Ellen Buttrick |

‘Their dedication to the success of our club means that individuals, like myself, can thrive’

GB Para rower Ellen Buttrick pays tribute to the volunteers who’ve supported her career

This month I’m saying a massive THANK YOU to the volunteers that keep our sport afloat as part of British Rowing’s celebration of Volunteers Week. It’s been a privilege to be supported by wonderful volunteers both in and out of rowing throughout my life. I believe that it is thanks to these individuals that today I can call myself a double world champion and world record holder, training with the GB Rowing Team with less than 90 days to go until the Paralympic Games.

From the teachers that volunteered their lunches and evenings to run extracurricular activities, the amazing women who lead the Girlguiding groups at my local church through to the volunteer coaches and boatmen who devote their evenings, weekends and retirements to their local rowing club – I bet that every member of the GB squad and each person reading this can bring to mind that dedicated volunteer who has supported them and allowed their club to thrive. 

For me, it’s the committee in charge of Leeds Rowing Club. Their dedication to the success and growth of our club means that individuals, like myself, can thrive in this sport.

I honestly don’t believe that I would have had the confidence to imagine myself in the GB Rowing Team someday, without the volunteer coaches at Leeds RC showing an interest in my training or making positive comments about my development in my first year in the sport. The time that they were willing to dedicate, and the encouragement that I was given, left a lasting impact when it came to my belief in myself and my future as an athlete. I owe them a lot. 

“I also enjoy being a volunteer myself and I find that it usually helps me to put the daily stresses of my life into perspective”

When I moved to Newcastle to attend university, I joined Tyne Amateur Rowing Club and volunteers would be coaching me, manning the bar and even cooking us dinner after a long evening session out on the river. It was brilliant to be welcomed into the fold.

A fond memory of mine from the club was helping on the cake sale during their regatta which included rowing-blade-shaped price tags – a genius idea – and then quickly abandoning my station for 20 minutes to jump in a quad and win my first ever sculling points.

As much as I have benefited from others volunteering their time, I also enjoy being a volunteer myself and I find that dedicating time to programmes that I am passionate about usually helps me to put the daily stresses of my life into perspective. My volunteering roles have also allowed me to build connections in my local community outside of the boat club, especially since joining the GB Rowing Team full time and relocating to the Reading area from Leeds to train.

It’s been a challenging year, but thanks to those volunteers in charge of our rowing clubs we are now all getting back out onto the water, and perhaps looking forward to racing again in the coming months.

I think in the past year too, volunteers are finally getting the recognition that they rightly deserve with many delivering food, prescriptions and even supporting the vaccine rollout to help us get through the pandemic.

Let’s celebrate our volunteers – not just during Volunteers Week – but in every other week of the year too.

Photo: AllMarkOne