Association canadienne des entraîneurs
Association canadienne des entraîneurs

CAC in the News: Calgary Herald - Opinion: Alberta needs a renewed commitment to volunteering

17 avril 2024

Calgary Herald - Opinion: Alberta needs a renewed commitment to volunteering

Lorraine Lafrenière and Megan Conway, Calgary Herald

Published Apr. 13, 2024

Every moment matters. For organizations that contribute to community well-being in Alberta, this has never been more true. In the face of urgent challenges such as the rising costs of living, an aging population, social isolation and the climate crisis, it’s more important than ever to find ways to volunteer. Connecting to pressing issues across our communities, country and planet by sharing our time, skills, empathy and creativity is fundamental to meeting this moment.

Today, 40 per cent of charities report an increase in demand for services, and more than a fifth of Canadians (22 per cent) expect to rely on them for basic needs, according to the Canada Helps Giving Report 2023. At the same time, Canada has seen a historic decline in volunteers, with 55 per cent of charities reporting fewer volunteers than before the pandemic.

Changes to volunteer capacity has limited their return, and difficulties in recruiting and retaining consistent volunteers are causing concerns about further program closures. There needs to be a renewed commitment to volunteering and a plan to support it.

Because of volunteers, organizations such as the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC) exist. Working to inspire a nation through sport for 53 years, more than half (57 per cent) of coaches are volunteers, most of whom also work full or part time. Paying it forward and helping people become their best selves, volunteers have a powerful effect across generations

In the post-pandemic era, participation in sports has skyrocketed as people recognize the value of physical activity and teamwork — particularly this generation of young people. Nearly 6,000 new Alberta coaches entered The Locker (CAC’s training database) last year. And still, demand outstrips the current number of volunteers as many retire or move on as their children age.

Today, time is the big barrier to volunteering, as people guard their evenings and weekends. Partnering with national sports organizations and provincial affiliates, we’re constantly working to recruit, mentor and apprentice new volunteers, finding flexible ways to make it even more accessible.

As we grow hybrid approaches of in-person volunteering augmented with online training, we expand opportunities as well as reach. Training can now happen in a moment from your desk, wherever that happens to be. And as we respond to this need for flexibility, we’re starting to see a rebound.

In training, play and the clubhouse, volunteers have a powerful influence on individuals and create a profound effect in communities. Some of our most important experiences are shaped by a volunteer coach and how they made us feel. They set up moments that are meaningful for a lifetime.

In addition to underpinning important programs, volunteering makes a significant difference in our own lives, including helping boost our mental-emotional health. By creating a strong bond of respect and mutual learning, volunteering supports an empathetic connection through mentorship, shared opportunities and joyful experiences. Immersed in the moment, coaches and participants both know they matter.

Volunteering in sports also plays a major role in strengthening communities by building social capital and fostering greater inclusion of equity-deserving groups. Working together with someone from a different background or life experience helps build connections. By committing to volunteering, we strengthen inclusion and belonging, and contribute moment by moment to the quality of life we all strive for

Every volunteer’s effort and our collective impact are what will move us from surviving to thriving again. To further support volunteers and the organizations that rely on them to address our collective challenges, Volunteer Canada is developing and implementing a National Volunteer Action Strategy and is hopeful for an investment from the federal government.

During National Volunteer Week, April 14 to 20, we celebrate all volunteers and their fundamental importance to our nation’s well-being. Access to CAC’s e-learning module NCCP Coach Initiation in Sport is free from April 15 to 19 — a great starting point for those looking to coach.

Whatever we can contribute is valued and needed. Right now, every moment matters.

Lorraine Lafrenière is the CEO of the Coaching Association of Canada.

Megan Conway is the president and CEO of Volunteer Canada.

Read the full article.

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