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Dispelling myths

How you engage potential volunteers- from what you say, how you say it and the process they have to go through to become a volunteer- are all really important considerations which will help increase the chances of them agreeing to give their time.  

Ensuring the safety of participants is of paramount importance and it is vital that safeguarding checks and training are undertaken where necessary, and that coaches are qualified to the levels stipulated by their governing body.

However, we know that many people are put off volunteering in sport because they think that they don’t have the right skills or qualifications or they have to undertake a range of courses and checks.

In fact, this is not necessarily the case, with many factors influencing what is, or is not required, including the role or task you are undertaking, who you would be engaging with and even the frequency which you undertake that role. 

Myth 1: all volunteers need to undergo a DBS check

A DBS is a criminal record check. It helps employers of paid or volunteer staff to make safer recruitment decisions and determine a person’s suitability for a role.  

The level of checks required will depend on: 

  • The level of contact with young people or adults at risk 
  • Whether the role involves instruction/guidance  
  • The frequency of the interaction with young people or adults 

Some roles, such as the Welfare or Safeguarding Officer will need to undertake the Enhanced DBS check.

For other roles, which entail no unsupervised contact or direct responsibility for children and young people e.g. serving the teas in the club house, or occasionally helping umpire a junior tennis match, a DBS check is not essential, but we would encourage a Self-Declaration to be undertaken as a minimum as part of your organisation’s safer recruitment process. 

Read our guidance on safeguarding essentials.

Myth 2: all volunteers need to complete detailed safeguarding training

Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and all those who have a role to play in supporting clubs to operate need to ensure that children and adults are supported and protected from physical and mental harm.

There are different levels of safeguarding training and choosing the right one will depend on many factors, including the role or task you are undertaking, who you would be engaging with and the frequency which you undertake that role. 

Undertaking safeguarding training is essential for some roles, such as Welfare Officer, or Coach.  However, for roles where there is no, or minimal contact with children and/or adults at risk and no responsibility for instruction, then safeguarding training is not essential.   

However, you should encourage all your key volunteers to make the most of the resources available to them, so they know what is unacceptable behaviour and how to report it if they feel something isn’t right. 

Read our guide to safeguarding essentials. 

Myth 3: anyone helping at a coaching session needs to be a qualified coach 

There are really important distinctions that can be made at a coaching session between 'helpers' and a coach, which determines whether someone needs to have a coaching qualification or not.

You should check with your national governing body, but for the majority of people who want to help out at a coaching session, as long as they are not undertaking coaching, they do not need to have a coaching qualification.

This is a great way to engage new volunteers who are happy to help support the activity of the lead coach (under supervision), or to help provide a positive environment for participants, without needing to find the time or money to pay for a qualification. 

Myth 4: you need to be sporty and know the technical rules 

Many people believe you have to be sporty and have technical knowledge of the sport to be a volunteer and Join In's Making Time report found this was particularly the case for women.

In fact, besides formal coaching and officiating, the majority of volunteering roles within a club simply require people who want to make a difference, care about the club, and have something to offer- whether that is time, skills, experience or expertise.

There are lots of exciting ways someone can support the club, irrespective of their personal interest or understanding of the sport. From social media, photography and website development, to catering, community engagement and helping to provide a positive experience to the youth teams; everyone has something to offer.