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Swansea Harriers Volunteer Army : Friday Feature

03/06/2022 00:00, I Mewn Blog / Club Notice Board / Track & Field /

Swansea Harriers has the largest group of club officials in Wales – with over 50 Officials linked with club. They also have around 100 coaches, club committee, helpers and team managers.

With their dedicated volunteer officials that help the club fulfil its commitments in all its league, cup and championship fixtures, home and away, on and off track throughout the year. Emma Spacey is the Clubs Officials Coordinator and is the main point of contact for any new volunteer officials and all our existing officials.

This is what Emma had to say…

How did you first get involved with the club as a volunteer?

My older children were both competing for the club and, like all parents I was asked if I could help out, Andrew Jenkins who was lead coach for the Junior section, was very persuasive. At the time I was going to events anyway so I thought I might as well be useful. I also wanted to support the club as I was aware of how much support my own children had been given.

What does your coordinator role include? How do you recruit and support new volunteers?

As officials secretary at Swansea Harriers, I need to ensure enough officials show up to all our events. We need an army of officials to ensure our club can compete and having qualified officials present mean that all the results can go on Power 10 (really important to the athletes) and we get points (which we like as a club). I’d say my role is to keep asking! I understand people are busy but any support anyone can give is gratefully received. I hope to convince people that even being able to work one or two events a year can make the difference - and show how quickly you can go up the officials pathway if that’s what you want.
What is your club culture like? How do you keep your club volunteers coming back?

I think we are fortunate that we have been able to see so many of youngsters progress at Swansea and compete at a high level. Most recently seeing Joe Brier at the Olympics this year. That kind of thing motivates athletes and it’s a nice feeling for the volunteers to feel they had a part in that journey. For one of my own daughters, getting to compete for Wales was one of her proudest moments and her experiences led to taking a place on the sportswear design course at The London College of Fashion. Next year, she will be in Germany working for PUMA - although she doubts she’s be able to find a hammer coach she likes as much as her Swansea one! So, I still volunteer because of what being part of Swansea Harriers meant for my child - and that’s the same for many parents or grandparents who continue to volunteer even if their children no longer compete.
What is your greatest experience as a volunteer so far?

There are some fantastically friendly volunteers at Swansea - and throughout Wales. And the best days are sometimes when the weather is against you, the equipment is not quite what was expected and yet still you manage to run a successful competition and ensure everyone can compete, by working as a team and supporting each other. Then, you get to see those people again when the sun is shining and have a laugh about the way you survived the not so sunny days.

Team Spacey - Swansea Harriers Officials


Another familiar face within the club is Catherine Collins the Clubs Volunteer Coordinator. As well as supporting the club in other roles such as official, team manager, coach and club committee. Here is what Catherine had to say…

How did you first get involved with the club as a volunteer?

I started volunteering with Swansea Harriers not long after my daughter joined as a 9-year-old in 2013.  I was an athlete in the dim and distant past and wanted to give something back to the sport that I had enjoyed when I was young. I started by helping at competitions by raking the sandpit and collecting implements.  As my daughter started her athletic life as a sprinter I would generally be at competitions all day as she would be involved in the first and last events and I wanted to give myself something to do. I am now the U15 Girls team manager, level 2 field judge, assistant timekeeper, coach and committee member.  

What does your coordinator role include?  How to do recruit and support new volunteers?

I took on the coordinator role during Covid when it we needed even more volunteers to help bring the sport back to a degree of normality.  I am lucky that we have an officials’ secretary and coach co-ordinator within the club so I would assess my main role as seeking to persuade as many people as possible to consider taking up volunteering opportunities within the club.  

My main approach in gaining new volunteers is to speak to parents of young athletes to explain the benefits of volunteering and the need for volunteers in putting on the sport.  Our aim as a club is to return to having parent’s meetings at the beginning of each term so explain the structure of the club and the available volunteering roles.
Each role within the club requires different skill sets.  Our coaching volunteers are generally recruited from athletes (current and those who have recently ‘retired’) and from the parents of our junior groups.  We encourage them to join the sessions to rake the pits, replace the bars on the high jump and to help keep the children engaged.  As they take to that role we then encourage them to progress their journey by going on a coach assistant course.  Our coaching assistants have the support and guidance of the coach during the sessions.

With the track and field officials we try to recruit from the parents/ grandparents of the children who are competing.  If we can get a large number of willing parents whilst the children are in the lower age groups we find that those parents will stay volunteering whilst their child progresses to the upper age groups and, quite often, we retain them after their child has left the sport.  We are lucky within the club to have a large number of qualified officials who are patient and able to explain the role to the parents when they offer their help.  I find that if a parent has had a positive experience whilst judging they are more likely to offer their support on another occasion.  
Team managing is another skill and we try to recruit from the parents of the children who are competing regularly.  New team managers always have the support of those more experienced and with the back up from the coaches and committee to help them fill teams.

What is your club culture like?  How do you keep your club volunteers coming back?

I personally think that the culture within Swansea Harriers is very good. We have a large number of dedicated volunteers who frequently give their time and experience to benefit the club as a whole.  Everyone who I deal with wants the club to succeed and are willing to do what they can in whatever way to help achieve that goal.  I feel that there is a good camaraderie between the groups of volunteers that we have.  Again speaking personally the reason that I come back is because I can see the enjoyment in the children’s faces when they come to training sessions and I can sense the confidence that they gain when improving on their skills.  
Recognising and appreciating the time spent by volunteers is important to keeping them coming back and I like to think that the club and the athletes are extremely appreciative of the hard work that goes behind the scenes to put together training and competition opportunities to the athletes.

What is your greatest experience as a volunteer?

This is a very difficult question to answer.  To see young athletes improve (to whatever extent) is hugely rewarding as a coach and something which I get a great deal of pleasure from.  Also seeing the athletes come together as a team to support each other in the different events as a team manager is a real bonus to the role.  
Some of the athletes that I started coaching as primary school athletes are now starting to receive junior and senior Welsh vests and I believe that I will follow their careers as they progress further through the sport.  Hand on heart, though, the main reason that I volunteer to the extent that I do is the grassroots side of the sport.  To have an athlete smiling from ear to ear because they’ve just got a PB in the long jump whether it is a 2m or a 5m jump is worth the time commitment that is volunteering in the sport.  One of my favourite memories is running about 4 relay teams after a grassroots competition in Swansea where nearly all of the girls that I was team managing wanted to run.  


Catherine pictured below Swansea Harriers won Club of the Year in 2021.


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