speaks very eloquently later in the enquiry and says that he too can say what he likes whereas some of the panel have been “minding their Ps and Qs”. He thinks it was a very bad decision to dismantle School Sport Partnerships. He also raises the very relevant point about needing a way to measure PE outcomes. We live in an age when schools are judged by league tables and these are based on results of public exams. As there is no current way of measuring the effectiveness of teaching PE and sport, physical education is not included in the league tables. And if PE and sport are not included then these are never going to be priorities for schools to devote time and resources. “As a society we have to decide how much we value sport and physical education”.inpire a generation cropped

School Sport following London 2012: No more political football - the published report.

BBC Parliament TV coverage - it is all a very interesting debate, but if you just want to see me on TV then you might prefer to fast forward to 50″. Jonathan Edwards speaks from about 1′.40″.

 

 

Volunteers’ Week – anyone for sport?

Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration of the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK – and it’s taking place from the 1-7 June 2013

If Volunteers’ Week makes you want to start – then let  me inspire you with some leads into  sport volunteering. You don’t need to be sporty – some of the best volunteers I know wouldn’t dream of breaking into a sweat!

Sport Makers is the official London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sports legacy, a Sport England scheme for sport volunteering. Watch this video to find out what it is all about. Formal or informal, your own initiative or part of a club – support and training is there for 40,000 Sport Makers.

Sport volunteering doesn’t need to be all form-filling and formalities. There are weekly parkruns all over the UK, and becoming worldwide, that are organised entirely by volunteers. You can find your local parkrun and contact them by e-mail – the address is on each parkrun’s volunteer page. Or just pitch up to the start of your local parkrun – at about 8.30 on a Saturday morning – and offer to help and they will involve you in the team. It will take less than 2 hours and you can probably join them for coffee afterwards.

Cancer Research UK organises Race for Life runs all over the UK. There is bound to be one near you. They urgently need volunteers to help on the day – find out more and sign up here. No previous experience required – a great place to start.

 

Volunteers hold British sport together

“Paid only with badges, stickers and memories, those beige-trousered philanthropists held the greatest show on Earth together in exactly the same way volunteers hold British sport together.” Matt Slater, talking about Olympic Games Makers in his report “How unpaid volunteers make the sports world go round”.

I like being described as a beige-trousered philanthropist but I am worried by the statistic that 3/4 of UK clubs have not noticed a change in the number of people volunteering after London 2012.

Clubs need to find volunteers and volunteers need to be better looked after. In an earlier post I looked at what can be done – and what is being done – for volunteers in sport. Can we really deliver an Olympic Sporting Legacy? was written at the time when the Olympic Village was sweeping up after the Olympians and getting ready to welcome the Paralympians.

As we all turn our attention to the BBC Sports Personality of the Year this weekend, give a thought to the volunteers who make your sport (or your children’s sport) happen. And if you are brutally honest, do you do your bit to support them?

 

Celebrate the volunteers of London 2012

A short video celebrating the contribution 70,000 Games Makers made to the organisation and atmosphere of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games:  http://youtu.be/53ckZ8x75PU

Makes me feel honoured and proud to have been one of them.

Can we really deliver an Olympic Sporting Legacy?

If you want to have a go at athletics or hockey – or your kids want to take up cycling, rugby or football you will probably go to your local club. But this club will almost certainly be run by volunteers and will quite likely be close to reaching capacity. So, if we want to deliver a real sporting legacy of more children and adults taking up new sports, we need to find ways of building capacity.

I am proposing that we need a much more effective system for attracting and training volunteers to deliver entry-level sport.

Here is my idea: we don’t need senior (Level 3) coaches to deliver introductory sessions to newcomers – what we need are suitably trained volunteers that can inspire beginners and give them a positive and correct introduction to the sport. We should be putting much more emphasis in recruiting and training club helpers and new coaches to cope with Olympic-generated demand and free up the experienced coaches to concentrate on coaching elite club members. A good example of an effective training programme is England Athletics’ one-day “Leadership in running fitness” course.

Inspiration

The Olympic Games Makers have done wonders for the image of volunteering. If we can’t get sport volunteers to step forward now we never will. We need to build on the enthusiasm that we have from the Olympics to inspire volunteers to get involved and provide a pathway for them to do this. We should be making it easy for a dad to help at a cycling club or a university student to train as an athletics coach.

Recruitment

Clubs need coaches and team managers – and they also need volunteers to put out equipment, look after kit, manage membership systems and do a range of small jobs that you might not think of. If you are a club – how do you advertise these vacancies beyond your membership? If you are a potential volunteer, would you know where to look to get involved?

Welcome and preparation

Volunteers need to be nurtured. If they offer to help a club they should be welcomed with open arms and they need to know exactly what their job involves. Newcomers to coaching need to be trained by attending an Introductory or a Level 1 coaching course. As a minimum for certain roles they need to have safeguarding training. There is helpful Information on coaching courses here: http://sportscoachuk.org/

A fair relationship

Volunteers are entitled to enter into a fair relationship with the organisation they are supporting. The club needs a commitment from the volunteer to turn up at the agreed times and deliver. In turn, the volunteer needs to be properly managed and looked after. If we are to retain good volunteers they need:

  • affordable training – it’s right that volunteers make some investment in their own training, but £150 for a Level 1 Coaching course is a deterrent for many
  • a schedule that is workable for them and the club – volunteers have limited time available and fear of being asked to do too much is one of the major factors that puts people off volunteering. One idea: could a new helper be paired with another volunteer to job-share?
  • to be supervised and mentored – new coaches and other helpers need a contact they can turn to for ideas and advice
  • to be kept informed of how the part they are playing fits into what the club is doing as a whole

Clubs have needs too

In turn, the clubs are also going to need practical support to find and look after new volunteers. There is information on http://www.clubmark.org.uk/ about managing volunteers including an outline job description for a volunteer coordinator. This is a key post and one that needs to be filled by an enthusiastic and capable leader.

There is hope

Sport England has set up Sport Makers: http://www.sportmakers.co.uk/  as the official London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic sports legacy. They are aiming to recruit 40,000 volunteers to help make sport happen. If you are looking to volunteer in sport then go to this website today!

The last word

Much of sport in the UK is currently delivered through clubs. These clubs need more volunteers to increase capacity for new participants.  I sincerely hope that we can harness the inspiration and deliver volunteers to the sports clubs to make sure we really do make the most of the buzz we are experiencing after an amazingly successful Olympic Games.

“Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”  Let’s make our Olympic Sporting Legacy happen.

Please leave a comment with your legacy thoughts and ideas.

 

I’m not supposed to blog about being an Olympic volunteer but….

I must join in the debate about the potential good to come from the way volunteers have “made the Games”. Here are some of the things that are being said:

The Guardian Best bits-olympic-legacy-volunteering Panellist debate how to maintain an Olympic legacy for the voluntary sector.

“The Olympic volunteers’ great attitude is doing wonders for our national brand.” The Telegraph-The-Olympics-have-shown-Britain-is-a-can-do-nation

The Observer headline ”How the spirit of the volunteers could be London’s greatest legacy”

Whilst I don’t think the volunteer selection process worked entirely smoothly, I do think the Games Maker volunteering programme is a huge success. From my view as a Team Leader in the Technology team, here’s why:

  • We are excited and proud to be associated with the ultimate sporting event
  • There is no distinction between volunteers and employees – we are all called Games Makers and we all wear the same uniform
  • We are well kitted out and well looked after on our shifts
  • We were trained effectively and know what we have to do
  • We get lots of chocolate!

When I stop spending 14 hour days travelling and working my shifts I look forward to continuing this discussion. In the meantime, please leave a comment and let me know what you think about the idea of a volunteering legacy.

 

Debate on the Olympic legacy for the voluntary sector

The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network held a live Q & A with a panel of experts today: The Olympic legacy for the voluntary sector. As both a volunteer manager and a Games Maker Team Leader, I think there are some very interesting points raised. Highlights for me are:

“the importance of getting it right; contacting people quickly, keeping them informed and making them feel valued.”

“the Olympics has raised the profile of volunteering in this country and empowered a lot of people to get involved and play a part in a unique event in London….I think LOCOG have been very successful in shifting perceptions that volunteers have real jobs and are senior, experienced professionals are not just being used for casual jobs.”

“LOCOG intentionally didn’t talk about volunteers but gave them a distinctive brand of Games Makers to reinforce they were the ones who made the Games happen.”

“the sense of pride and engagement people feel by being part of a movement is a great concept we should think about more when designing roles and developing programmes.”

See full questions and responses here.

2012 volunteers face ban on facebook

On the one hand the British Olympic Association says the London 2012 Olympics will be the “Twitter Games”. And on the other, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) are telling their volunteers that they should not share their experiences via social media.

The athletes have had strict guidelines for a while, but recent publication of rules for the volunteer “Games Makers” is causing a bit of a stir. Some of these rules might be justified in terms of privacy such as not taking photos of areas closed to the public. But others seem to be unenforceable nonsense – not talking about a VIP or celebrity and not disclosing breaking news about an athlete. Social networks will be humming with this sort of news, surely.

You could argue that Games Makers have a job to do and shouldn’t be working one-handed – or take their eye off the ball – in order to tweet. But many games makers are passionately excited about what they are doing and will be desperate to share a celebrity snippet, an ad lib moment, or a significant sports sight, with their friends and families. Can rules really stop them? Paul Adams predicts “that we will see tons and tons of footage leaking out from the 70,000 volunteers, and that the best footage from the Games will come from regular folks, attendees and volunteers, and not from official TV crews.” He also thinks “that by the time the 2016 Olympics rolls around, this decision will be laughable, and the enforcers of this rule will look like dinosaurs.”

i-volunteer is running dire predictions of volunteers voting with their feet at these social media rules. But as LOCOG have reportedly got a problem of managing disappointment of potential volunteers who are surplus to requirements, I doubt that they are too worried.

What do you think about the Olympics’ social media guidelines?