Volunteering in sport brings rewards

It seemed natural for Simon Davis to give something back to rugby union, the sport he had played for 20 years.
Several years after hanging up his boots, Simon decided to volunteer at his old stomping ground – Melbourne University Rugby Football Club (MUFRC).

Throughout his career as a player there’d had always been volunteers to assist him and his teammates. Volunteers who would run water, strap ankles, organise events; not to mention the coaches who were giving up much of their time to ensure the success of the club. Community sport had been good to Simon, teaching him many life principles: ‘teamwork, discipline, communication, and mateship’.

In his post-playing days, he observed that the club was struggling to retain its volunteers. So, he and group of past players set out to establish a sustainable framework that aimed to enrich the community culture of the club.

In his first off-field role Simon was appointed senior coach, a voluntary position he held for two years (2004-05). With the birth of his second child, he moved to the Director of Rugby role – he held that voluntary position for three years. Since 2009 Simon has been president of the club, a position of honour and privilege that has been held by many dignitaries including Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop.

As president, Simon oversees the functions of the club, aided by a team of about 15 volunteers (coaches, managers, committee members, etc.). He brings to the role experience from his professional career, where he has worked for several large companies. In any workplace, Simon believes that it’s important to source the ‘right people for the right role’ and let them run with the position – and volunteering is no different.  He is clearly no micro manager.

Perhaps Simon’s philosophy might help to explain the recent revival of Melbourne University Rugby Football Club. Three teams (the Colts, 2nd Grade, and 3rd Grade) won premierships in 2011 – the first time this has happened at the club for 40 years. In 2012, five teams will run out onto the pitch each weekend. The committee’s strategy of ‘developing the club from within’ would appear to be paying dividends. Many positive initiatives, such as education scholarships to help players with the cost of their tertiary studies, combined with a stronger financial position, have set the foundation for an encouraging future.

The desire to see the club improve, and to continue seeing better results on the field, cannot be separated from Simon’s motivation for volunteering.

Watching a training session from the sidelines on a chilly Thursday evening, the club undoubtedly displays a collegial feel: about 100 young men aged mostly between 18-28 learning principles of teamwork, discipline, communication, and mateship.

Without sporting clubs such as MUFRC, Simon suggests that many of the young men might feel the pull of less savoury activities.

In this context, he views sporting clubs as ‘proactive’ agents in the betterment of community wellbeing.

By Bill Snaddon, Volunteer Writer for Volunteering Victoria

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