On the 2nd August 2018, I sat alone in the airport awaiting my flight up to Glasgow, ready to embark on my next volunteering adventure; the European Championships.
I had been lucky enough to have been selected for the Commonwealth Games back in 2014, working in athletics, with memories and friends made to last a life time. Over the past few years I’d got the post volunteering blues. I was ready to do it again. This time, however, I was selected to be working within Sports Development, a very different kind of gig to working with the athletes and coaches I had experienced back in 2014.
The Importance of Volunteering
Around the country, around 6.7 million people volunteer in sport according to data released by Sport England last year. That means an incredible 14.9% of the population in England are giving up their time to help get others get more active. Volunteering is vital to keep, not only small local clubs running, but also for major sporting events, such as the Olympic Games and the European Championships, to happen. For me, volunteering began as something that gave me the opportunity to carry on being involved in an activity I enjoyed, and the path that led me to Glasgow felt like my way of giving back to sport. But it gave me much more than that, it developed me as a person, and provided me a way to expand my skills and experiences.
Go Live at the Green
Glasgow Green, the city’s oldest park, played host to ‘Go Live’ a free event daily, bringing together sport, fitness, health, arts, food and drink with a range of events for the whole family. The Green also hosted three days of cycling events across the Championships, transforming the space into a competition venue with a buzz of inspiration. My role was based here within Glasgow Green, helping deliver a range of sporting activities for all – everything from a pump track to a freefall air drop.
I got a chance to help deliver a range of the sports on offer including, golf, swimming (through a simulator), airdrop, rowing and the pump track. As well as a team member, I also spent time as a team leader, allowing me to see first-hand the importance of the volunteers for events like these. Over 220,000 people attended the free events held in Glasgow Green and George Square over the 11-day competition, giving thousands the opportunity to experience new sports.
“I realised that, to me, this is what elite sport is all about.”
Hearing and seeing thousands of young people giving new sports a go and coming away with a smile on their face was a personal highlight. With 2 year olds hitting a golf ball for the first time (even when being hit by some slightly over-eager swings…), to 14 year olds getting over their fear on a bike and flying around the pump track, I realised that, to me, this is what elite sport is all about. Yes, watching the spectacle of elite athletes achieving the impossible is what gets the focus of the TV cameras, and is understandably the focus for many people in the city, and around the world. But to me, seeing how Championships like these can be used to really inspire and open up opportunities, seeing the smiles on young people’s faces as they engage with physical activity: that’s what it’s all about. That’s the power of elite sport in the community. And that’s why volunteering really is the lifeblood of community activation.