Volunteer’s Blog: Mary Ellen
Since last September I have been volunteering every Wednesday afternoon for the Greenhouse Sports basketball programme at Quintin Kynaston (QK) Academy. Previously a coach and referee for London Sports and South Hampstead High School I knew vaguely of the charity through a good friend of Mike di Giorgio (Greenhouse Sports CEO) and finally met him when an old work colleague asked me if I knew of anyone who could use thirty basketballs that were no longer being used. When I brought the equipment to Mike he told me all about what Greenhouse does, so when Greenhouse started a new programme in a school close to where I lived I jumped at the opportunity to be involved.
Volunteering is a lot of fun, especially at Greenhouse Sports where everyone is really nice and it feels like one big happy family. And, of course, I love playing basketball myself. It’s also great to see the Greenhouse participants develop as players and individuals. For example, taking the QK girls team to play against Norwood School was definitely a highlight. When we arrived at the gym packed with Norwood fans, the girls were so nervous some of them didn’t even want to play. Once they were on court, they played their hearts out. QK didn’t win, but they definitely gave Norwood a great game – it was very impressive. Afterwards, the girls couldn’t wait for their next match.
I am a strong advocate of promoting female participation in sport. I think girls in this country don’t get half the opportunities that boys do to play sport and it’s equally as important for both sexes, especially for building self-esteem. At my son’s school, they had A through F teams and all boys had to participate. At my daughter’s school they only had A and B teams. In the US, where I’m from, there’s a law (Title IX) which prohibits sex discrimination in any federally funded education program or activity. Perhaps if it was law in this country, girls would have more opportunities in sport. Because, in my opinion, once they are given the opportunity, girls won’t shy away from anything.
Encouraging more kids to play sports can be tough. But providing sports sessions before, during and after school as Greenhouse Sports does, is definitely helpful. Greenhouse coaches use an all-inclusive model which encourages participants across different levels – helping the novices to learn the necessary skills and challenging the more advanced players with far reaching goals. The children learn from each other, too, as the weaker players often try to imitate the stronger ones. Personally, I love to see the smile on a player’s face when she scores her first basket or watch a novice player put together the dribble and footwork needed to do a layup.
Even though I’m busy, fitting the volunteering into my schedule is pretty easy as it’s the same day every week. When there’s a tournament, or another event that I may be interested in, the QK coach, Jerome Jack, always gives me plenty of notice so that I can put it in my diary. Besides, it’s one of the highlights of my week, so I never mind making time. I would definitely recommend volunteering. I always get back more than I put in, and there’s nothing better than teaching someone a new skill and watching them master it.