The staff at the Irish FA are no different, and starting this month www.irishfa.com will be speaking to a current member of staff within the Football Development Department to assess their volunteering background and interests, and also their current volunteering roles within Northern Ireland football.
This month the staff/volunteer focus spotlight shines on Heather Kerr. Heather is the Irish FA’s Primary School Coach in the Down Area and knows from her own experience, the value and journey of a hard working volunteer.
How did you get involved within football as a volunteer?
I always enjoyed playing and watching football. I started helping with the mini soccer centre run by my local club Comber Rec when I was around 16 years old. This would have been my first volunteer role and since then I have always been involved in volunteering somewhere within local football – at Comber Rec, Northland Raiders (the first women’s team I played for) or various roles within the IFA.
What made you want to volunteer?
My Dad was coaching the senior men’s team at Comber Rec at the time I started volunteering, so I guess I have him to blame. Once I started I realised how much I enjoyed working with the kids and helping to provide a safe and fun environment for them to play football in.
How did volunteering help you on a personal and professional level?
Volunteering has played a massive part in my life since I first got involved. On a personal level, I have made many friends who I know I can call on if needed, and have had some amazing experiences over the years. I have had some fantastic opportunities to travel through volunteering – I spent a week in Israel coaching in a cross community project through Football for Peace.
On a professional level I have developed good social and communication skills as well as confidence in working with groups, speaking in front of people all of which have helped me greatly in my work. Volunteering in football, and specifically in various IFA programmes I believe gave me valuable experience and insights which alongside my qualifications, eventually helped me to get a full time position working in football – a job which I love!
What have you learned from volunteering?
Volunteering has taught me a lot – as well as the skills already mentioned, it can be very rewarding to see the difference that you can make by giving up some of your free time and making a little effort. Probably everyone who’s played football in Northern Ireland has benefitted from someone volunteering to provide opportunities for them – all the teams, clubs, leagues etc… couldn’t exist without volunteers.
What’s your best volunteer memory?
In 2005 I was a volunteering within some projects that the IFA Community Relations team were running, one of which was at The England Match. I was handing out flyers and assisting pre-match and was then fortunate enough to have access into the stadium. It was amazing to be part of the build-up for such a huge match, and then part of the celebrations with all the fans after.
Would you recommend volunteering?
Yes, definitely! So many people take the work done by volunteers for granted, but as well as giving something back, there are lots of personal benefits. We need volunteers on and off the pitch – there is a role for everyone.
In one sentence, why should people volunteer within Northern Ireland football?
Because Northern Ireland football wouldn’t happen without volunteers.
Do you still volunteer?
Yes, I still volunteer in a range of different roles, as well as working for the IFA. I coach both youth and senior level at Comber Rec Ladies, as well as being the secretary at the club working on the admin side of things. I am also on the main committee of Comber Rec which keeps me busy helping out with a wide range of activities within the club and the community.
Tell us a fun fact about you?
I would never have met my husband if he hadn’t volunteered in football!
Volunteering is a key target in our new Let Them Play Youth Strategy. To find out more about volunteering contact Stephen Garrett, Irish FA Volunteer Development and Policy Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07545930124.