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Mark Birkett is Swim England SW Volunteer of the Month

Team Bath AS consider Mark Birkett to be a ‘star’ volunteer after taking on the role of Volunteer Coordinator for the club several years ago. As we know Swim England sees this role as vital for any club’s survival and this is certainly the case when it comes to managing the volunteers' experience.

Mark Birkett

Part of Mark’s role is to ensure the smooth running of the Club's Open meet competitions by recruiting and co-ordinating volunteers. These competitions enable swimmers to gain qualification times for county, regional and national Championships and clubs attend from all over the country.

Mark assigns volunteers to tasks and is well organised and approachable and last season organised the volunteers at the Club's four meets (September, November, February and June). Since the start of this season there have already had two large meets, a Level 4 Sprint and Relay Invitational meet in September at Horfield and a Level 2 meet with the Club's new meet partner, Millfield, on 18-20 October.

All the volunteers for these competitions are members of Team Bath AS and Mark must ensure that he recruits new members and retains existing volunteers. Mark is part of the Team Bath AS Open meet team that plan the meet, timings, numbers, refreshments and officials and Team Bath AS has a relatively small membership. In terms of figures to cover a 3 day meet that means filling p to 140 volunteer sessions per meet. And the competitions often run from 8am to 7pm and require extra time for setting up and tidying up.

Planning enough volunteers takes an enormous amount of energy and dedication to ensure all jobs are filled and that volunteers have a good experience so that they will be happy to volunteer again. This is where Mark excels as he is a confident and effective communicator, enthusiastic and a good motivator. He will take on any volunteer role and makes sure everyone is aware of what they are doing, giving clear instructions in advance and buddying volunteers until they are more experienced.

He allocates time slots and provides job descriptions, meets and greets people and teams and more importantly, he values the volunteers with thanks in person and by emails.

The Volunteer Coordinator job has a heavy workload and time commitment. You need to resolve problems, be fair to people and communicate well and deal with pressure. If any of you have done this role, you will know that is it not a job for the faint hearted. You know a job is done well when Mark can confidently pass the role to another volunteer to take charge if he cannot attend a session.

Our Volunteers are able to be recognised by swimmers and parents because they are all wearing the club T-shirts. They can easily be approached for information and answer questions. It also helps Mark’s volunteers to feel part of a team and valued for providing an excellent level of professionalism whilst providing a significant increase in profile for the club.

Mark is also a qualified Team Manager having attended both Team Manager 1 and 2 training and has a Safeguarding and Protecting Children certificate. He will coordinate the club’s volunteers for County and Regional Championships with the Competition Secretary.

This was a message sent to the Club's Meet Promoter at their most recent meet with Millfield: ‘I have just made it home after what has been an outstanding swim meet.  Whilst my daughters have only been competing for three years, this weekend was without doubt the best organised and facilitated meet I have ever attended. Your team were simply outstanding, thank you.’

Mark has been key to a Volunteering Scheme that started at Team Bath AS earlier in 2019 in which every family with a swimmer in the Performance squad was asked to commit to 30 hours of volunteering for the season from January. The aim was that volunteering could be spread evenly across all members rather than falling on just a few. Many stepped up and Mark co-ordinated with the Club Development Officer to ensure that jobs were fulfilled in all roles, not just at competitions. He was asked to keep a register of hours for the committee so that the club could monitor and evaluate volunteer commitment.

It is the ‘little’ improvements that make the difference to Team Bath AS, providing an environment for the swimming community of which everyone can be proud. Swimming, like all amateur sports, is reliant on the skills, knowledge and commitment of volunteers like Mark for their future and he is a tremendous asset to the club. 

Congratulations Mark and thank you for your contribution. 

To nominate someone for a future award click here.

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