Club Life: Safety First
26th June 2018
Every volleyball club needs people to take on roles to ensure the club runs properly. In our ‘Club Life’ series, we’ve been finding out what it is like to hold different roles and be part of a club committee. We’ve gone behind the scenes at Wapping Wildcats, a club that play in the London League, to speak to the people who make their club tick.
We’ve chatted the chair to hear about how to lead a club, the Wildcats' treasurer gave us the lowdown on controlling a club’s finances and in the previous instalment we found out what it is really like to be a club coach. In the final piece of the series, we hear from the Wapping’s Club Welfare Officer, Danielle Ferguson.
The role of a Club Welfare Officer is to promote safeguarding practices at the club and to be the named contact for anyone at the club to discuss any issues or concerns. It is crucial role in a club and there is a lot of information, including a safeguarding role description, how to report a concern and how to apply how DBS checks on the safeguarding section of the Volleyball England website.
Club Welfare Officer is a role which includes being part of the club committee to ensure safeguarding practices are part of everything the club does. It also means the role involves being part of the club’s general decision making and helping the club grow.
As a former chair and secretary, Danielle knows all about being part of the club committee. Here she explains what it is like in her current role of Club Welfare Officer…
What does being a Club Welfare Officer involve?
DF: My role is to ensure there is safeguarding in place for any young or vulnerable players we get. In our club, we have never really had a youth provision. However, last summer the London Volleyball Association (LVA) introduced this as a requirement so I was happy to take on the role, particularly as I have a lot of experience working with young people. It means if anything arises we are in a position to act.
What top tip would you give to someone taking on the same role at another club?
DF: I think the Club Welfare Officerrole is still fairly new so keeping abreast of any news and potential issues or challenges with engaging young people in volleyball is vital – that and ensuring you have provisions for vulnerable / less able people too. Also, remember to support and contribute to your team, your role doesn’t exist in a silo.
How much time do you put into your role per month?
DF: It really does depend – while my role is the Club Welfare Officer, all those in an official club role make up the committee. Therefore, there are commonly email discussions and meetings around issues and changes which arise throughout the season that the committee must act on. For the last few months I would say it’s been at least half a day a week, which can be quite full on when you work full time and have other commitments.
Why do you volunteer to help run your club and what attracted you to your particular role?
DF: Volleyball is a big part of my life. If I’m honest, I often try not to volunteer myself as I have a number of commitments outside of work and volleyball, but people always end up putting me forward for roles. I used to be the Club Chair and Secretary and unfortunately, had to step down at the end of the 2016-17 season because I didn’t have the time to devote to it.
How did you first get into volunteering for your club?
DF: What is hilarious is that I left my old club about four years ago and had been fixtures secretary there for years, so was hoping when I joined my new team that I could slip into the background. However, somehow my team figured out that I was organised and volunteered me as their fixtures secretary in the first Annual General Meeting (AGM) and the following year I was made Club Chair and Secretary.
What do you most enjoy about your role?
DF: I like being able to shape the development of the club, it has been going a long while but it is important to keep looking at how we’re running it and adapting to the changing environment, whether that may be dependent on venues, players, new league rules and requirements.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
DF: Venues are really hard to come by and very pricey – we pride ourselves on being an affordable team and sometimes this can be difficult to achieve with lots of expensive overheads!
Is there anything that Volleyball England could do to make your role at volleyball clubs easier?
DF: I think they are doing a lot already to be fair – although it would be great if they could get further discounts/special offers on a range of sports halls in London, or obtain a few venue spaces which they would be able to lend to clubs for a small fee.
In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve been using their website as much as I could, so I am pretty sure I am still widely unaware of the great stuff they have to offer the volleyball community.
What has been the highlight since you’ve been doing your role for Wapping Wildcats?
DF: For me it has been the engagement of more teams and a wider sense of the ‘club’. Historically we used to have a men’s and a women’s team, but we now have 4 teams (2 women’s teams and 2 men’s team) who until recently were operating almost independently but we are beginning to collaborate and work together much more. The Wapping Wildcats ladies coach Renato has been great in getting his team (Wapping Wildcats Men, Premier league) mobilised and more engaged with the wider club which has been great, particularly as they are doing so well in the league.
How important is the working relationship between the other volunteers at your club?
DF: It’s essential – everyone may not always have the same opinions and ideas but it is important that everything we do is for the good of the club. Sometimes discussions can get very heated as it is a subject we are all passionate about (we are volleyball enthusiasts after all!). However, we always manage to find a solution in the end.
Do you feel your work is appreciated by the other people at your club?
DF: Yes and no – I feel that those who don’t volunteer don’t really appreciate the time and effort that goes into what you’re doing, particularly as the Chair / Secretary of the club, and they often don’t see the issues or politics which can arise within a club when all they’re doing is turning up for training and games. However, people involved in the committee understand the time and effort that goes into it. Slowly but surely more players are starting to appreciate it a bit more though, so I am more willing to help out where I can, particularly with my own team.