David Gash, Communications Executive with the Federation of Irish Sport discusses the value of volunteers to sport in Ireland.
The athletes who cross our TV screens week in week out, who wear the green jersey with such pride and passion, owe so much to the huge number of people who have made sacrifices to get them to that point. The countless early morning training sessions; the wind and rain swept sidelines; the five hour round road trips could drive anyone away. Yet for the 450,000 adults who volunteer their time each year, they remain dedicated, enthusiastic and passionate because they all share on common trait – their love of sport.
Sport remains the biggest driver of voluntary activity in Ireland. The commitment, dedication and leadership of Ireland’s sporting volunteers, allow athletes and communities to participate in sport all around the country. It is estimated that over a million hours are put into sport on a weekly basis by adults volunteering in sport.
Sport in Ireland at every level from grassroots to elite is reliant on these volunteers, were it not for their input sport simply would not function. From administration to coaching to mentorship, the variety voluntary roles in sport are infinite and each one as important as the next in making sure sport keeps on progressing with everyone getting maximum benefit.
Those among the professional and international ranks are not the only ones who have reaped the benefit of the input of dedicated volunteers. The product of volunteering in sport runs much deeper than cultivating top level athletes – volunteering in sport encourages healthy and active lifestyles among people, builds community spirit, passes on knowledge and experience and helps others be the best they can be and realise their potential. 1.7 million People are involved in sport in Ireland and each one will have experienced the work of a volunteer.
Giving time to sport also has undoubted benefits to the volunteer – the enjoyment, a rewarding sense of fulfilment, development of new skills, valuable life experience, a boost in confidence, the opportunity to socialise and meet new people and of course giving something back to the sport they love.
To honour the work of these volunteers the Federation of Irish Sport in conjunction with the Irish Sports Council, the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport and The Community Foundation of Ireland run the annual National Awards to Volunteers in Sport in which the public are invited to nominate an individual whose contribution to their sport has made a real difference.
Ten winners will be selected to receive an award from the nominations received. An Overall or Lifetime award to honour a volunteer, who has consistently given of their time for a sport, a team, or an event over many years, will also be awarded. Full details of the scheme and how to enter can be found on line at www.volunteersinsport.ie.
Previous winners of the awards include John O’Shea father to international footballer John O’Shea, Brian Craig of Sailing who is largely responsible for attracting the Youth World Sailing Championships which will see 300 sailors from 70 countries descend on Dun Laoghaire in July, Dublin City Marathon organiser Jim Aughney and coach to Olympic Silver Medallist Kenny Egan, Gerry Fleming who has been coaching at Neilstown Boxing Club for more than 20 years.
Top athletes pay tribute to volunteers on Twitter:
“…a big shout out to all the volunteers who help us be the best we can be! We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without u all!”
@Niksymmons – Nikki Symmonds, International Hockey and Cricket Player
“…thank you to all the volunteers who keep our sport alive in this country and help us athletes get to where we are!”
@colingriffin – Colin Griffin, Irish International Athlete and Olympian
“A massive thank you to all who volunteer. Sport would not be possible without you all:)”
@OliveLoughnane – 3 time Olympian and World silver medallist 2009
The Federation of Irish Sport:
The Federation of Irish Sport was established by the National Governing Bodies of Sport in 2002 to act as representative body for all sporting organisations and to provide an independent voice for sport. Membership is open to NGBs as well as sporting organisations whose primary purpose is the promotion of sport and/or physical recreation on a non-commercial basis. The membership is currently comprised of in excess of 70 NGBs including the Football Association of Ireland, the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Irish Rugby Football Union as well as 30 Local Sports Partnerships.