The work of SportsLeaders UK - Big Society in action

Despite having worked in the sport and recreation industry for seven years I still feel like a relat...

Despite having worked in the sport and recreation industry for seven years I still feel like a relative newcomer. I studied sports administration to degree level and received my break in the industry when I started working for the Sport and Recreation Alliance (then the CCPR) in 2005 as a sports policy intern. However, it was as a 16 year-old that I gained my first sports qualification, the Community Sports Leadership Award through an offshoot of the Alliance, SportsLeaders UK (then the British Sports Trust). The award gave me a sense of achievement and confidence that very few, if any, other qualifications, sporting or otherwise, have since provided. Without doubt it influenced my decision to work in the industry that I’m now fortunate enough to be employed in.

Nearly 30 years after the formation of the British Sports Trust, SportsLeaders UK accredit nearly 200,000 leadership qualifications per year. I wonder how many others employed in the sports industry started with the Community Sports Leadership Award?

With all of this in mind it was with a significant sense of pride and a little bit of nostalgia that I attended my first board meeting as a non-exec committee member of the SportsLeaders UK Foundation last week. Learning more about the Foundation's aim to deliver leadership awards to those individuals who might not be able to access these qualifications through traditional channels means the Foundation is reaching out to ensure the good work started in the 1980s continues today.

We all know that sport has to compete with other activities for peoples' leisure time. Because so many now interact with their PlayStation 3 or iPhone 4 rather than their local sports club leaves many clubs struggling for members and volunteers. It was therefore surprising to hear that nearly 100,000 newly qualified SportsLeaders struggle to find further opportunities to volunteer in sport. There’s clearly an army of educated, enthusiastic and motivated individuals keen to volunteer in their community, but there seems to be a problem in pairing them with local sports clubs. This problem needs to be addressed, and the forthcoming Sport and Recreation Alliance’s report into the regulatory burden placed on sports clubs, Red Card to Red Tape, will hopefully go some-way to showing how.

Whilst on the subject of volunteering I have a suggestion for the coalition Government. It has struggled to define The Big Society and I think that it needs to use tangible examples of what it means. In my mind it should look no further than the work done by the SportsLeaders and by sports volunteers in general. Here it will find people giving their time to the community in an enthusiastic and beneficial way.

If you’re interested in finding out more about SportsLeaders or how your sport could benefit, email Linda Plowright - she'd be delighted to talk you through it.

Richard Norman
Business and Membership Development Officer at the Sport and Recreation Alliance and non-exec committee member of the SportsLeaders UK Foundation