Volunteers – The Life Blood of Competition Season

Anna RobertsonAuckland-Northland, Central-Wellington, e-News, Midlands, Regional, South Island

With competition season starting any day now (or already underway for some), the need for volunteers becomes critical over the next few months. Whether your Club runs an event or you travel away to attend competitions, volunteers are called upon to perform a myriad of roles from running canteens, judging, transporting athletes and collating results through to fundraising, sorting uniforms, marketing the club, taking photos. The list is literally endless. But how do you avoid scraping around desperately for enough numbers to cover roles, exhausting a few dedicated individuals who step forward every time or just not getting everything done that you had hoped to?

Here are a few tips that can help:


  • Plan in advance – what activities do you have coming up? What roles need filling? How many people will you need? Make a plan in advance and then you know what you are looking for.
  • What does it look like – write up a list of roles – people are much more likely to step forward if they can see what they are signing up for. If you have a big challenging role that you struggle to fill, can you break it down into more manageable roles?
  • Don’t be scared of non-gym people – think outside the box in terms of where you look for your volunteers. Have you contacted your local volunteer bureau? Have you spoken to schools about students on leadership programmes (Duke of Edinburgh) or do you have a tertiary institution nearby that has students looking for experience?


Here are some website that can connect you with non-gymsports volunteers:



  • Make it fun – ok not every role is fun but the atmosphere around an activity can be what makes people come back and volunteer again or run a mile at the thought.
  • Keep the momentum – without overwhelming people see if you can get them linked into the next volunteer opportunity. This can be as simple as asking whether they would be willing to do the same role at the next event or finding out whether there is something else they might be interested in.
  • Training – what training do your volunteers need in order to fufulfillheir roles safely and competently? Keep an eye on your local Sports Trust website for training opportunities as they arise. If you are managing volunteers there are courses available to support you in your role whether you are paid or also a volunteer, for example Volunteer Xperts offer an online course. Can you run mini training sessions in the club e.g. for scorers or judges? If you have gaps in training ask your Relationship Manager for support.
  • Get feedback – ask ask ask – find out what people enjoyed, whether there was anything they felt could be done differently etc



  • Make sure you reward your volunteers
  • Say THANK YOU – it seems so obvious but is the simplest, cheapest and easiest way to recognise your volunteers and is both appreciated and often overlooked!
  • Get to know them – volunteers like to be recognised in different ways. Not everyone wants a big public mention – get to know your volunteers to find out what matters to them and how you can recognise them appropriately (some people love to be acknowledged publically while others would prefer to be thanked privately).
  • Be consistent and timely – You might have volunteer recognition as part of your end of year events but make sure you are thanking people along the way – don’t leave it too long.
  • Lotto Sports Maker nominations – Use the Lotto Sports Maker programme to recognise your volunteers. As well as receiving a thank you, the volunteers go into regular draws to receive prizes. Find more information and nomination forms.
  • Always smile, say hello and thank you to your volunteers regularly
  • Send welcome letters when volunteers are first recruited
  • Include volunteers in organisational charts
  • Write letters and post cards of thanks to volunteers
  • Write letters of reference and include details of service
  • Ask their opinion and their feedback
  • Provide identification pins, badges, shirts or caps
  • Provide discounted memberships to volunteers
  • Acknowledge and profile volunteers in newsletters
  • Present volunteer awards at annual general meetings or awards ceremonies
  • Feature your volunteers at special events throughout the year (e.g., state championships, national league games, family days)
  • Provide complimentary tickets to volunteers for special events functions
  • Send get well, birthday and Christmas cards to your volunteers
  • Arrange discounts at local sport stores or restaurants for your volunteers
  • Have a volunteer-of-the-month award
  • Name events or facilities after long-serving volunteers
  • Award life memberships for long-serving volunteers
  • Reimburse out-of pocket expenses for volunteers
  • Acknowledge the efforts of volunteers during committee meetings
  • Hold special “thank you” or social functions in honour of volunteers
  • Present volunteers with a special memento recognising their service to the organisation
  • Farewell volunteers when they move away from the area or leave the organisation
  • Provide meal and petrol vouchers to volunteers
  • Arrange for free or discounted use of facilities
  • Present special awards for 1, 3, 5, 10, 15 and more years of service
  • Celebrate International Volunteers day – December 5.