June Swimming Times: How can parents support swimming volunteers?

20 May 2011

In June’s Swimming Times, former PR officer for the Borough of Stockton Swim Scheme Gordon Bruce examined changing attitudes towards volunteers in the swimming community.

Swimming provides fantastic opportunities for youngsters to develop as people and provides them with a huge amount of enjoyment.

I fear, however, there is a risk of a dependency culture developing, where participants are reliant on a hardcore of volunteers together with dwindling public funding support.

A shortage of active and motivated volunteers could limit the opportunities for future generations and the swimming community must address why so many who do volunteer soon give up.

While some conflict in any social system is inevitable, eradicating the back-biting and faction-forming culture that exists in some swimming clubs should be top of the list.


One of the challenges in swimming is how best to balance support for the small percentage of highly-talented athletes who have the potential to compete at the top of the sport against the needs of the wider group of committed participants.

At the other end of the scale, clubs also have to deal with youngsters (and their parents) making the difficult decision to give up and turn their energies to something else.

The process of working through these and other challenges is often at the root of friction among people within clubs and between clubs themselves. This is most damaging when the resulting conflict acts to discourage volunteers.

Within any organisation, there are going to be disagreements and diverse opinions, but it is important that issues are discussed, argued and debated in an appropriate way which is supported by the club environment.

Increased expectations

The provision of additional public funding in recent years has been much welcomed by the sport. It has enabled the ASA to develop a good support framework for the development of swimmers and clubs across the country.

However, this seems to have come with an increased expectation and reliance on the ‘services’ provided by clubs and a decline in the sense of responsibility that participants and their parents feel for actively supporting their clubs.

This seems to have led to a ‘complain and blame’ culture aimed at the volunteers who do step in to help. Yes, organisations need to accept constructive feedback, but I’ve seen many cases where what they have experienced has been far from constructive.

Volunteers in key roles often feel overburdened, taken for granted and expected to pick up things which other people give up or don’t do.

To read the full article, buy the June edition of the Swimming Times now.

Are you interested in volunteering?

To find out how you can get involved or just read more about the role of volunteers within the ASA, head to our Volunteering section now.

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