Volunteers are undeniably the backbone of sport. With an estimated three million Australian’s volunteering in sport every year, their contribution to the social and economic value of sport is invaluable.
Volunteer’s areas are pivotal players in all aspects of sport, from community and grassroots assistance to the delivery of major events such as the Commonwealth Games.
Darren Young and Ben Jones are two such volunteers who found themselves volunteering alongside the Australian Team at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games earlier this year, along with the other Games volunteers, played a critical role in supporting the Team.
“Volunteers are really the heart and the soul of any sporting event, whether that is grassroots or international sporting competitions; it all begins with volunteers,” Young said.
Jones echoed Young’s statements, acknowledging that volunteering is truly essential to sport.
“Without enthusiastic, dedicated volunteers at every level of sport, none of it could happen. It would be impossible to stage a major sporting event without the thousands of volunteers giving up their time to make it happen.”
Both have been fortunate enough to work with and be involved in a range of sporting events, each with their own set of unique experiences.
“I have been very lucky in that, when it comes to big sporting events, I have been able to volunteer at three Commonwealth Games, the London 2012 Olympic Games, the European Games, and the UEFA 2020 Euro’s. I will admit, there is nothing like being able to volunteer at a ‘Home Games’ and I’ve been pretty lucky given that both the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2018 European Games were held in my home city of Glasgow,” said Young.
For the thousands of volunteers who come together at these events, there is a variety of roles to fulfil, as they work together with event organisers to ensure the smooth delivery of highly successful and world-class events. In Birmingham we saw (add number of volunteers here) 0000 individual volunteers do just that! Their involvement was incremental in the success of the Games.
“There really is no ‘typical day’ for a volunteer as every role is varied, but I will say this – what you put into any role, you definitely get out of it,” said Young.
“You just need to take each day as it comes; tackle them with a ‘can do’ attitude, ‘I’ll do that’, a smile, a laugh, and a sense of humour, and you are already onto a winner.”
Jones echoed Young’s statements, while also highlighting the unique experiences and insights he’s been a part of throughout his time as a volunteer, pointing out the variety of roles he’s assumed.
“One of the big highlights of the role is the opportunity to see some of the action live at the venues alongside members of the team, gaining a first-hand insight into everything it takes to produce a world class performance.”
“In these roles I’ve done everything from sticking up hundreds of good luck posters drawn by schoolkids in athlete’s rooms, to assembling bicycles to get people around the village, to chatting to famous Australian athletes as I drive them around, to seeing global superstars wandering around the Village [after] winning gold medals and spending 12 hours unpacking shipping containers on a 38-degree day!”
Reflecting even further on their experiences, both are quick to highlight the incredible opportunities presented to them as volunteers, including meeting sporting legends and personalities.
During his time at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Jones can particularly recall the surreal experience and honour of driving Athlete Liaison Officer’s to various events which allowed him to ‘spend hours in a car chatting with Australian sporting legends John Eales, Steve Waugh, Kieran Perkins and Layne Beachley’.
“This was quite an honour, as was getting to pick up Mark Webber and take him to see our hockey team play their final. Having to drive an F1 driver around was rather nerve-racking at first but he was very nice!”
Both Jones and Young recommend volunteering and talk to the invaluable experiences they have been involved in, as well as the opportunities, friendships, and connections made. Their advice for getting involved is to ‘just go for it’.
“Having the opportunity to understand the planning, logistics, training, effort and teamwork that goes into successfully hosting an event of this scale and importance is rare, as are the opportunities to learn and grow from interacting with a vast array of amazing people with different experiences to your own and to develop life-long friendships and wonderful memories,” said Jones.
“Just get in there and do it… there is never a ‘bad time’ to get involved and your skillset will always be welcomed,” echoed Young.
“I have met some amazing people, got to see some amazing sport take place and I got to support my adopted home country of Australia.”
Young reminisces when he was “lucky to meet Anna Meares at the London 2012 Olympic Games and then BOOMS, at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games I got to work with her and a number of other amazing individuals on the Australian Team.”
The pair were even able to recreate the picture they had taken back in 2012; “now that was a pretty unforgettable experience!”
Young goes on to say “You never know, you could be that missing link, so find out what your passion is and give it a go. You’ve got just under four years to build your skillset and get applying for the Commonwealth Games in Victoria 2026!”
“Australia really know how to make someone feel welcome as there are really no better colours than the Green and Gold (after a bit of Tartan of course!).”
December 5 is International Volunteers Day, a day to raise awareness of the important role volunteers play and celebrate and promote volunteering. On International Volunteer Day (IVD) 2022, we celebrate the theme of solidarity through volunteering, and acknowledge, thank, and shine a light on the important work of volunteers.