Volunteering In Sports Social Work Essay

Share this:FacebookFacebook logoTwitterTwitter logoReddit Reddit logoLinkedInLinkedIn logoWhatsAppWhatsApp logo 

This literature review focuses on sports volunteering as part of an investigation into the successfulness of leadership academies. By critically examining existing research and related literature, this review aims to draw up key issues and identify gaps in the current volunteering system. The scope of the searches for relevant literature was restricted to material dated from 1990 onwards, with to enable the literature review to concentrate on the most recent information. Literature was sourced through databases and websites linked to volunteering, sport, active citizenship and leadership. As such, this literature review draws on a variety of subjects which will be identified throughout the review. This paper reviews key literature, focusing on the need for continued involvement in leadership and volunteer opportunities within the school and community context.


It is a cherished belief within physical activity and sport communities that participation in leadership and volunteering has the potential to offer young people a range of physical, psychological and social benefits, whilst also as a provider of sporting opportunities and in the development of sport, from increasing participation through to supporting excellence and elite performance. More recently in the UK, this belief has become prominent in government policies, are seeking to engage young people in order to inspire individuals and even though the London 2012 Olympic Games is 3 years away strong planning for volunteering is being put in place as the aspect of major events that has the potential to contribute to social regeneration and the strengthening of social capital.

The phrase ‘volunteering is the lifeblood of English sport’ is often used in todays sporting society. With it being well recognised that volunteers provide the core support for sport in the United Kingdom and without the 2 million adult volunteers who contribute at least one hour a week to volunteering in sport, community sport would simply grind to a halt (Sports Council, 1996). The research, commissioned by Sport England (2003) and carried out by the Leisure Industries Research Centre, provided the hard evidence to support this contention. It demonstrates the breadth and depth of support given by people across the country, who provide their time and rarely look for any reward beyond the personal satisfaction they get from the opportunities they provide for others to participate and achieve in sport. Volunteers also play an incredible role in staging some of England’s most prestigious sporting events. Volunteering in the UK has a long and established history (Ockenden, 2007) and without its volunteer workforce, events simply wouldn’t happen. Such reliance on volunteers in UK sport lead to the production of the government strategy, “A Sporting Future for All”. The policy has a major focus on ensures that volunteers get adequate training, support and strategic management (DCMS, 2000).

Defining volunteering

As suggested by Cluskey, et al (2006) defining volunteering is something that on the surface appears to be relatively simple, but in reality it is actually quite complex. Many researchers have stated that the term ‘volunteering’ is vague, covering different activities and participation at all levels of society, with volunteering traditions being affected by cultural and political contexts (Salamon & Anheier, 1997; Lukka & Ellis, 2002; United Nations, 2001). Although the word ‘volunteer’ may seem to have a common shared meaning, there is not universal consensus about the meaning of the term. It should be highlighted that there is no single meaning of volunteering or of a what volunteer is (Volunteering England, 2008).

Davis Smith (2000) and Nichols (2004) highlight four characteristics of volunteering within a UK context:

That it should be undertaken for no financial gain

That it should be undertaken in an environment of genuine freewill

That there are identifiable beneficiaries or a beneficiary

That there can be formal and informal types

Current context for sports volunteering in the UK

The voluntary sector plays a central role in sports development and the provision of sporting opportunities in the UK. Volunteers are key in the organisation of UK sport and the sector also provides a major economic contribution to the total value added of the industry (Shibli et al, 1999; Gratton and Taylor,2000).

Volunteering in the UK has a long and established history (Ockenden, 2007) and the valuable contribution volunteers make to society is increasingly being recognised. All levels of government are becoming more and more keen to raise active citizenship, and volunteering is promoted as one of the best examples of how individuals can make a meaningful contribution to civil society with volunteering seen as an important expression of citizenship and fundamental to democracy (EFSD, 2007).

There has been two main research documents both commissioned by Sport England, which look into sports volunteering in England. The latest “Active People Survey” (2006) showed that over 2.7 million people put some voluntary time into sport (at least one hour a week volunteering to sport). The “Sports Volunteering in England” (2002) found numerous results some of the headline information from this research is below:

There are 5,821,400 sport volunteers in England.

This represents 14% of the adult population.

26% of all volunteers cite ‘sport’ as their main area of interest.

That makes the sport sector the single biggest contribution to total volunteering in England.

Sport volunteers contribute one billion hours each year to sport – equivalent to 720,000 paid workers.

These results have seen a massive change as results from five years previous in the 1997 National Survey of Volunteering (Davis Smith, 1998) indicated a ‘sharp reduction in levels of participation by young people’. Volunteering by those aged 16 to 24 was down from 55% in 1991 to 43% in 1997, reversing the trend towards higher rates of volunteering in the previous decade (Lynn and Davis Smith, 1991).

Government change over time

Eley and Kirk (2002) identified during the 1990s there became a recognition of the benefits of volunteering which led to greater interest in volunteer activity among young people and the political parties developed strategies to help attract and encourage more young volunteers. The government has now identified engaging people in voluntary work as a key way to reaching out to those most at risk from social exclusion. This was linked with New Labour coming to power in 1997, as numerous initiatives recognised and supported volunteering were established:

Millennium Volunteers – an England wide scheme that aimed to increase volunteering for people aged 16 to 24 year olds. Now been re-branded as the ‘vinvolved programme’, currently funding voluntary organisations and encouraging young people to get involved in volunteering.

The Year of the Volunteer 2005 – a £10 million campaign funded by the Home Office and aimed at raising the awareness of volunteering, increasing opportunities for people to become involved whilst also encouraging more individuals to volunteer

Although these programmes are generic volunteer programmes they include projects that take place within sport. ‘A Sporting Future for All’ (DCMS, 2000) and ‘Game Plan’ (DCMS, 2002) ensured that volunteering in sport appeared on the strategic agenda. Sport England was made responsible for raising the profile of and promoting volunteering within sport. Given the role assigned to sport in achieving new Labour’s social inclusion and active citizenship agendas (PAT 10 Report, DCMS, 1999), numerous nationally driven initiatives that promote volunteering in a specifically sporting context have appeared.

As stated by Volleyball England (2004) over the past few years leadership for young people within sport has become a hot topic on the Governments agenda leading to specifically targeted policies. The Physical Education and School Sport and Club Links (PESSYP) strategy which came into place in 2003, consisted of 8 strands which covered an array of areas aiming to enhance the take-up of sporting opportunities for pupils five to sixteen year olds. Step into Sport was one of the eight strands which focused on developing leadership. Now, the new PESSYP Strategy which shows the Governments continued interests in improving school PE, added 2 extra strands to the policy with ‘Volunteering and Leadership’ having its own priority.

Current Sport England programmes:

Recruit into Coaching – is part of the wider PE and Sport Strategy for Young People (PESSYP) coaching strand. Recruit into Coaching focuses on the 70 most deprived areas of England as identified through the highest ranked local authorities. It is flexible in terms of the sports it includes as it’s based very much on local need. Which meets to the view of Rochester (2006) of using volunteering for civic renewal and social inclusion.

The Young Ambassador Programme – was born and initiated in the summer of 2006 as a direct response to the promise that London would use the power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to inspire millions of young people to choose sport.

London 2012 Olympics volunteering – The London 2012 games will depend on up to 70,000 volunteers to make sure they run smoothly and successfully. This has lead to the creation of a number of volunteer schemes, which are aiming to allow for the volunteer spirit spreading wider than the Games themselves by encouraging everyone to give their time to help others.

The ‘Young Leaders Programme’, supported by BP, is one of the volunteer scheme which is designed to give a group of disadvantaged young people the chance to make positive change to their lives by using the summer games as a catalyst.

Rochester (2006) suggests that within the UK, two broad policy streams encourage voluntary activity within sport and other contexts. These consist of, civil renewal and social inclusion. The aspect of civil renewal is aimed at targeting the increasing amount of people who are becoming disengaged from public life. Disengagement is regarded by the government as posing a threat to democracy and having a harmful impact on community cohesion, with individuals progressively losing their sense of common purpose and belonging within the society (Jochum et al., 2005).

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

Social inclusion has also become a hot topic for new Labour. The formation of the Social Exclusion Task Force, which was established in 2006 shows the commitment creating inclusive communities. It has been identified that participating in voluntary work as a way to reach out to people at risk of social exclusion and promoting correlative social inclusion (Social Exclusion Task Force, 2009).

Champion Coaching was the first nationwide scheme created to help the support volunteers.

Motives for volunteering

Whilst evidence shows that there is widespread commitment to increase numbers and strengthen the volunteer base, a clear picture of what we know about young volunteers does not exist. Gaskin (1998) created the most detailed and comprehensive information on young people’s attitudes and what they want from participation in volunteer activity. It established that the personal benefits gained by young people through volunteer and community service in sporting (Hellison, 1993) and general contexts (Pancer & Pratt, 1999) which include an increase in confidence, personal development and pro-social identity.

Many researchers have identified that people volunteer for a variety of reasons, both egoistic and altruistic, and the motivation for engaging in volunteer activity can vary greatly from person to person and over time for one person and many volunteers commonly cite multiple reasons for their involvement (Clary et al., 1998; Clary & Snyder, 1999, 2000; Farmer & Fedor, 1999; Wardell et al., 2000; Coleman, 2002; Taylor et al., 2003). Different age groups may also change their motives for volunteering, with younger groups regarding volunteering as a way of using and expanding their leadership skills, learning new skills and helping them with their future career prospects (Davis-Smith, 1998; Eley & Kirk, 2002; Coalter, 2004; Kay & Bradbury, 2009) while older volunteers more commonly mention a desire to fill up ‘spare’ time and cite involvement in volunteering as part of their philosophy of life (Doherty & Carron, 2003; Low et al., 2007). The contribution of young sport leaders takes an added significance because their leadership training in sport not only contributes to their own personal skills development but they also use those skills through volunteering to provide greater sport opportunities for other young people to participate in sport (Elay and Kirk, 2002).

Perhaps one of the most widely adopted theoretical approaches to understand volunteer motives is that of Clary and Snyder (1991) citied in Cluskeley, et al (2006) who argued that people act to satisfy socio-psychological goals and although individuals may be involved in similar voluntary activities, their goals can vary widely. Their perspective identified four key distinct functions which categorise the motives behind an individual’s involvement;

Expression of value – acting on the belief of the importance to help other

Understanding and knowledge – need to understand others

Social – engage in meeting others through volunteering

Ego defensive or protective – relieve negative feeling through service to others

Issues faced by volunteers

Volunteers are under increasing pressures in their roles, as indicated by Sport England studies (Taylor et al, 2003; Nichols et al, 2003; Gratton et al, 1996; Nichols, Shibli and Taylor, 1998). These include societal pressures – such as the constraints of time imposed by the paid workplace and family commitments – and some which are institutional: for example, heavier obligations as a result of legislation (e.g. health and safety, child protection) and greater demands from NGBs and Sport England (e.g. funding requirements, equal opportunities policies, accreditation schemes).

Findings published in Gaskin’s (1998) ‘Vanishing Volunteers’ created the message that volunteering has a poor image among young people. Although they generally approve of volunteering as beneficial to society and to individuals, its appeal to them is limited. An examination by the National Centre for Volunteering of the barriers to volunteering in 1995, for example, identified five obstacles for young people: lack of awareness of the benefits of volunteering, and negative images of voluntary work as boring, badly organised, the preserve of white, middle-aged, middleclass females, and expensive and time consuming (Niyazi, 1995). This view was also highlighted in the Millennium Volunteers scheme which concluded that for the programme to be successful it would need not only ‘to raise the profile of volunteering’ but also to ‘carry images of volunteering which are relevant and meaningful to young people’ (DfEE, 1998).


Promoting active citizenship

The British government has been concerned with increasing citizenship and a sense of community spirit in young people for a number of years. In June 1998 the government published a policy framework for a scheme called the Millennium Volunteers. This programme created by the Department for Education and Skills was the one of the first to incorporate aims focused around increasing citizenship and rebuilding a sense of community among young people. Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister at the time expressed his concern about the need to support and recognise community involvement in order to bring about a ‘giving age’ (Heath, 2000).

The government is attempting to increase public engagement in civic institutions and society and respond to societal breakdown by promoting active citizenship and public participation as the responsibility of every individual. The government’s commitment to such policies can be seen by the promotion of volunteering in schools through the introduction of citizenship as a subject in the national curriculum, extra support made available for employee volunteering, the creation of institutions that promote citizenship and, new funding initiatives and policy proposals that link citizenship to volunteering (NCVO, 2009). This change to the national curriculum links closely to the view of Elay and Kirk (2002) who identified the benefits of volunteering are also evident from an educational perspective because it is central to the issue of how young people should be taught about their rights and responsibilities to the community.


This literature review has been able to identify that sport has had a long history on heavily relying on volunteers. It remains one of the most popular fields for engagement for volunteers, with between 13% and 26% of all voluntary work in the UK taking place in a sporting context. Although sport is so reliant on its volunteers it has only started to receive recognition and support from the government or the broader volunteering infrastructure in recent years. The significant difference now however is the substantial funding which is being invested into school leadership programmes designed at creating lifelong volunteers.

Volunteering may well be a catalyst for changing communities with excluded individuals, but there is no guarantee that this will always occur and it isn’t backed up with enough solid information to create a solid case. Although volunteering does have a vast array of people involved the message from young people is that it needs a make-over to gain further participants. By improving its image, broadening its access and provide what today’s and tomorrow’s young people need. Volunteering suffers from outdated associations with worthy philanthropy and conjures up images that do not appeal to the young. However, it is recognised as potentially offering opportunities to young people that are scarcely available anywhere else. The research suggests that there is a vast pool of young people who could benefit from voluntary work, if certain conditions are met. (Gaskin, 1998)


Share this:FacebookFacebook logoTwitterTwitter logoRedditReddit logoLinkedInLinkedIn logoWhatsAppWhatsApp logo 


Approximately 250 words