It is incredible that it is already four years since the spectacular success of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The 70,000 volunteer Gamesmakers proved to be a vital ingredient in that success, with their warmth, humour and dedication much praised by everyone who attended the Games.
As the Rio 2016 Olympics get underway, the Brazilians have also embraced the value of a strong volunteering programme as part of the Games.
They received 300,000 applications for the 70,000 roles they also needed to fill and volunteers from 156 countries are taking part. This includes 1,300 London 2012 Gamesmakers who have made the trip to Brazil.
Sport is hugely dependent on volunteer support at all levels and there are an estimated 3.2 million volunteers involved across the UK. As the back pages of this newspaper show, we have a thriving local sporting community, with hundreds if not thousands of people putting in the hours every week to help our local clubs and leagues run successfully.
One organisation you might not have heard of is North Yorkshire Sport, the county sports partnership for North Yorkshire and also a registered charity. Its mission, driving positive change through sport and physical activity, means that the team is dedicated to improving lives, especially through personal development. The North Yorkshire Sport volunteer programme links up event organisers with their volunteers through an online portal. Time is dedicated to the volunteers to ensure they have access to opportunities and can develop their skills as they desire.
Charlie from Harrogate started volunteering at 13 years of age. As his local tennis club became more popular he helped coaches with sessions. As his confidence grew he was asked to help coaches run sessions for younger players on weekends and his passion for coaching became more important than just getting active. Charlie also volunteered at Thirsk Hockey Club to help coach the juniors as part of his Duke of Edinburgh bronze award and has helped out with younger age groups with his fellow team mates at Ripon Rugby Club.
Charlie was then offered the opportunity to volunteer at the North Yorkshire School Games Summer Festival, the largest event of the year for North Yorkshire Sport. Over 120 volunteers help out on the day and ensure the competitions are a success, helping with jobs such as setting up, assisting with registration, officiating and recording scores. Charlie was asked to referee the tag rugby event by North Yorkshire Sport’s Volunteer Lead Sarah Stephenson.
She said; “Charlie was the only young leader umpiring the rugby finals along with School Games staff but he didn’t let this faze him. His dedication to volunteering has given him the confidence to do this and it was great to have such a hard working volunteer helping at the event.”
Charlie said: “I like to volunteer because I like to see the progression of the kids I am helping. It is nice to see that you’re helping them to get better and progress as players. It is also a good way of meeting new people in areas of sport that I am interested in who may be good contacts in the future. It is also a good thing to be able to put on your CV as it looks good to future employers.”
Zoe Searson has been attending the Summer Festival for four years and said: “Volunteering at the School Games has helped me realise what I want to do in the future.
“I knew I wanted to get into sport but now I know I want to get into injury rehabilitation rather than teaching or coaching. If you love your sport, volunteering is perfect. The joy you get to see on the kids’ faces; it’s really worth it.”
North Yorkshire Sport’s website allows external event holders to add volunteer opportunities. These can be viewed and applied for by volunteers who have signed up to the system. Find out more at www.northyorkshiresport.co.uk/volunteer.
Another source of information about volunteering in sport is www.joinin.org.uk, a national charity set up to channel the Gamesmaker legacy into local sport. On Saturday, August 27, it is encouraging everyone in the UK to get out and get active in their local community to support grassroots sport.
Timed to coincide with the return of the GB Olympic team from Rio, there are lots of ways local clubs can get involved. Various events in our area are already listed on the website, and there’s still time to sign up.
HARCVS is a local charity dedicated to supporting charities and volunteers and we hope you enjoy your sporting summer.
More info via www.harcvs.org.uk or Twitter @harcvs.