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“I’m game!” – SUMS reviews motivation of volunteers in sport

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What was the incentive for 2012’s London Olympics voluntary games makers? Why do people take time to coach sport for free? When are you most likely to volunteer for a local organisation?

Dr Geoff Nichols from the Management School was recently commissioned by Sport England; which aims to promote sports participation and sports volunteering; to review the motivations of people who volunteer in sport.

Geoff and his team, including Management School PhD students Caroline Knight and Helen Mirfin-Boukouris, reviewed over 130 existing academic papers and research reports – the first time this type of review has combined research from sport with volunteering. They were able to examine the motivations of sports volunteers in different roles and also gain an understanding of how these roles change throughout people’s lives as a result of their values, circumstances and experience.

The review’s findings identify that motivations to volunteer are complex and varied – participants’ volunteering could be influenced by their personality, values, identity and resources; relationships and social networks; groups and organisations which they’re a part of; their environment; and wider societal and global factors. The team identified a particular gap in research around sports volunteering in universities.

There’s significant potential for further research in the area as well as impact, as the review will help Sport England develop a volunteering strategy in response to a request from the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Following the department’s 2015 publication, ‘Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation’, the Government are keen to diversify and increase numbers of people volunteering in sport and have tasked Sport England with publishing a new volunteering strategy for sport and physical activity in 2016 – work by Geoff and his team will inform this.

Geoff and Caroline recently presented a summary of their review to representatives of national governing bodies in sport at a meeting at the English Institute of Sport. Geoff will also discuss the work at the next meeting of the Sport Volunteering Research Network in London.


Click here to read the full report (Nichols, G., Hogg, E., Knight, C., Mirfin-Boukouris, H., Storr, R. and Uri, C. (2016) Motivations of Sport Volunteers in England: a review for Sport England.)


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