NPC’s Going the Distance seminar on 2 July feels like very timely discussion.

Here at Join In, we witness the ‘power of sport’ all the time. Sport is a fantastically flexible medium, transcending demographic and cultural boundaries, through which you can deliver an awful lot of social good. Of course, this is no revelation. But it’s attracting more and more inquiry in an age of austerity and mounting social challenges. How we invest in areas like sport (for maximum return) is an increasingly vital question.

Understanding the impact of sport

The importance of being active is today better understood than ever. UK Active’s Turning the Tide report recently revealed the blistering personal and social costs of physical inactivity. And at the other end of the spectrum, Sporting Memories, is revealing how effective sport can be in treating dementia through reminiscence. Both developments show, in their own ways, how sophisticated our appreciation of sport has become.

The importance of volunteers

What is less recognised is the contribution made by volunteers. Statistics from the Sport and Recreation Alliance show that nearly two million adults give at least an hour of their week to volunteering in sport—estimated to be worth £2.7bn. Join In’s figures show there is (on average) one volunteer for every twelve sports club members—a stark multiplier.

The link for policy-makers is clear: if you want more people to be active in their local communities you need more volunteers to make it happen. This is where Join In comes in, inspiring new volunteers and channelling that energy towards local sports clubs and projects.

Investing in volunteers is a 2-for-1 deal

But more than just propping up participation, recent Join In research reveals more of the personal benefits of volunteering in sports. In a survey of over 2,500 people, we found that compared to a group that had never volunteered in sport, those that had volunteered:

  • Were less likely to feel unhappy or depressed: Volunteering makes me feel lucky and privileged, proud and valued. I feel needed and like I make a difference…’
  • Felt their lives had more meaning: As a volunteer at a grassroots club, you are an integral part of creating childhood memories, friendships and experiences that will stay with these kids their whole life.’
  • Had higher self-esteem, emotional wellbeing and resilience:I had panic attacks when I split up with my husband and couldn’t travel on trains anymore. Being accepted as a Games Maker for London 2012 made me tackle that fear.’ 

Where sport meets volunteering

We know sport is a powerful, transcending medium, and we increasingly understand the benefits  volunteering brings to the community and the volunteers themselves. In the coming months we will reveal more of our research into the wider community value of local clubs, adding further to our collective understanding. But before then, we’ll be listening closely to the discussion on 2 July—join us there.

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