Maximising the power of sport volunteering to grow young leaders

Ali Oliver

Ali Oliver is the Youth Sport Trust’s chief executive and has worked in education and sports development for 20 years. Her previous roles include deputy director of sport and director of netball at the University of Bath, head of PE at Millfield School and PE teacher in Essex.

Volunteers are the heartbeat of British sport at all levels, from grassroots through to the elite. So we must help inspire, build and prepare the next generation to take up the baton. Their voice has the power to transform the sports experience offered by schools and the attitudes of their peers.

Taking the lead

Volunteering is an important way of enabling young people to take on the leadership roles that are so important in developing life skills, confidence and an understanding of citizenship. These activities contribute to the social and emotional wellbeing of young people, as well as building resilience, encouraging creativity and raising academic achievement.

Are you interested in why people actually volunteer, and how that’s changing?

Are your volunteers from the ‘me’ generation or interested in civil good?

Join us at Evolve 2015 to find out more about the changing face of volunteering in our strategic workshop, S5, facilitated by Justin Davis Smith.

For twenty years developing the leadership skills of young people has been a core strand of Youth Sport Trust’s work. Initially we focussed on how to develop personal and leadership skills through PE and school sport. But, as young people have become more empowered,  young sports leaders have become a more powerful force for change.

Youth-led transformation in sport

Youth-led movements like Young Coaches and Officials, Young Ambassadors, PE Change Teams and Girls Active are all driving the transformation and modernisation of PE and sport in our schools. Our Young Ambassador programme is also particularly noteworthy. Funded by the Department for Education, it develops young people as advocates and influencers. They are  role models; they embody the Olympic and Paralympic Values and use their personal leadership skills to increase opportunity and participation in PE and sport. Being involved has a positive impact on them too. Our evaluation shows that 85% of Young Ambassadors felt the programme had improved their communication skills.

Young-people understand the motivations of their peers. This is illustrated by our Girls Active programme, which develops young girls as leaders equipping them to:

  • help other girls tackle negative attitudes around body image
  • improve attitudes towards PE
  • work with schools to make sport more relevant to girls’ lives.

In a twelve month pilot girls who are happy with the way their body looks more than doubled from 25% to 56% and the number of girls who looked forward to PE lessons increased from 38% to 71%. It demonstrates the huge potential of youth-led programmes and we are now looking to build on this alongside our partners Sport England and Women in Sport.

Developing more opportunities for young people

Influencing organisations that host volunteers in order to develop opportunities for young people is vital to the success of what we do.

Through 20 years of experience we have developed a unique way of maximising the power of sport to grow young leaders – supporting their personal development and progress at school, as well as preparing them for the challenges of life ahead.  We support young people to develop a range of positive character qualities: creativity, aspiration, resilience and empathy.

Our commitment to the youth of today, and the leaders of tomorrow, remains strong.

Want to find out more?

I will be exploring in more detail how the face of volunteering is changing for young people during the ‘From civic core to social action: The changing face of volunteering’ workshop (strategic workshop S5) at the NCVO Evolve conference this June.

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