A guest blog for Volunteers’ Week, from AVM member Imo Greatbatch, Head of Volunteering at England Netball.
Last year I wrote a blog on the netball volunteer strategic journey and the silver-linings it presented to a grey COVID-19 cloud (read it here). This year I am being ‘braver’ (as Brené Brown would say), sharing a story a little closer to home… an insight into life as a leader supporting volunteers emerging from the pandemic, which also made me want to champion the value and importance of a simple ‘Thank You’.
I am hugely passionate about volunteering, people, and being a part-time working mum, but if I am totally honest with you, this has turned out to be one of the most challenging years of my life. I’ve cried in more meetings than I would professionally like to confess to, and experienced anxiety in ways that has been quite debilitating.
Why am I telling you this?
It is only in the past month that something has started to change, the balance is positively shifting (slowly) to experiencing more good days than tough ones and I thought sharing this might help others going through similar, know that it will get better.
In Netball we have over 3000 member organisations (Clubs, Leagues, Counties and Regions, Schools and Universities) catering for thousands of netballers. Women and girls who love being on court together. Most are powered by volunteers (defined as ‘someone who gives their time and talents freely to make netball happen and is not paid more than out of pocket expenses’).
As a National Governing Body (NGB), we have been focussed on equipping and empowering those restarting netball to build knowledge and confidence interpreting the government guidance, and developing a care package of support tools to enable them to manage and mitigate risk for the netball opportunities they organise.
Our jobs have not been as we knew them, we have all muscled in to do what we can, support each other and consistently reflect and re-evaluate, if what we are doing provides the best possible support to empower people to do this, to the best of their ability.
Volunteers have been incredible this year, dedicating significant hours reading ‘restart’ guidance, learning how to be a COVID-19 officer (over 2500 people have stepped in to fulfil this critical role), attend forums to listen and share experiences, all to ensure they can enable participants to access netball in the safest way possible.
I have started to do a weekly reflection, it inspired me to action my gratitude, by writing this blog to say a big Thank You to those who have supported me and more importantly, the volunteers I champion.
This volunteers week a few SPECIAL THANK YOU’s…..
- To all staff at England Netball for genuinely caring about supporting volunteers (and me) to help us get community netball back up and running.
- To fellow volunteer leaders/managers (within, and beyond sport), through the numerous forums we’ve been on together, you always inspire me. I have witnessed how you all give every ounce of energy you have, to supporting the volunteers, supporting your causes.
- Last and not least, to ALL volunteers (especially those in netball, obviously!) for supporting so many of us. We would not be able to do what we do without you, we will build back stronger from this because of the incredible partnership we have been re-building to empower you, support us, enrich lives through netball.
To finish, if you’re having a tough time, reach out for support. My biggest lesson learnt this year is the importance of putting ‘me’ first, to be my best for others. Reaching out for support was more helpful than the fear I felt of seeking it. Please make sure you look after you.
If you read this and think you’ve been able to access sport or, do something because of the time a volunteer has invested, don’t forget to say Thank You. It may seem simple (because it is!) but don’t underestimate how many forget, it’s crazy how big, and positive the difference it could make.