Liz Walton is a Club Welfare Officer at her Go-Ride Club in Newcastle. She won the 2015 North East Volunteer of the Year Award at the Go-Ride conference in Durham and took a few minutes to tell us all about her role.
How did you first get involved in volunteering as a Club Welfare Officer?
My husband and I have been involved in cycling in the North East for about 25 years; organising road races and time trials. When a new children's club called Hetton Hawks was set up nearby, we went along to help out and in 2006 I was asked if I would be the club welfare officer. We then started to help out with Newcastle Phoenix in 2011 and with my previous experience as a welfare officer, I was asked to volunteer in this role again.
What does your volunteer role entail?
While I am not needed throughout the session, I am always there in case anything arises. The children know who I am and I am very approachable. I like to make sure that the children have the correct kit on in winter and hate to see bare skin, so am constantly telling the children to wear gloves and skin tights. During the winter I often pass my gloves over if the children don't have them, and in the summer I make sure they have a water bottle with them. I don't think you should be afraid to help out in this way: welfare is a role that is really important in a children's club but most of the time you aren't needed – which means you’re doing a good job.
What do you particularly enjoy about being a Club Welfare Officer?
It’s an important role but not one that needs to be overpowering. I help out on a weekly basis with the club and I have a great time: the kids are friendly and I feel as if I am helping in a small way. I organise Christmas activities and help with the club’s annual presentation evening too.
What skills do you feel are particularly important in order to be a Club Welfare Officer?
I think you need to be friendly, approachable, level headed and confident enough to handle sensitive situations. You should be able to speak out if you are not happy with something. For example, if the kids are standing around too long in the cold during a session, it could be that the session is a bit too long. And although knowledge of the sport is an advantage, it’s not essential to the role.
What training and support have you had in your role that has been particularly helpful?
When I first started I attended a Sports Coach UK workshop on welfare and read a lot of articles on the NSPCC website. I am fortunate to work with children so I update my safeguarding training every year at work, which is not necessary but helps.
For the last two years I have attended the Go-Ride conferences, which have a workshop aimed at club welfare officers. These are really interesting and give you the chance to meet other welfare officers in the region and share ideas. Last year I helped out with the Sainsbury’s School Games at Manchester Velodrome, and I will be helping out again this year as one of the safeguarding team.
Where do you go for support if you have a query?
If I ever have a query I contact Simon Thornton who is Compliance Manager at British Cycling. He is never too busy to chat and help with something that I may not have come across before.
You recently won the North East region Volunteer of the Year award at the Go-Ride Conference in Durham, how did it feel?
I felt very humbled to have been nominated by my club. I don't do what I do for recognition; I do it for the love of the sport.
Cycling is an ideal sport that anyone can do, so to play a part in helping a child enjoy themselves whilst they keep themselves fit and healthy is recognition enough. But I must admit, it is always nice for someone to appreciate you.