Calum Graham

What was your experience in sport growing up?

As a young person, sport was my life. Football was my real passion and I would play it at any given opportunity. However, like most young people, when Wimbledon was on I’d be honing my tennis skills. Likewise for Rugby, Snooker, Darts or any other sport that managed to make it onto mainstream TV.

In primary school, we had a very pro-active head teacher who encouraged us to try many sports. None more so than orienteering, swimming or I would take him on at table tennis at lunchtimes. As we lived in a very rural area and it was a small rural school, if it wasn’t for his encouragement, we wouldn’t have experienced a variety of sports.

As I progressed through secondary school and played football for the local club, I knew I would get the opportunity to play football professionally as a young person. However, serious injury at the age of 18 ended any dreams of making a living as a professional athlete. Despite this, I always knew I would make a living out of sport one way or another.

I thought if I can’t be a professional athlete, I can at least help others in trying to fulfil their own dreams and to realise their own potential. I successfully applied for a job coaching and developing sport as a 19-year-old and have had a very rewarding thirty-year career working in a variety of positions in the industry that has given me a lifetime of fantastic opportunities, experiences and memories.

What is your volunteering experience to date?

A big part of my job is to develop the workforce and volunteers that create sustainable opportunities and pathways in sport. As I was always asking more of others, I would always do that bit extra myself whether in school, club or community sport.  And as I was so connected in so many ways there would always be something at any given time where your help would be needed. As well as professionally, I also did a lot of volunteer work for the Olympic and Commonwealth Games in 2012 and 2014.

More recently, I established a new girls' community football club on the back of a successful after school initiative. This involves coaching, fundraising, administration and much more, and has been extremely rewarding.

What inspired you to get into volunteering?

As a child I took part in sport doing whatever and whenever I could. When you look back, you wouldn’t have had half of those opportunities hadn’t it been for volunteers and people giving up their time to give you the opportunity.

In my biggest current volunteering role, there was an obvious demand for girls football with many wanting to play. I have a background in competitive sport and there was a group of very talented young girls. Without somebody giving up their time and creating that opportunity, they may never have been able to or had access to play football matches competitively living in such a rural location, or a pathway to go as far in the game as their talent and desire can take them.

The club has flourished in recent months with a committee of volunteers, six volunteer coaches, a lot of support from within the community and now affiliated to Scottish Women’s Football.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

That you know you are doing something that is making a positive impact and a difference on young people. The impact sport is having on a young person is so much more than the sport itself, including creating lifelong friendships, social inclusion and self-confidence.

Also being involved as a volunteer can develop your own social networks and connections in your own community.

Have you had to overcome any challenges or barriers whilst volunteering?

The biggest challenge was the number of girls wanting to play football. We quickly had to recruit more volunteer coaches to meet the growing demand for the game.

We were able to overcome this challenge by tapping into the enthusiasm of parents who wanted to support and give their own child greater opportunities. Also a locally retired policeman who had a background in coaching, senior girls who played football, and sports leaders looking to develop their knowledge and experience.

What advice would you give to others looking to get involved in volunteering?

Volunteering can be very rewarding for a number of reasons. You can give something back to an area in your life that gave you lots of enjoyment and experience as a younger person. It can connect you to others which can be good for physical and mental health.

Volunteering can help you gain experience and qualifications that can advance your career or create greater opportunities. It can bring enjoyment to your life, it can give you something to focus on and be passionate about, be very rewarding and can give you some meaning in life by knowing you are making a positive impact on the lives of others.

Date published: 14 July 2023
Date updated: 14 July 2023


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