One of the issues that many people seem to forget is that the majority of grassroots sports (not just cycling) are run by a relatively small number of volunteers. Unless there is an increase in people offering to volunteer, there is always only going to be a fixed number of opportunities available. That means that the numbers in the sport remain stagnant. However, the main reason people cite as not wanting to get involved more is because they are too busy with other things (including training and working). In this blog post, we look at the benefits of getting involved.
There's much talk at the moment about emotional intelligence (your "EQ") and how you need to be able to develop your EQ if you want to succeed in life. When you offer to volunteer, it doesn't mean that you have to go to the extremes of setting up your own cycling club, but offering to help with a certain aspect of how your team or club is run not only shows that you are engaged with what they are trying to achieve, but it also helps you to develop skills that you will need to progress. For example, offering to assist with your team's social media accounts will give you responsibilities and will help you understand about interacting with people; or if your team or club is promoting an event, offer to help out - a key skill on anybody's CV is "being a team player" and what better way to demonstrate that at an interview than having a real life example?
One of the biggest reasons people give for not being able to get involved and volunteer is that they don't have the time, which is when you hear a big klaxon sounding in the background signalling that the person in question doesn't have any time management skills. I get that different roles require different levels of involvement, but saying that you couldn't possibly write a blog article once every few weeks or marshal at one event a season, are you really that busy? Unless you're a State figurehead (such as the US President or the UK Prime Minister), I guess the answer is that you're not. Offering a small amount of your spare time to help out your club or team helps you to develop time management skills that come in handy in life. Most people usually have a number of things going on at the same time (it's called "life"), so the sooner you can learn to allocate your time efficiently, the easier it will become. It is most definitely true when they say that if you volunteer your time, you feel like you have more time.
Newsflash! Most people don't necessarily like going to work - you might not like what you do during the day, you might not like who you work with/for, you might think you're underpaid and overworked - but if you have other things outside of work to focus on, it can help reduce stress and make your day go quicker if you have something to look forward to doing. There is research to suggest that volunteering helps combat depression and it makes you feel good about yourself because you are giving something back. Win win!
You contribute to developing your sport
As I mention above, if the same five people organise all the races, knowledge isn't really shared and the sport doesn't grow. Grassroots cycling seems to be run by a relatively small group of volunteers and it can be difficult to break down barriers and get involved. Unfortunately, this is where the grassroots scene doesn't help itself as people who are keen to help out soon get disillusioned by the barriers put up and walk away. Instead, we should be welcoming these individuals in and asking them what they would like to do to help out. Ultimately, many people think that organising anything is too much like hard work, but if you get involved in helping out at your club event, you will learn that it isn't actually that difficult and it is actually a really rewarding thing to do.
Note of caution
There are a few things that you should bear in mind if you are thinking about volunteering in cycling:
- Don't be fooled into thinking that everybody involved in cycling is earning money out of it. There is very little money to be made in grassroots competition and most people volunteer for the love of the sport not because they are trying to earn a wage. If making money is your reason for getting involved, don't bother, as you will only come away disappointed.
- As a well-known supermarket says, every little helps, and this is true for volunteering in sport too. Being a volunteer doesn't have to mean that you have to take over your club! Instead, work out what time you can afford to spend on helping out and stick to it as far as possible. If you do too much, it will have the opposite effect and will become too stressful, which then means that you won't enjoy it.
- As volunteers tend to be fairly hard to come by, make sure you manage the expectations of others involved - if you are keen to help out but are not sure that you will be able to do much due to other constraints on your time, say so - don't offer to do something that you are likely to drop after six weeks as that doesn't help anybody.
Finally, just because you race, that doesn't mean that you can't offer to help out once in a while. After all, if everybody did that, there wouldn't be any racing...