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Jack Naylor Dunn urges more young people to get involved in volunteering

It was the first Swim England Winter Nationals for two years…and Jack Naylor Dunn, the North East Region Youth Forum Chairperson and British Swimming Technical Official, got to experience it first-hand while volunteering at the event. 

Jack, 16, became the youngest swimming official to attend a national competition and here gives a behind-the-scenes look at what life was like as a volunteer at the championships.

After stopping swimming in September last year, I was on a mission to make myself known in the swimming world, albeit not as an athlete.

So, after qualifying as a level 1 judge in October this year, when the opportunity to officiate at a national event arose, I was not going to miss it!

Thanks to a last-minute decision to use two short course pools, and the requirement for more officials, I was in! I arrived in Sheffield on Friday evening, collected my uniforms, volunteer pack and accreditation ready for an early start the next morning.

We were each provided with a white polo shirt (for officials) and/or a black polo shirt for event volunteers, a Swim England water bottle, Swim England clipboard, our very own clip-on tube of hand sanitiser and accreditation.

My Saturday began at 7am, too early for a weekend hotel breakfast, so I made the short walk from my hotel to the pool, signed in and waited for the action to begin.

The officials briefing was at 8.:15 am ready for a 9am start. Everything at nationals is finely detailed, from the timings and officials’ dress code, to the way they parade onto poolside.

Onto the pool deck we went…the day was formed of three shorter sessions with breaks and snacks in between each.

Lunch – jacket potato with a choice of fillings – was provided and it was a good opportunity to get to know some of the other officials and volunteers who had travelled from all across England!

The last heat session of the day finished mid-afternoon, then it was time to prepare for finals. I changed out of my whites and helped organise the pool deck.

It was a pleasure

For Saturday’s finals, I was lucky enough to be joined by six young volunteers – ranging upwards from seven-years-old – from the North East Region, along with four other young volunteers who all took well to the role of kit carriers.

Since the whole event is live-streamed, it is vital that everyone is presentable and follows the event procedures. The team did really well and appeared to enjoy themselves.

Not many can say they have volunteered at a national event featuring the likes of Matt Richards and Molly Renshaw, especially at seven-years-old! Due to a lack of accommodation, it was back home following the finals…

Sunday was a shorter day for me, catching the train over in the morning and arriving just after lunch. I assisted the event’s Field of Play team prep the pool deck for the finals then spent some more time getting to know my fellow volunteers (with complimentary flapjack)!

It was a pleasure to meet so many key figures in the world of swimming including the Swim England President Ian Mackenzie.

Unfortunately, a lack of volunteers in aquatics is becoming more and more prevalent to me as I attend more events and competitions.

Aquatics community pulled together

For Sunday’s finals session, there was only myself and another North East Young Leader volunteer as kit carriers – far too few to cover all 10 lanes at Ponds Forge!

Nevertheless, as always, the aquatic community pulled together with the Technical Director and a very willing security guard offering to help. The weekend finished with a medal ceremony, then pack down.

One Field of Play volunteer summed it up nicely: that these events are like swans – everything appears very graceful for the spectators and live stream but behind the cameras is a team of extraordinary people working very hard to ensure all of this could be possible.

I feel very lucky to be part of this team, but we need more people to join us! Hopefully, this has shown that age and experience is irrelevant in volunteering – everyone starts somewhere and anyone can be a volunteer!

Too many people leave their sport behind after quitting as a teenager but there are many ways you can still be involved with no set commitment or pressure to succeed.

There are many ways you can get involved with volunteering, whether it be within your club or becoming a swimming official.

If you would like to get involved with volunteering in aquatics, click on the image below to find out more or speak to your club’s volunteer coordinator…

Keen to support young volunteers

Claire Coleman, Swim England head of development, said: “I attended the Winter Nationals as a volunteer and it was great to see Jack on pool deck officiating. Jack has worked consistently to develop his officiating experience since making the decision to follow a volunteering pathway and it is really good to see how he has achieved that.

“His confidence is clearly building through the training and attending events. It was great to sit down at lunchtime and chat to Jack about his experience at the event.

“I was also able to work with Jack to support him with the young volunteers who were kit bearers. Jack knew a few of them but it was also great to see him supporting a few younger volunteers who stepped up to help at the last minute.

“Swim England is keen to support more young volunteers to get involved in officiating and leadership. We are looking forward to working with young people like Jack to understand the challenges young people face in joining a volunteering pathway.”