Why volunteers are vital in sport and physical activity
Volunteers play a crucial role in community sport and physical activity, without them, a large proportion of grassroots sport and physical activity simply wouldn’t happen.
Volunteering in sport and physical activity provides a ‘dual benefit’ by contributing to the wellbeing and development of the participants and the volunteer. Taking part and volunteering in sport and physical activity can transform people’s lives and helps bring people and communities together.
Prioritising those with long term health conditions
People with a disability or long term health condition are less likely to be active than non-disabled people, and therefore are one of our priority audiences at Active Sussex. Out There! West Sussex, provides sports and leisure support for people aged 16+ with learning disabilities or autism across West Sussex.
Andy Roberts from Out There! West Sussex shares his story of how volunteering has positively impacted his life and encouraged him to train to be a coach.
Andy’s volunteer journey
My journey started as a volunteer with Out There! West Sussex, helping them to provide sports and leisure support for adults with learning disabilities or autism.
At that time I was working in Financial Services and my voluntary work was to help run a Social Club in Horsham. This was something I came to help counter the stresses of work, but I quickly realised what a difference the Club made to the community; the engagement and joy at the Club was palpable! This really struck a chord with me and my volunteering soon expanded into supporting other activities including music, physical exercise and sports for those at a residential home in Crawley during lockdown.
I joined Out There! West Sussex as a member of staff in July 2021 and Active Sussex kindly sponsored my ‘Introduction to Coaching Football’ course as a part of their Crawley Workforce Project, encouraging me to run a series of training sessions in Crawley. While this took me out of my comfort zone, it also gave me the opportunity to use my training to design coaching sessions from scratch and to lead them. I am very fortunate to have the support of my colleagues and, at some of our football sessions staff from the Crawley Town Community Foundation, who are able to observe and provide feedback to me. With their experience, I am always picking up new ideas.
While I realise how important the planning and preparation is, I have also learned that it is a must to be flexible and allow changes to the plan mid-session. My aim is to encourage participants to help me shape and run the sessions and I want them all to feel involved and comfortable to feed back to me; if something isn’t working for them then we change it. Most of all, I want those involved to interact, to enjoy themselves and to keep coming back. I like to put a bit of fun into sessions and encourage those involved to name their teams during practice matches (the sillier the better!) and have included a dedicated slot to practise goal-scoring celebrations.
I find it incredibly rewarding to see the enjoyment of those involved, which makes me feel that I have achieved something very worthwhile and made a difference. My next step is to put my training to good use and I am seeking other opportunities to practise my coaching, continue my education in football and in a broader range of sports and activities.
More about Out There! West Sussex…
- Out There! West Sussex is currently a part of the Outreach 3Way charity and the Dimensions UK Group. It provides sports and leisure support for people aged 16+ with learning disabilities or autism across various sites in West Sussex.
- People with learning difficulties or autism typically have poorer health and lower life expectancy than their counterparts, along with lower levels of physical activity.
- Out There! offers a preventive service that, through the participation in sports and leisure activities, encourages those involved to better physical and mental health while developing new social skills, relationships and confidence. This is also intended to reduce the impact on the NHS and associated services.
- The recent pandemic has seen many services being withdrawn for those that Out There! West Sussex supports, or costs increased exponentially by the service providers who are trying to balance their books.
- After 31 March 2022, Out There! West Sussex will cease to operate due to an absence of funding. While staff hope to maintain some of the services, this will most likely be in a voluntary or not-for-profit basis.
If you are interested in finding out how you can get involved with volunteering or coaching please visit our Workforce webpages, or contact our Strategic Workforce Officer on the details below.