As athletes, we are constantly working on our technique and looking for the latest and greatest gadgets to improve our results. There is something however which can produce huge benefits and it is free.
The hardest part of learning something new is getting your brain to process the information. You can be told many things but in order to truly understand something, it must ‘gel.’ In order to test it, the easiest thing is to teach it to someone else.
Volunteering does not have to be for long nor do you have to be an expert in any one thing. Your knowledge in your sport increases over time and it is definitely more profound after a few months compared to what you had on the first day.
If you combine the need to ‘gel’ what you are learning, with the amount of knowledge you have after a few months, the result is someone who has the power to help others.
A simple bit a guidance to a newcomer can save many hours of frustration. Your words and actions will seem like magic to someone else when you explain it in your own special way.
Not everyone can teach though and I think that we all have seen this too. Patience is a huge requirement plus you must be able to adapt to multiple situations, needs, abilities and emotions simultaneously. But if you do enjoy this kind of interaction, then the benefits to you for developing a deeper understanding of your own performance is gigantic.
If you don’t want to teach, that is ok too as local clubs need help in many ways. Just by relieving some of the pressures on the other staff (paid and/or volunteer), it can make the organisation run better for everyone. Here is a list of a few ideas:
- coach – beginners need lots of help but if you want to take specialised courses then talk with your club or search online for what is possible.
- judge – a competition cannot run without judges. By being an athlete too then you can see both sides of the race and learn loads. Some positions can receive payments for time and expenses plus if you get good at this you can go to international events too.
- admin – how much paperwork is needed for registrations, insurance, scheduling, uniforms, finance, legal, travel… the list is endless
- communications – the internet can be a scary place for some, but for others it is a gateway to funding, media coverage and getting new members. Being a photographer is valuable too.
- driver – car pooling matters especially on distant competitions. Check to see if you can simply offer a seat to younger athletes or to a teammate and then you can also develop your social ties too
- equipment – not all clubs need this but for those that do you will be a blessing. Maintenance of the grounds and buildings are often needed too.
This is just a taste of some of the volunteer roles out there, but understand that by helping in any way possible, you develop your own skills in techniques, equipment, logistics, PR…
Even if you are starting out, your ability to help anyone will be appreciated by someone. If you have a little knowledge, time and energy, then offer it. Your sport will thank you in ways you have never imagined.
Last little note on this: even if you cannot volunteer right now, please say thank you the next time someone helps you out. Kindness is free too.