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Reasons to get involved with sport volunteering

In 2022 the European Observatoire of Sport and Employment released a survey to find out more about sport volunteering and the challenges organisations such as local clubs and event companies, such as Run 4 Wales, are facing. This online survey was available in 18 languages, received nearly 3,000 responses and revealed that an estimated 12 million citizens freely give up their time to volunteer in sport. 

Here in the UK, the legacy of the 2012 Games Makers, as the London Olympic volunteers were known, lives on over ten years later.  The Olympics put a renewed focus of the role on sport volunteers, with a staggering 240,000 people applying to fill one of 80 different roles available. In the end, a volunteer force of 70,000 people was chosen to fulfil roles as diverse as Trampolining Safety Spotter and Airport Meet and Greet for athletes and officials.

While Run 4 Wales can’t compete with the Olympics in terms of the scope of volunteer roles available, we rely on the support of volunteers to fill over 100 vital positions for a 10K event day and over 500 positions for the Cardiff Half Marathon. As well as helping in a specific event day role, the Extra Miler team are the face of our events, clearly visible in their sky-blue t-shirts and making a big impact on runner’s enjoyment and experience at the event, as well as their safety and wellbeing. The Extra Milers can choose what volunteer role they do, from helping on the finish line, course marshalling or supporting the Runners Bag Drop area.

New to volunteering with R4W? All volunteer roles and a downloadable role description can be found on the R4W Volunteering Website.

A recent report on the impact of the cost of living crisis on grassroots community sport found that an annual £72bn of social value is delivered by community sport and physical activity via the improvement of health and wellbeing and contribution to community cohesion. In fact, most top athletes start their journey from one of these local clubs or organisations. By giving just a few hours of their time to support grassroots community sports, volunteers are helping to create the athletes of the future!

Volunteers are often vital to support and facilitate levels of activity locally and while a total of 8.8 million (19%) of adults in England have volunteered to support sport and physical activity at least once during 2021-22, this is still a decrease of 0.8 million compared to 2019-20.

It’s clear that volunteers can make a big impact on the sustainability of clubs, as well as the health and wellbeing of the communities they live in. Therefore it’s very worrying that clubs are reporting a drop in volunteer numbers, especially as recent data show that the overall number of people getting active has started to recover, after a declining participation rate as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

In fact, compared with the first-ever Active Lives survey (2015/2016) today there are 1.5 million more active adults in England. That’s 63.1% of the population who meet the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of doing 150 minutes, or more, of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.

Here in Wales, similar findings are reported with 56% of the population saying they did physical activity at least once in the previous 4 weeks and 34% of people say they participate in some type of physical activity three or more times a week.

It’s worth noting however that while this increase is fantastic, there are different levels of recovery across different sections of society, with women, young people and those from lower socio-economic groups and Black and Asian people still less likely to be active than other groups.

So why do people choose to volunteer in sports?

We know from our post-event Extra Miler surveys, which we invite all our volunteers to complete, that the top reasons for volunteering are to give something back, make new friends and to be part of the event and have a new experience.  We collated our 2022 data and found that 30% of Extra Milers volunteer to be part of the event and 28% to give something back. 

It is generally known that volunteering promotes mental wellbeing and even that as the frequency of volunteering increases (from not all, to now and again, to once a week) wellbeing scores increase too.

Sports volunteering can be a particularly emotional and satisfying experience, whether it’s helping out at your local football or cricket club, supporting a R4W event or volunteering at a national mass participation event such as the Commonwealth Games.

Our volunteers have said:

 “I had the best time and I got to meet new people. Also, it was really uplifting to be able to support the runners and watch everyone finish even if they couldn’t run the whole thing”


“I love encouraging runners/friends and it’s a way of paying back to the community”


“Great opportunity to learn new things and meet new people! Also, amazing time supporting everyone and just being a smiling face”


Volunteers at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games talk of wanting to be involved in such iconic events, be part of the experience even if it’s not as an athlete and wanting to represent their city or country at an event that will attract many new visitors.

Here at R4W we see our biggest first-time volunteer representation at the Cardiff Half Marathon, which for many has become an iconic annual Cardiff event attracting thousands of runners and spectators to the city. Many people who have never volunteered before, whether at a R4W event or elsewhere, just want to be part of the event, represent their community and share the excitement and jubilation of runners. Volunteer Coordinator Tor says that for the Extra Milers the event passes in a flash, as volunteers say they have so much fun, with the only drawback that their faces ache from smiling and cheering so much!

For Extra Milers who have volunteered throughout the summer the Cardiff Half represents the end-of-season finale on the R4W event calendar, a chance to finish the year with a huge event, surrounded by friends they have made along their volunteering journey, receiving huge satisfaction from what they say is a rewarding and uplifting experience.

So what are you waiting for?!

Find a local club to volunteer at, sign up as a R4W Extra Miler or visit Volunteering Wales to look at other volunteering opportunities.

Volunteer sign-up is open now for Ogi Porthcawl 10K (2nd July), ABP Barry Island 10K (6th August) and CDF 10K (3rd September). R4W are looking to recruit up to 150 Extra Milers for each event to support around 5,000 runners. We also have opportunities for groups to get involved by hosting a water station or marshalling a section of the course.

Email our Volunteer Coordinator Tor to find out more:

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