The Olympics and Paralympics have highlighted the crucial role played by volunteers in sport. On trips into London I have seen Olympic volunteers wearing their purple polo shirts with immense pride, knowing that everyone is aware of the part they have played to widespread acclaim in the world’s biggest sporting event.
So the profile of volunteering is at an all-time high and I feel Rugby must take advantage of this to recruit more volunteers into our clubs. There are notable differences of course: Volunteering for the Olympics required a commitment of only a few weeks so enthusiasm was easier to maintain. Olympic volunteers were well trained, well resourced, highly motivated and after the Games they were very publicly thanked, gaining worldwide exposure, not that this acclaim was guaranteed before they began.
Rugby volunteers are in it for the long haul, getting on with generally unglamorous tasks, and without them it is fair to say hundreds of clubs around England would disappear.
But the issues of training, resource and motivation are the same. Offer a volunteer the tools and training to do the job and the motivation quickly follows.
Rugby is at an advantage already because Sevens is now an official Olympic sport, to be played in Rio in 2016, so our game has a direct link with the Olympic values seen among competitors and spectators in London this year. The dedication to their sport, the pride of representing their country and the humility shown in victory by the Olympians would be familiar to anyone in Rugby as closely aligned with the core values of Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship demonstrated by Elite and Community Rugby players every week of the season.
We can justifiably climb aboard the Olympic bandwagon and perhaps the best and most straightforward way would be to adapt the London 2012 strapline of ‘Inspire a Generation’.
How is this for a recruitment campaign: “Were you inspired by London 2012? Get involved with the newest Olympic sport – volunteer at your local Rugby Club.”
A bit wordy, perhaps, but something good to work on. Let’s move now before the enthusiasm generated by London 2012 is gone.
(with thanks to Hugh Godwin)