«The Children’s Sport Participation REPORT 2 and Physical Activity Study (CSPPA Study) Volunteer Study ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The Research Team would like ...»
Although people are very positive about the volunteer experience and gain much satisfaction and personal development, they do feel that they are carrying the load. A recurring theme was lack of respect from other parents in the club or organisation.
Volunteers made the point that they often feel like a babysitting service and are taken for granted by other parents.
I had the situation where I’ve had not only the child that was supposed to train, but they also left the other child because they went shopping and then didn’t come back for an hour after training was finished, so we sat and waited. [Volunteer] There is concern that volunteering has moved beyond giving time and effort, and that volunteers are becoming a more specialist workforce. Skill level was cited as an issue affecting volunteer work by 43% of volunteers, despite 75% of volunteers, having a qualification in the role they carried out. Those pursuing a specialist coaching pathway indicated that what was required was a combination of formal and informal education, coach education programmes, knowledge sharing between coaches, mentoring, and opportunities to gain experience.
In relation to skill development, volunteers felt that clubs and organisations need to invest time in their volunteer workforce, particularly in helping them to develop their skills and knowledge base. They commented that access to education was limited, particularly in rural areas where courses are dependent on numbers, and require travel. Some courses happen on an annual basis (in some cases 18 months), and this impacts on volunteer motivation if they are pursuing a specialist pathway. Although there are a number of resources available they are not necessarily the resources required, or the form of delivery preferred. In contrast, administrators believe resources are readily available for volunteers and that they perform the dissemination task well.
Last time we had the [sport] programme at the club and we were able to get the number of participants, you have to have big enough numbers. And if you don’t have, the volunteers have to travel farther afield to do it. You have to bring the course in, put it in front of people or they will not necessarily go out of their way to do the training, but if you bring it to them they will.
[Administrator] If the only way to engage volunteers in training is to host the programme on site it might mean changing the way courses are structured and delivered and the criteria for hosting a programme.
Administration Administrators and volunteers were concerned with how clubs and organisations recruited
volunteers, developed expertise and managed people. The major areas of concern were:
• Recruiting people to the committee • Defining and educating people about their roles • Volunteer recruitment strategy • Volunteer management and support Volunteers and administrators who were satisfied with their club’s structure identified many of the above points as part of their ongoing practice.
The recruitment of people to committees is problematic; people avoid annual general meetings for fear of being elected to a position. In many cases this is a secondary role volunteers take on as well as coaching, managing, or general helping. Volunteers feel overburdened and resentful particularly when they do not have the required skill set or available time. Like athletes, volunteers also want to demonstrate competence and confidence in their roles and this is particularly the cases with novice volunteers (Busser & Carruthers, 2010). The administrators were aware of the risk of overloading key volunteers and the lack of succession planning in their clubs (Figure 3). The majority of administrators agreed that they required new ways of recruiting and training volunteers.
Responses that Strongly Agree/Agree (%) 92% 91.3% 90% 87.8% 88% 86.9% 86% 84.5% 84% 82%
Figure 3: Administrator concerns …you are going to have secretaries, a treasurer, you know this sort of thing, and initially this is not what they signed up for. This puts volunteers off, I don’t really want to do this and I don’t know how to do this. That’s the other issue then that somebody is going to be a treasurer or secretary, how are you going to give him or her the skills so that they can do the job properly.
[Administrator] New committee members often sought information about their roles from professionals in similar positions (i.e. secretaries), searched the Internet, went to particular websites (i.e.
GAA, Swim Ireland), and/or learned on the job. One of the problems at club level is that the knowledge, skill set and experience is located within a person and not the organisation, and there is no succession plan, shadowing or transition phase that enables the next person to learn the role.
A number of strategies were used to attract people to clubs and organisations. The main recruitment strategy was “word of mouth”. Parents and previous members were targeted and local networks were used to identify possible volunteers. Other recruitment strategies were (a) the media, (flyers, newsletters, advertisements, radio), (b) visiting local schools, (c) hosting community and open days, and (d) compulsory volunteer commitment (membership contract). The more daunting problem for organisations is not recruitment, but retention. This is where an investment in people becomes vital.
I think one of the problems is that there are lots of people to help, but the problem with it is there’s nobody there willing to help the people, you know, to actually give them information, you know.
[Volunteer] According to the administrators, the volunteers are well supported in their roles. Over 60% of the clubs and organisations provide internal and external training and mentoring, and are well managed and supported. Volunteers are provided with written guidance in some clubs and organisations. The most common guidance is on child protection (70%). Some volunteers when interviewed felt the area of child protection has been “over baked” and instilled fear in people working with children and youth. Some clubs and organisations provide a general club handbook, written information on health and safety, first aid, and legal matters (Figure 4).
78.4% 80% 60% 41.1% 41.6% 38.7% 36.7% 40% 29.6% 19.7% 20%
Figure 4: Club provided resources There is a perception gap between how administrators believe they are supporting volunteers and what volunteers perceive they need to perform their role. The volunteers questioned the level of support they received from clubs. Volunteers want someone they can go to for advice, opportunities to engage with others, to learn new skills, to gain experience, get feedback and recognition. Volunteers want bodies with knowledge, not just bodies of knowledge (written material). Volunteers who were satisfied with their experience cited volunteer coordinators or development officers as playing a major role in their professional development as well as management. The volunteers see themselves as learners and seek investment in their development.
It’s easy to get somebody to come along and give a hand out, but when they are standing there and feeling out of their depth and two weeks on the trot and nobody’s helping them, good luck and good bye, you know. It is a case that you have to give people some help as well when you get them in and make it kind of almost attractive for them as well, make them feel they are part of something.
[Volunteer] To-date in Ireland there are no formal sport administration programmes designed for local clubs to develop skills, knowledge, and expertise in organisation of club business and committee roles. In the United Kingdom investment in club development has progressed to a level where local clubs are confident in their processes and voluntarily seek accreditation for its attached benefits (Clubmark, n.d.). Some NGBs in Ireland are providing information on committee structures. One NGB has placed emphasis on development of club administrators and is investing resources in this area.
I know [NGB], because I’m heavily involved with them, [NGB] have now started a number of courses for people in clubs and it’s one thing that they’ve recognized, and they have 12000 members, and they’ve recognised that in clubs, the most important volunteers are the ones that run the association. [Administrator] People are not deterred by the financial cost of volunteering. They feel they are adequately reimbursed. A small minority get access to free training, tickets to matches or kits. Over 30% believe that there are benefits to be gained in school, work and career prospects. This transfer of knowledge and skills across other areas of the volunteer’s life are worth the financial and time commitment involved in volunteering. To meet these requirements administrators need to ensure that they develop recruitment and retention policies to ensure volunteers as participants are also being served by the organisation.
Responses that Strongly Agree/Agree (%) 72% 69.5% 70% 68% 66.6% 66% 64% 62.8% 62% 60%
Figure 5: Volunteer Satisfaction The barriers to volunteering are at a personal, educational and management level. The modern day volunteer is expected to be a skilled volunteer, it is more than just giving time;
they also need to be competent and confident in their role. This requires club investment in their development and the creation of a learning environment that meets their educational, social and health needs. This requires transformation of club culture and structure, and the implementation of professional processes designed to retain the skilled volunteer workforce. These changes require local and national input in order to promote active and long-term engagement by participants and volunteers in junior sport at the local club level.
Focus group volunteers were in agreement with the principles that underpinned positive youth sport programmes. These principles were (a) relationships, (b) fairness, (c) fun, (d) skill development, and (e) a social engagement. All of which align closely with the philosophy and operational structure of LISPA (Lifelong involvement in sport and physical activity) (MacPhail, Lyons, Quinn, Hughes, & Keane, 2010). Other skill and educational programmes also highlight these principles, for example BUNTUS and the Code of Ethics; however these initiatives were not specifically mentioned in the focus groups.
Relationships: Volunteers emphasised the importance of relationships with participants and that these relationships took time to develop. The relationships were based on respect for the participants, treating them as a person first and then as an athlete.
Fairness: Fairness was described as a value that coaches and volunteers needed to embed in their practice as participants understand and accept fairness (no train, no game).
Fun: Fun was an important component of learning. If they do not have fun they do not return.
Skill: If participants do not improve their skill level they do not return. The volunteer needs to have content and teaching knowledge so that they can create a learning environment and provide feedback on skill development.
Social engagement: Related to fun is the importance of providing opportunity for participants to engage with each other in activities conducted by the clubs. In some clubs this may take the form of social nights, for others it is the away trips. The participants and volunteers enjoy the trips and it is also good for bonding and the morale of the club.
You have got to get to know something about the athlete’s background, and that would apply to both mainstream and professional leagues…you need to build a relationship between yourself and the kids… you need to improve their ability in sport. If they cannot do it properly they will not come back. They have to have fun doing what they are doing. They’re having fun but they are learning at the same time and it’s just to be able to figure out how to do that, you know.
[Volunteer] A recurring theme in all focus groups was the need to provide a variety of participation pathways. According to focus group members the emphasis is on competition pathways in clubs and they suggested that a recreational pathway might meet the needs of a greater number of participants and reduce dropout rates from sport and physical activity.
There was acknowledgement that dealing with children and youth requires different methods of engagement, and pedagogy. Volunteers had personal preferences for working with different age groups and genders and there was no evidence to suggest preference for any particular group. The volunteers did however articulate the challenges of working with youth describing puberty, attitude, peer pressure and competing agendas as positive challenges for volunteers to overcome.