Scottish Squash is proud to have Bridge of Allan Sports Club’s Allison Penman featured in sportscotland’s campaign to highlight the hugely impactful work of volunteers in Scottish sport. Allison’s work as a volunteer and squash advocate is so important to driving participation within her community, encompassing a range of involvement across club operations, fundraising, tournament organising, and now a new role as Regional Director in Central Scotland. You can view the volunteering case study in full on the sportscotland website.
What was your experience in sport growing up?
I grew up in a small village with no immediate access to formal sporting facilities, but we had the whole of the countryside to explore and the outdoors was my adventure playground. Summers were spent on our bikes, playing tennis in the street, going for walks in the woods, making obstacle courses at the play park, climbing trees…anything that was outside, active and fun.
I dabbled in a few different activities over the years…running, swimming, a bit of cycling, I even had a go at a triathlon once. With a young family and a busy job, it was all about finding an activity that I could do easily, without too much equipment, too much preparation and too much organisation. I enjoyed running but ended up having to stop when a niggling knee injury made it too uncomfortable to continue.
As my kids got older they became involved in squash at the local sports club and after the coach held a “bring your parents to squash session” I was hooked! At the tender age of 40 I had finally found something that I thoroughly enjoyed which had the added benefit of being a fantastic workout and was something that didn’t aggravate my knee!
What is your volunteering experience to date?
I have been volunteering at Bridge of Allan Sports Club and for Scottish Squash for over 7 years now. I set up and run tournaments for all ages/abilities, help with coaching, help with fundraising, sit on the regional junior squash committee and have recently been appointed as a Regional Director with Scottish Squash. Some of the best experiences have been as a parent volunteer minibus driver taking Scottish juniors to competitions in England…the kids have the best music playlists and it’s great fun!
What / who inspired you to get into volunteering?
I fell into it by accident, to be honest. It certainly wasn’t a conscious decision…I just helped out here and there because my kids were involved and I saw that it helped out others at the same time. It just grew from there.
My husband had been a volunteer coach with Stirling County Rugby Football Club and I saw the impact that a positive volunteering culture had on their Minis section. Lots of people volunteering a little bit of time on a regular basis can make a huge difference to all aspects of the club/sport.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
I really enjoy helping with coaching sessions and seeing the kids progress, thrive and have fun. Sport can be really challenging for kids, there is so much to learn and co-ordinate, but when you see them enjoying it and making progress it makes it all worthwhile.
Tournament organisation can be stressful in the lead up to the day/weekend…but it is great to give the players an opportunity to get on court and put their skills to the test.
Have you had to overcome any challenges or barriers whilst volunteering?
My biggest challenge has been overcoming my own self-confidence and doubt. I am relatively new to the sport, I haven’t been playing since I was a junior, I don’t have all the skills on the court, most of the kids could probably beat me…but that doesn’t mean that I can’t coach the basic skills, organise a tournament, offer words of advice and encouragement during a competition match, or drive a mini-bus when needed.
Everyone at club, local, regional and national level are supportive and appreciative of all the volunteers in our sport and they are always on hand to offer help, support and guidance.
What advice would you give to others looking to get involved in volunteering?
Believe in yourself and give it a go! Start off small and build up to a level/time commitment you are comfortable with.