Two of The FA’s volunteer Welfare Officers have been recognised as ‘Safeguarding Stars’ at the tenth anniversary celebrations of The Child Protection in Sport Unit.
Nicky Clark, Club Welfare Officer (WO) at Jarvis Brook Juniors, and Denise Hicks, Youth League Welfare Officer (YLWO) for Sheffield & District U18s League, were identified as having ‘gone the extra mile’ in their role as welfare officers in sport.
Sue Law, The FA’s Head of Equality and Child Protection, said of this achievement: “We are delighted that Nicky and Denise have been recognised in this way.
“We have thousands of similar volunteers doing a great job to ensure football is safe and fun for everyone. We hope that the work Nicky and Denise have done will inspire others to gain a greater understanding of what it is to have effective safeguards in place in their club or league that really make a difference.”
Sheffield and Hallamshire FA and Sussex FA took the time to find out what motivates their award winning Safeguarding Stars.
How long have you been a Welfare Officer and why did you decided to take on this role?
I‘ve been a Club Welfare Officer for three years and a Youth League Welfare Officer for two years. I have been involved with junior football at club level for 13 years and during that time have held various positions on the committee. Three years ago the existing Welfare Officer retired and I volunteered to take on the role. The Sheffield & District U18s League needed to introduce the role of Welfare Officer two years ago and although the step up from club level to league level appeared very daunting at the time, I volunteered and have gained the support of colleagues and been able to develop the role.
What do you see as your greatest success to date?
It has to be the introduction of The FA Respect programme into both my club and the league.
What do you see as the biggest challenge?
Continuing to deliver the message that football is about having fun in a safe environment and that it is everyone's responsibility to protect our young people.
If you could change anything what would that be?
I would like to change the ‘win at all costs’ attitude that is sometimes seen and which can be so detrimental to the welfare of young people.
If you were to offer a top tip to other Welfare Officers what would that be?
Always remember that the aim is to provide a fun and safe environment for young people to play football, never forget that.
If someone was wondering whether or not to get involved as a Welfare Officer how would you encourage them to take that first step?
I would encourage anyone interested in becoming involved as a Welfare Officer to speak to the existing WO/YLWO or their County FA Welfare Officer. It is not always possible but I would encourage volunteers into the role to work as an assistant with existing CWOs/YLWOs to gain increased knowledge prior to taking on the role.
Why did you get into the role of club Welfare Officer?
I was a serving police officer; the club was growing, as was the amount and size of the CRB forms! I wanted to help out, and ensure that the kids at our club were safe and happy. There was already a good positive approach to safeguarding when I took over, with the coaches taking positive and swift actions when they needed to do to minimise poor spectator behaviour. Now at Jarvis Brook you can really see that safeguarding is embedded in what we do because of the clubs' clear systems it doesn’t even need to be mentioned anymore, as everyone involved with the club automatically does what is needed.
What do you find is the most rewarding aspect of being a Club Welfare Officer?
Seeing the happy kids on a Saturday! There’s nothing better than having a carnival atmosphere every weekend and knowing that these kids are in a safe environment. You don’t always know these children’s backgrounds, but knowing that whenever they play football, they feel safe and wanted, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.
Why should others become club Welfare Officers?
It’s simple - you can make a difference. What a Welfare Officer does at a club is just as important as what the coach does for these kids. Seeing happy kids, knowing they are safe is the most important thing.
Clare Taylor, Sheffield & Hallamshire County FA Welfare Officer, said: “It’s incredible just how much people care about getting things right for young people in football.
“We hear so much about how people behave badly on the sidelines and yes some do, but we shouldn’t forget all the work that’s done to encourage young people to get involved in football, to take that step to join a club. Having a proactive Welfare Officer in place means understanding what the club can offer and what you as a player or parent can expect and also need to do makes it a smoother and positive experience for everyone.”
Sandra Redhead, County FA Welfare Officer for Sussex said: “I was a Club Welfare Officer before taking on the County post and so I know just how challenging and rewarding being a Club Welfare Officer can be.
“I think what would really make a difference now is making sure there is more than one Club Welfare Officer in clubs with multiple youth teams. Ensuring everyone knows who you are and what you do is a task in itself. Building a rapport and understanding with coaches and parents can only be enhanced if the workload is realistic and the rewards of knowing you’ve made a difference are priceless.”
If you would like to help make a difference why not join Denise and Nicky and become a Welfare Officer for your club or league?
There are many welfare officers out their struggling to get the message across because they have so many youth teams within their club – why not give them a hand. Ask about becoming an assistant Welfare Officer it will give you the chance to work alongside someone and together ensure appropriate safeguards are in place in your club or league.
Go on, be part of the solution and help to make a difference. Become a Welfare Officer and help to make football safe – not sorry.
For more information visit www.TheFA.com/FootballSafe or speak with your County FA Welfare Officer
Two volunteer Welfare Officers praised for efforts in child protection.