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«The Children’s Sport Participation REPORT 2 and Physical Activity Study (CSPPA Study) Volunteer Study ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The Research Team would like ...»

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The Children’s Sport Participation


and Physical Activity Study (CSPPA Study)

Volunteer Study


The Research Team would like to thank:

• Our colleagues and co-investigators: Dr. John Bradley and Dr. Fiona Chambers from

University College Cork; Professor Niall Moyna, Dr. Sarahjane Belton, Mr. John

Kerrane, Dr. Sarah Meegan and Ms. Aoileann Quinlan from Dublin City University;

Dr. Ann MacPhail from the University of Limerick • Mr. Peter Smyth and Mr. Tony Cunningham, the Irish Sports Council.

• Ms Hannah Johnson for transcribing the focus group data.

• The research assistants: Caitriona Darling, Sarah Chadwick, Paul Kelleher, Joseph Costello, Caroline Hansberry and Jennifer Joyce.

• The work experience students: Emma Travers, Alan Armstrong, Gary Shields and Jessica Long.

• The undergraduate research assistants in DCU, UCC and UL.

• The graduate diploma research assistants in UL.

• Sports volunteers and administrators, Local Sport Partnerships, NGBs and local sport organisations that were involved in the distribution and completion of surveys and participation in focus groups.

This study was funded by the Irish Sports Council (www.irishsportscouncil.ie) II The Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study (CSPPA) Volunteer Study by Julia Walsh1, Deborah Tannehill2 and Catherine B. Woods3 Sports Studies and Physical Education, School of Education, University College Cork.

Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick.

Centre for Preventive Medicine, School of Health and Human Performance, Dublin City University.

This report should be cited as… Walsh, J., Tannehill, D. and Woods, C.B. (2011). The Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study (CSPPA) – Volunteer Study. Research Report No 2. School of Health and Human Performance, Dublin City University and the The Irish Sports Council, Dublin, Ireland.

ISBN 978-0-9559127-7-1 III Research Team Dr. Julia Walsh is Director of Sports Studies and Physical Education, and a senior lecturer at University College Cork. Contact Julia.Walsh@ucc.ie Dr. Deborah Tannehill is Course Director for the Graduate Diploma in Education (Physical Education), and a senior lecturer at the University of Limerick. Deborah is also co-director of the PE-PAYS research centre. Contact Deborah.Tannehill@ul.ie Dr. Catherine B. Woods is Head of the School of Health and Human Performance, and a senior lecturer in Dublin City University. Contact Catherine.Woods@dcu.ie This report is available online at: http://www.irishsportscouncil.ie/Research/Publications/

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Summary of main findings

Volunteer profile

Recruitment and retention of volunteers

Volunteer education

Club administration

Programme design




Profile of Irish volunteers

The economic value of volunteering

Volunteer motivations

Challenges and barriers to volunteering


Purpose of the study



Study delivery

Sample and response rate

Data analysis


The respondents

Volunteer administrator profile

Volunteer workforce profile

Becoming a volunteer

Motivation for staying a volunteer



Programme design


Club administration

Recruitment and retention of volunteers

Volunteer education

Programme design



–  –  –

Figure 1: Reasons for volunteering

Figure 2: Volunteering outcomes

Figure 3: Administrator concerns

Figure 4: Club provided resources

Figure 5: Volunteer satisfaction

–  –  –

Table 1: Questionnaire themes

Table 2: Perceived health changes from volunteering

–  –  –

The Volunteer Study is part of the Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study (CSPPA), a unique multi-centre study undertaken by University College Cork, University of Limerick and Dublin City University on behalf of the Irish Sports Council.

It brought together expertise from sport and coaching studies, physical education and physical activity for health. The purpose of the study was to provide insight into issues surrounding volunteering in sports and activity clubs in a child and youth context.

Volunteers play a pivotal role in community sport and physical activity programmes, and their engagement with children and youth influences the potential for lifelong physical activity participation and consequently the current and future health profiles of this population. This study contributes to the understanding and promotion of best practice in these contexts; it also explores strategies for engaging and supporting volunteers and sport organisations in their roles. This study builds upon previous research conducted in the Irish context that draws attention to the role, experience and contribution that volunteers make to Irish sport (Delaney & Fahey, 2005; Maleney, 2007). Some caution must be noted in making a direct comparison with previous research due to differences in methodology and sample selection.

Volunteer administrators and volunteers responsible for providing sporting opportunities to 4-18 year olds in a variety sports and physical activity programmes across the Republic of Ireland were electronically surveyed and a sub-sample were interviewed in order to gain a richer understanding of their motivations, needs and capacities.

Summary of main findings A total of 1186 volunteers and 210 volunteer administrators participated in the study.

The volunteers represented 31 main sports covering 31 Local Sport Partnership regions.

Volunteer administrators represented 27 sports covering 31 Local Sports Partnership

regions. The key findings were:

Volunteer profile

1. Unpaid volunteers made up 97% of the total workforce involved in junior sport.

2 The typical volunteer was a parent, aged between 35-54 years, working in a medium sized club.

3. Volunteers typically committed one day per week to volunteering and remained in the volunteer role for between 3-10 years.

4. Gender representation was balanced across volunteering although gender representation differed between team and individual sports.

Recruitment and retention of volunteers

1 Pathways into volunteering are localised to personal connections, previous participation sport, and/or previous volunteer experience.

2. Recruitment strategies are local and typically word-of-mouth. Clubs require support in developing recruitment strategies.

3. Motivations for becoming a volunteer were related to a person’s previous experience as a sport participant, enjoyment of working with young people, and/or family.

4. Ongoing commitment to volunteering was motivated by personal, health, social, and skill outcomes. Clubs must invest in volunteer development if they are to retain them.

5. Providing pathways for youth to engage in volunteer work in children’s and youth sport is yet to be developed. To attract youth to volunteering, the image of the volunteer must connect and show relevance to their context. Youth need to be valued as members of the club and given opportunities to express their opinions and help make decisions on issues that affect them. Sports clubs require support to establish sustainable youth pathway programmes into volunteering.

6. Previous participation in sport is a predictor of future volunteering. Children and youth participating in sports clubs should be encouraged and provided with opportunities to engage in volunteer activities. These young people are the next generation of volunteers.

Volunteer education

1. The modern day volunteer is expected to be a skilled volunteer; it is more than just about giving time. Volunteers need and want to be competent and confident in their role.

2. Volunteers are prepared to engage in further education if it leads to more efficient and effective use of their time.

3. Access to educational opportunity is problematic and influences volunteer retention, which in turn impacts on the participant experience. Criteria for conducting courses and platforms for delivering educational material require further investigation.

4. Volunteer coaches working with children and youth seek generic pedagogical and management knowledge to enhance their learning experience.

Club administration

1. At club level, knowledge, skill set and experience are located within a person and not within the organisation. There is little in the way of succession planning, shadowing or transition arrangements that enable the next person to learn the role.

2. Management of human resources is a major barrier to volunteer retention and the sustainability of the sport club or organisation.

3. Volunteers have multiple roles, some of which stretch their skill set and act as a barrier to volunteer retention.

Programme design

1. Volunteers emphasise the need to embed a “child centred” approach when working with children and youth.

2. Programme structures and coaching in junior sport should be underpinned by fun, fundamentals (motor and sport specific), and social connection.

3. There is limited policy and practical guidelines to support volunteers in the implementation of a child first sport second programmatic approach. Professional development for clubs and volunteers is required where the outcome is to embed and embody a child first sport second approach in their practice.


The one recommendation of this study is to invest in sport club development and the retention of their volunteer workforce. This is pivotal to the sustainability of youth sport.

It requires the transformation of club culture and structure, and the implementation of professional processes at local and national level.

To progress this recommendation requires greater collaboration and joined up thinking amongst stakeholders and leadership from the Department of Culture Tourism and Sport and the Irish Sports Council. This could be achieved through The establishment of a key stakeholder group whose purpose is to investigate how to strategically develop and deliver educational resources and programmes for sport club development in the Republic of Ireland. The composition of the key stakeholder group would include representatives from the ISC, Coaching Ireland, LSPs, NGBs and invited expertise. It would be appropriate to establish such a group to coincide with 2011 being the European Union Year of the Volunteer.

The following research findings have implications for the design and delivery of sports club

education and should guide stakeholder thinking:

Irish sports clubs require specific educational support and this knowledge should

form part of the core content of the education programme:

• Governance: The rules and practices that ensures an organization is serving its stakeholders (operating codes, bylaws, constitution) • Management: committees, volunteers, communication, health and safety, club finances, and programme development.

• Strategic and Operational Planning: planning, change management, and monitoring and evaluation Access to education material is problematic and multifaceted approaches should be considered.

• For example, a combination of hardcopy and online resources, face-to-face and online professional development caters for variation in learning styles, creates multiple access opportunities, and is considerate of the time-poor volunteer. There is potential for resources and programmes to be hosted and conducted by a number of organisations (i.e. Coaching Ireland, LSPs, NGBs, 3rd Level Institutions) to further enhance opportunity for access.

Regular evaluation and monitoring of the programme • Evaluation and monitoring programmes enable organisations at a national and local level to measure success, build expertise and knowledge, and develop institutional memory. Traditionally in the Irish sport club context, knowledge has been located within people and not within the sport organisation. Internal and external evaluation creates opportunity for the local sport organisation to incorporate learning experiences into practice and policy. A future outcome of evaluation could be a national club accreditation award.

Sports policy needs to clearly explain what is involved in a ‘child centred’ approaches to sport and physical activity, and clearly communicates the benefits of this type of approach.

–  –  –

Introduction Volunteerism is the lifeblood of Irish Sport, but to date there is little research that has focused on the motivations, needs, and capacities of the Irish volunteer working in a youth sport and physical activity context. Working with children and youth has its own set of challenges but there is much personal gain for the volunteer who invests time and effort in these programmes, and for the sports organisation that invests in volunteers. Ensuring that both the young participants and the volunteers benefit from the experience is vital, as it is the volunteers that make sport and physical activity viable, affordable, and a healthy option for young people.

Profile of Irish volunteers

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