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Volunteer Case Study | Clare Heath

“I can honestly say that my time spent as a Touch Rugby volunteer has been incredibly enjoyable and rewarding, but also hard work. Volunteering has given me a sense of belonging and also a great feeling of pride not just in my club but towards the game.”  

I think that my Touch Rugby volunteer story is quite different to most as I have never actually played Touch, not once. I stumbled across the sport when looking for an activity locally to give my then 13 year old son an outlet for his energy. As a keen union player both at school and club level he was active until around May when the rugby season came to an end.

The club that we found, Northampton COYS Touch Club had a minimum age requirement of 14 years at the time. After a little persuasion and my promise to remain on site at all training sessions, Will began to train and play Touch. The fact that I was pitch side at every session without a role as a coach or referee made it very easy for me to put my hand up to help out when needed. The more Will played and developed, the more we both enjoyed our Touch Rugby experience.

After the first few months, one of Will’s new team mates “Whimpers” suggested he attend regional trials so we started to head further afield for trials and training. Will was proud to be selected as a Southern Maverick and I was happy to drive him from our home in Northampton to training sessions as far away as Canterbury. I started to bring along my camera to take a few photos to pass the time and very soon after was photographing the whole team in action and sharing images with the other parents.

As with most amateur clubs, there is a small group of volunteers who work behind the scenes to keep everything ticking over. I decided to become one of them at Northampton COYS Touch Club by joining the committee and starting to contribute more.

The photographs I started taking of Will became photographs of the whole team in action, the photography then became film and I became a regular fixture at tournaments with my video camera. The more tournaments I attended with the team the more I tried to improve the team experience for everyone. We found some folding benches that the team could sit on together and brought along a big speaker to play music to add to the atmosphere. The more we did, the more fun it became. I would spend hours after a tournament, editing and piecing together highlights of each game for the players to look back on. As Will improved as a player, Regional became National and our new 'Touch family' grew. Travelling away from home for Touch fixtures for me would also mean the chance to catch up with new friends from all over the country so it was always a pleasure.

My involvement with Northampton COYS Touch Club has continued to grow. In addition to providing photographs and film of the club members in action I now run the club’s social media adding content to the Facebook page and website when I can plus posting to Twitter and Instagram.

I  have become the contact point for new members wishing to play Touch and chat with them through what we can offer as a club. I have helped the club update the playing kit and sourced a local supplier who is able to provide both off field and on field sportswear.  The club members have also enjoyed a few social events such as a Race Night, Football World Cup Competition, Love Island Sweepstake and Lucky Boxes Draw which all came about after I thought I had too much time on my hands! One of my favourite events was the club’s black tie 2018 Awards Night at which we all sat back and enjoyed some Oscar worthy film clips before each of our winners was announced. Luckily the media side of things was all pre-prepared as I also catered a three-course meal for nearly fifty people without the use of a kitchen at our then training venue.  

I can honestly say that my time spent as a Touch Rugby volunteer has been incredibly enjoyable and rewarding, but also hard work. I am a believer in you get out what you put in and I feel that my efforts are very much  appreciated and that I am part of a great team. I have spent some incredibly happy days pitch side, in all weathers, which more than makes up for the endless hours of driving to different venues. I have met some amazing people, from all walks of life and of all ages, who I now consider my friends. 

Volunteering has given me a sense of belonging and also a great feeling of pride not just in my club but towards the game. It’s great when we can celebrate a team win, but it is perhaps even better when one of our players takes to the field in their first tournament and makes their first touch.   

In most cases I think that someone's love of the game would lead them to help out..for me, helping out has led me to love the game!

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