#ESP2019 warm-up with Niki Koutrou: „Volunteers, the everyday heroes of sport”
Volunteers are the everyday heroes of sport, that is why we will have two sessions dedicated to them at the second European Sport Platform on 4-5 October 2019 in Rome. One of the sessions on volunteering will be a workshop, facilitated by Dr Niki Koutrou, Programme Director for Sport Management at the University of Kent. In the lead-up to the #ESP2019, we sat down with Niki to talk about volunteering.
Q: How did you get interested in volunteering, both on a practical and on a research-level?
A: While in high school, I was given the opportunity to volunteer as an umpire and coach of younger athletes at my badminton club. At the time, I did not know that this is considered volunteering, as I found exciting that I could promote the sport I loved and help in the development of younger athletes, while learning new skills. While at university, I had the opportunity to volunteer more formally for the Athens Games in 2004. This was an inspiring experience as I both had the opportunity to help my country to host such a big event and learned skills that I found very useful later in my life such as being resilient and collaborate with people from different cultures and backgrounds. These practical opportunities inspired me to research further the interplay between volunteer motivations, satisfaction and experiences in different sporting contexts, and whether these mobilise you to consider future volunteering in your community.
Q: What are the benefits of volunteering in sport, both for the volunteers and the organisation/event they work for?
A: Volunteering is a great way to make friends and develop social networks. It can also help you to improve your existing skills or develop new ones that you may find useful in your future career, while having fun. Most importantly, volunteering is a great way to help your community, sport, and the people around you to both participate and develop themselves in and through sport. Due to the limited resources, many sports clubs have volunteers; they simply could not function without volunteer efforts and sustain their operations for a longer period of time. Sport is a service industry and the quality of the programmes on offer depends on the enthusiasm and passion of their human resources. Thus, volunteers are an invaluable resource to have to sustain sport participation levels.
Q: How to attract people to volunteer in sport, especially for a longer period?
A: Use more inclusive language in your recruitment and promotion materials. Match volunteer profiles with the available roles and opportunities; allow flexibility in the scheduling of shifts and duties. Think about what is in it for the volunteer. It is important that volunteers take something back out of the experience, something that they value. Consult your volunteers, value and acknowledge their opinion and efforts. Offer clear guidance, train and mentor your volunteers, so that they feel more empowered to serve for longer.
The volunteering workshop at the #ESP2019 will offer tools on how to attract, train and retain volunteers in sports clubs and will also get participants to think about new target groups, and new ways of engaging and appraising volunteers
The event is hosted by OPES Italia, and organised in partnership with the European Lotteries.