Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Neil's story: Pitching in at your local sports club is a rewarding experience

Neil Pringle is a Senior Regional Officer at Sport Wales. Sport for him isn’t just a nine-to-five job - it’s a passion. Because Neil also pitches in 12 hours a week at Clwb Rygbi Nant Conwy, volunteering as Junior Secretary, coach and committee member.

Based in the heart of the rural Conwy Valley, Clwb Rygbi Nant Conwy has 200 junior members with age group teams from 7-16, plus a youth team (Under 19) and a girls team, combining with the local secondary school. The club also has a first and seconds adult team, and an annual one off mixed fun tag competition.
This is Neil’s story... 
How did you get into the sport?
My son is reasonably sporty and I wanted him to become actively involved in sport and his community for sporting and social development. He joined several clubs; mountain biking, golf, football, Urdd and although he has stayed with a number of sports he developed a passion for rugby.
How did you get into volunteering?
The club’s junior section was just taking off when we joined in 2000, there being too few coaches to cope with the wide age range of players turning up each week. I put my name forward to do a coaching course, buddied up with another parent and took on the under eights. We have grown with the lads and girls and watched them develop from six year olds up into the youths at under 19s. Somehow or other I ended up being Junior Secretary. The rest is history... 
What do you enjoy the most about volunteering?
Taking a keen, enthusiastic youngster, passing on skill and knowledge (what little I have!) and watching the individual grow in so many different aspects; personal confidence, skill ,technical ability, socially, ability to make decisions, work as part of a team and performing on the competitive stage. Also being part of something much, much bigger, something you can’t buy or put a price on, which is being part of your community.
How is the club doing in terms of its achievements and what aims do the club have for the next 12 months?
In comparison to many clubs we are a young organisation (approx 40 years old). We are cash poor but community rich. Our facilities until very recently were pitiful. That has all changed. Recently we opened our own clubhouse at a cost of almost £420,000. The new facility includes a club shop for the kids, kitchen, dining room, function area and bar, along with a lick of paint to our existing changing rooms. This will be more than a rugby club. We are the only rugby facility in the Conwy Valley and the only rugby club in the county to offer a bilingual coaching and club environment, we are at the heart of the community.
Our plan is to increase membership by 30% in the next two years, the club facilities being the catalyst in drawing new recruits. We need to strengthen our coaching structure, bringing in more performance coaches. We also plan to improve and strengthen our girls and women’s teams to get to where we were 7-8 years ago (North Wales’ number one ladies’ team) with club players in the Welsh squad.
We have regional representatives for Eryri and North Wales at most age groups, and this year one of our under 18s was selected to join the national Welsh squad through the North Wales Academy. Our first team are current North Wales cup holders (2011) and North Wales Division One Runners Up.
Not bad for a ‘backwater’ rural set up!  ;)
What advice would you give to someone who would be interested in volunteering?
Just do it...the rewards are far greater than you would ever believe. Don’t be afraid to ask but be strong and clear in what you want to do. It’s not just about being a coach either. Clubs need all sorts of people with all sorts of skills.
In your opinion, how can we encourage more people to volunteer?
We need to ask people and make sure the volunteers are comfortable in what they are signing up to do.
Every club should have a brilliant front of house person to welcome new members and make people feel wanted. It’s the little things in life that count. If people are truly valued and can see the benefit of investing their time then they are more likely to put their hand up. A happy club member is a potential volunteer!
Clwb Rygbi Nant Conwy is looking for more volunteers like Neil. If you can help, please contact the club through their website at