Volunteer experience at Barton Inclusive Football Club
The Club Matters team recently connected with Barton Inclusive FC (BIFC), a community-facing club providing inclusive football opportunities to disabled people in and around the Humber region. Since the club began in 2019, after being founded by Sophie Bartup, its growth and success has been profound, with the hard work of their ever-expanding volunteer base being at the core of their triumphs.
BIFC was borne from a lack of disability provision in the area. Having volunteered at a disability club during university, founder Sophie became aware of the limited opportunities for disabled people when she returned home. The club began 4 years ago with two disability teams and has since expanded to accommodate 13 teams. In addition to the original disability teams, BIFC also offers walking football, women only sessions, ‘Wildcats’ for girls aged 5-11 years, ‘SQUAD’ for girls aged 12-14 and a teeny tot’s session. Players have a range of disabilities that can limit their opportunities in mainstream sport, including learning difficulties, autism disorder, and long-term mental health conditions. Whilst teeny tot’s, Wildcats and SQUAD isn’t disability specific, there is a strong focus on inclusion. BIFC, in 2021, expanded into Hull, now offering a disability pathway from U12’s, U16’s through to adult football, known as BIFC – Hull.
Part of this expansion is due to volunteers Marc Cooper and Jo Newby. After hearing of the excellent original provision at BIFC, the club identified the need to reach more communities in Hull and host additional sessions for children and young people, as the initial offer focused only on adults. Jo’s story makes her decision to engage with BIFC clear:
Jo is a foster carer who was looking for opportunities for her child, Kasper. From a young age he had been interested in football and Jo found that engaging in sport was paramount to Kasper’s speech development. Jo had often seen other children like Kasper join mainstream sports teams but quickly get side-lined as other players developed quicker, leaving those with additional needs behind. She wanted Kasper to have the same opportunities to enjoy football.
BIFC were able to provide volunteers like Jo with the kit, paperwork, and confidence to organise and deliver football sessions. Jo begun overseeing two sessions in Hull, one for 12-16-year-olds and the other for players aged 16+. Sophie (left) and Jo (right) are pictured below.
club has several other volunteers, ranging in age, experience, and motivation
for getting involved. Some success stories include two 14-year-olds who had
initially got in touch to complete their Duke of Edinburgh award and have since
continued to volunteer beyond their agreed 3 months, having enjoyed being part
of the club so much. Another individual, aged 17, has got involved to assist with
the completion of their sport BTEC at college. Some parent volunteers have brought
family members to support and Kasper, now 14, helps his dad deliver sessions to
a younger age group.
A number of parents have supporting roles within the club, offering ad hoc help where possible. The club respects those that cannot fulfil permanent roles and celebrates those that offer to complete smaller tasks if and when they have time.
Volunteers have joined BIFC through word-of-mouth, but they have also been successfully recruiting through adverts released through the local VCSE (voluntary, community and social enterprise) ‘Time2Volunteer’ network, and through their social media channels. New volunteers are introduced gradually to the club, with initial conversations around club and volunteer expectations, the opportunity to observe sessions, and chances to meet fellow coaches before leading or taking on a volunteering role.
The club have been able to provide funding for courses to support their volunteers, regardless of their time spent with the club. Other ways BIFC have encouraged and celebrated volunteers include:
- Providing kit for volunteers to feel part of their community and have a sense of belonging.
- Supporting the career ambitions of younger volunteers and encouraging independence.
- Regularly recognising volunteer contributions through social media posts.
- Offering transport or other assistance for those able to volunteer at events.
- Celebrating achievements outside of the club in school or work.
- Providing cards and small gifts or BIFC merchandise for volunteers’ birthdays.
- Hosting a ‘thank you’ event for volunteers at the end of the season.
BIFCs relationships with their volunteers is built upon good communication channels and mutual respect. The club have also been known to host pizza nights for their younger volunteers on international youth day, celebrate a volunteer each day during advent in December, and arrange for players’ parents to write a piece about volunteers and the difference they’ve made.
The way in which BIFC are able to prioritise volunteer motivations and ensure their experiences are positive make it possible for the club to continue to develop and thrive. For more information on how to attract and retain volunteers, explore Club Matters resources on ‘what makes a great volunteer experience’.
BIFC were introduced to the Club Matters team by Active Humber, who are an active partner of 'Time2Volunteer' and sponsored the 'Time2Volunteer' Award that Jo Newby recently won.