«The Children’s Sport Participation REPORT 2 and Physical Activity Study (CSPPA Study) Volunteer Study ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The Research Team would like ...»
• Females outnumbered male volunteers in individual sports, but the reverse occurred in team sports.
Volunteer workforce profile
• A total of 1186 people representing 31 main sports and a selection of minority sports (baton twirling, archery, table tennis, canoe polo, bowling, water polo, kayaking, squash, Olympic handball, rock climbing, angling, netball, orienteering, fencing, darts, modern pentathlon, waterskiing and surfing) completed the volunteer survey.
• The majority of these volunteers were parents (48%), followed by long-term members of the club or organisation and senior players. A smaller percentage of volunteers were ex-players returning to the club, and placement students from educational institutions.
• Most parent volunteers worked with more than one sport but this had little relationship with the number of dependent children within the family unit.
• The age profile indicated people were most likely to volunteer between the ages of 35 and 54 years of age, in support of previous research (Delaney & Fahey, 2005;
GHK, 2010; McLouglin, 2005).
• Young people (12%) and people over the age of 55 (8%) were less inclined to volunteer.
• The majority of volunteers worked with at least two groups of children and\or youth. Volunteers working in individual sports were more likely to work with a broader age range as compared to volunteers working with team sports.
• Volunteers on average worked with 1.37 sports each (range 0-6 sports; males:
1.38; females: 1.35) and took responsibility for over 3 roles within the club or organisation The volunteer’s main roles were coaching (81.4%), administration (53.5%), management (47.7%) and officiating (46.7%). The main gender differences relate to coaching, team management and officiating roles with more males than females performing these roles.
• Over 80% of volunteers commit the equivalent of one day a week or more to volunteering.
• The length of commitment to volunteering ranged between 3-10 years.
In summary, the typical volunteer from this sample is a parent, aged between 35-54 years, working in a medium sized team based club, committing one day per week to volunteering and remaining in the volunteer role from 3-10 years. As a volunteer they perform several roles, work with at least two age groups and two sports. There is a noticeable shortage of youth and people over the age of 55 volunteering in the youth sport sector.
Becoming a volunteer
There are no formal pathways into volunteering in junior sport in Ireland. Typically, people volunteer through their (a) current or previous connection to sport, (b) their relationship to participants, or (c) previous experience volunteering in a related sector. Past members, because of their own positive experience return to the club to coach the next generation of athletes. Parents attend sport with their children and choose to contribute or are expected to contribute to the club through volunteering.
The children would have been definitely why I’m involved, but before that it would have been because I played the sport myself and I loved it, and I realise what good it had done for me when I was a teenager. [Volunteer] Some of these people felt they were given no option but to volunteer. For example, in some sports volunteering is part of a membership contract; a parent or family member must commit time to the club or organisation. It was also common for people to volunteer under threat of the club closing due to lack of member support.
I suppose we force people to volunteer …we tell people when they join they must do certain things…it is part of the membership conditions. [Administrator] The club did not have a chairperson or a secretary, … if nobody volunteered the club was going to go under so I volunteered. [Volunteer] A number of volunteers had worked in related fields and this knowledge and experience prepared them well for working in the junior sport environment. For example, several people had been involved in scouts and have moved into the sport and physical activity field. Although the environment is different they could transfer some of their skills to the new environment and achieve early success (i.e. ability to interact with young people, setting up discipline routines, an established philosophy) with groups of children and youth.
The pathway into volunteering in junior sport requires people to be connected to the club or organisation in some form. This close connection to the organisation or sport does reduce the size of the recruitment net and places pressure on current members to perform multiple roles. One group that has rarely been utilized in the Irish context are youth.
Although closely connected to the organisation and often an active club member the volunteer sector has traditionally been an adult domain.
The youth pathway into volunteering has proven problematic; it is perceived by adults that young people have much to gain from volunteering but that young people are just not
interested. It is something that older people do:
I think volunteering should be made cooler for young people. Look at the population that’s out there. There are people who just finished school and college without anything to do. I said to one of my boys recently, do you know what you should volunteer to do something.
Mom, he said, is that not for older people? You know like he doesn’t have free time and that volunteering is for old people. [Administrator] One focus group member, on recalling his own experience as a young volunteer, was vividly aware that he and his young friends were not taken seriously in their roles and there was no investment in their development. There was no evidence to suggest that clubs had actively sought to develop a youth volunteer strategy. There was, however, a genuine interest in investigating how best to attract youth to sports clubs and organisations. There is currently a move in European member states to invest and develop youth volunteer pathways (GHK, 2010)
Motivation for volunteering
People working with children and youth in a sport and physical activity programme volunteer for multiple reasons. The main motivations for volunteering were (a) previous involvement and passion for sport, (b) working with young people and the community, and (c) family (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Reasons for volunteering Previous experience in sport is a significant influence and predictor on future participation as a volunteer. It provides opportunity for people to remain connected and to give back to the sport.
I was very fortunate as a child to benefit from experts, giving of their time voluntarily, many years on I can appreciate the immense positive impact, not just on my life but on a number of lives [Volunteer] Many of these people enjoy the company of young people and actively engaging with other volunteers.
…I think what I found from it is there’s a great social side to it and that, you know, I’ve met a lot of very good friends since I’ve got involved in [sport] who are now really good friends. [Volunteer] Teaching young people, changing their capacities, and observing them achieve motivated volunteers. These people enjoyed the process of facilitating change, contributing to the community, working with young people, and having played a role in young people’s achievement.
I have to say, there is a buzz that I enjoy when I’m out there with kids coaching. The smile on their faces or the look of achievement when, it mightn’t be the best player, but there’s just something about seeing a child or someone do something they couldn’t do a week earlier (Volunteer).
Engagement in this cycle of teaching participants and observing their learning and achievement requires hands on experience. Hence, this type of motivation may play a role in retaining volunteers in the system and as a selling point in the recruitment of volunteers.
For many people, family members participating in sport and physical activity led to active involvement as a volunteer. Working as a volunteer provided an opportunity for these people to work closely with family members for extended periods of time. Volunteering also helped people understand their own children and develop better parenting skills.
It gives me more patience with the kids at home. You’re so used to dealing with 30 kids that you know you can handle anything your own throw at you. [Volunteer] Family connection plays a significant role in the recruitment of volunteers but motivation for remaining a volunteer is sustained by other personal and social needs.
Motivation for staying a volunteer Recruitment is the major focus of administrators at the beginning of a term or season, without volunteers there are no programmes. Retention of volunteers is a long-term commitment which has the potential to expand organisations, develop skill sets and create an environment where recruitment is managed due to the positive learning and support given to volunteers. People are motivated to volunteer for various reasons, it is no longer only about output; people also want input. People’s motivations for continuing their role as volunteers often evolved through engagement in the volunteer process. The major retention motivations were (a) personal development, (b) health outcomes, (c) social connection, and (d) skill development. Personal development was a motive and outcome of volunteering.
The act of volunteering made people feel good, and for some it led to achievement of personal goals.
The stuff that I’ve achieved out of volunteering, the huge amount of life skills and learning and meeting other people, the stuff that I’ve taken, its trials and tribulations with like any coach, you reach the top, but you also have huge, huge failing. And it’s trying to learn from that and passing it on. [Volunteer] Improved health was seen as a significant outcome of volunteering in almost all cases (Table 2) while over 70% of volunteers also experienced increased self-confidence
Table 2: Perceived health changes from volunteering Volunteering increased people’s social connections and in 50% of cases this led to increased trust and further involvement in local activities (Figure 2). The socially motivated volunteer likes working with people and establishing relationships. They enjoy working with children and youth and equally seek engagement with others involved in the club or organisation.
People choosing to volunteer developed skills that transferred into other parts of their life, and the volunteering provided them with another experience or outlet to pursue in their leisure time.
I was new to the country and this was, you know, where my kids were, this was the sport they did and was going to get involved. So I saw it as a way of meeting people and making friends… I got a lot out of it, it was [a] great way of meeting people when I was new to the country. [Volunteer] This suggests that volunteering is not completely altruistic and that personal development and benefit is an important ingredient in volunteer satisfaction. Volunteers are happy to contribute but there must also be input into their personal development and opportunities for enjoyment through engagement with others.
80% 60% 50.0% 50.7% 40% 20%
Figure 2: Volunteering outcomes Engagement in volunteering confers considerable personal, social and health benefits.
Volunteering however does cost time and impacts on work and family which has implications for continued involvement if enjoyment, personal development, and the social networking are not part of the experience.
Based on the information gleaned from this research, recruitment and retention are two distinct processes underpinned by different motivational objectives for the volunteer. Clubs need to understand these processes and invest in both to attract and retain this unpaid workforce. Investment in professional development to support retention reduces large-scale recruitment drives that do not necessarily result in quality experiences for participants. The youth pathway challenges national and local organisations to design programmes that give youth a voice, and develop and reward them for volunteer work.
Barriers Volunteers and administrators identified common barriers that influenced commitment, and quality of the participant and volunteer experience. The barriers were (a) investment of personal resources, (b) skill development, and (c) club administration.
Personal resources, in particular ‘time’, were a major barrier to volunteering. Time was described as a measurable but limited resource and as a value-laden concept. Important to the volunteers was how they perceived whether their time was wasted, exploited or valued by their sports club. Volunteers described themselves as time poor and, although committed to volunteering, they stated that they would like to see more efficient and effective use made of their time. Better role clarification, a more efficient communication structure and a better matching of people to specific volunteer roles could achieve this.
Volunteers also referred to valued time, the need for feedback and recognition for the roles they perform from all members of the club. They do not mind giving their time but do not want it to be exploited.
Many of these “time” referenced barriers to volunteering relate to the administration and organisation of the club or organisation. People who were engaged in a positive volunteering experience described effective and efficient use of their time, investment in their development, and appreciation for their commitment.
You get volunteers if you give them something that they know they can do, let them succeed at it and then acknowledge the fact that they did it, and that’s how you get and keep volunteers. If you give them appropriate tasks to do and don’t expect more time than they have to give or skills they don’t have, and that’s how you hold onto volunteers and especially acknowledge them afterwards and say thank you. [Administrator] Volunteers would like more people to volunteer and contribute time and resources.