As we get ready to celebrate our volunteers during National Volunteer Week May 17 -23, it is important for us to remember why they are so vitally important to sport.

Did you know that an estimated 3.3 million Australians volunteer in the sport and active recreation sector each year? The estimated value of labour input by sport sector volunteers in Australia is $4 billion per year.

Volunteers contribute to the social and economic value of sport, especially at the community level. Many sports and sporting organisations would not be able to run without volunteers who fill many critical roles, including coach, official, manager, administrator, board, and committee member.

Volunteers also support major events, such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Commonwealth Games and events like the upcoming Australian Masters Games being held here in Perth in October.

The benefits for volunteers have been linked to positive mental, social, and physical benefits.

Firstly, volunteering appears to be intrinsically rewarding—when we help others, we tend to experience what researchers call a “warm glow.”

Second, volunteering is likely to help boost our sense of social connection which can be particularly important for older adults, volunteering can be a way to stay connected to others after retirement. Older volunteers often experience less depression and greater life satisfaction than non-volunteers.

Finally, volunteering can be a way to build professional skills and try out leadership opportunities, which is especially relevant to young adults.

The 2021 theme for the week is: Recognise. Reconnect. Reimagine. We should all take the time to:

RECOGNISE, celebrate, and thank volunteers for the vital role they play in making our communities stronger, especially during times of need, crisis, or isolation.

RECONNECT to what is important by giving our time to help others, our local community, or a cause we value.

REIMAGINE how we better support volunteers and the organisations they help so that they can continue to do the necessary work that they do.

Providing ongoing education and training opportunities, positive recognition, and other forms of support for volunteers, has been shown to dramatically improve volunteer recruitment and retention rates and make Australian sport more sustainable. So, what are you doing to celebrate and thank your volunteers?

For more information on National Volunteer Week here in Perth visit the Volunteering WA website.