The Sport in Mind Spotlight on...Volunteers

From June 1st to June 7th, it is National Volunteer Week, and we want to take this opportunity to celebrate and say thank you to our wonderful volunteers, who are invaluable to our organisation and to put it simply, enable us to do what we do! One of the things we are most proud of at Sport in Mind is how some of our participants can become volunteers themselves to use their lived experience to help and support others.

To highlight just how important Volunteers are to us an as organisation, we spoke to Naomi, an incredibly valued Sport in Mind volunteer, and to Laura Brooks, Head of Adult Services at Sport in Mind, to really highlight the important role that volunteers play and share the impact that volunteers like Naomi have on the services we offer.

Naomi's Story

I go to dance on a Tuesday and volunteer on a Thursday at the tennis group.

 I first found out about Sport in Mind in 2018 when I was in hospital. I had suffered a period of psychosis. They had a gym in the hospital, and I was always a very sporty person prior to getting ill, and I really found the gym helpful for my mental health. 

Things in my life reached a boiling point and my brain just broke down. I was running up and down the road in my dressing gown at one point. I really didn’t know what was going on in my head at the time. I was really frightened, and I didn’t feel safe in my community. I felt totally unsupported. 

I was diagnosed with a disorder in hospital. I sometimes feel anxiety and depression as a result. While I was on the ward, I thought the staff and other people in there were famous people. I was hallucinating. It was very confusing. My brain thought it was real! 

I was given medication and later I had some therapy. But after two months when I came out of hospital, I didn’t have much money and couldn’t afford the gym, but I had the timetable for Sport in Mind, so I went to the local badminton session. However, I used to play tennis when I was little, and I didn’t enjoy badminton as much as tennis. 

I knew that the tennis was available, but it was far from my house, and I feel very anxious and daunted about going to new places. So, my nurse at the time took me to the venue and once I’ve been taken somewhere I’m ok. 

I met the tennis coach Phil for the first time, and I was so so nervous. He was a stranger and it’s not easy to talk to someone you don’t know. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the tennis. I made friends and met people who were like minded and it meant that I didn’t feel so alone. They understood what it’s like to have a condition and they wanted to play tennis! 

I know what it feels like to be so lonely and what a difference it makes when someone comes up to you and says: ‘I understand because I’ve been through it’. It can mean the world to somebody.

I felt more at ease with myself. It takes your mind off things, and you can switch off and forget about your situation or problems.

Sport in Mind really help people’s mental health and wellbeing. If I didn’t have Sport in mind to come to, I would be back in hospital for sure.

Through attending Sport in Mind, I ended up meeting lots of famous tennis players. I felt anxious, but it felt really special to be able to do that. It made me realise how far I had come. 

Phil is probably the best tennis coach I’ve ever had! He’s been so supportive of me.

I wanted to give Sport in Mind something back because they’ve given me so much. They were so supportive of the idea of me becoming a volunteer. I felt ready to do it. After the Covid lock downs I was able to start. I’ve been doing it for over six months now.

Because we are dealing with people with mental health issues it’s not always easy for them to be there every week. But normally we have up to 12 people attending a session.

I like to talk to people when they come in for the first time and make them comfortable. I know what it’s like. I can play with people that aren’t as experienced. I try to include them and make them feel needed and wanted. Also, if Phil needs to leave the session for a few moments he can leave it with me - in capable hands! Phil makes it really rewarding.

There was a woman recently that was upset and worked up and I gave her a bit of advice from my own experience, and she was really grateful for that.


Sport in mind is my happy place.

Laura Brooks, Head of Adult Services, Sport in Mind

The reason our sessions work so well is because we genuinely engage the people that come along to the sessions and make sure everyone feels welcome, we can only achieve this by having incredible volunteers waiting with a warm smile. Part of Naomi’s role is to support new people when they turn up for the first time. It can be really nerve wracking for participants, so volunteers like Naomi are vital to support people coming through the door, especially that first time.

Sport in mind is so important because we are helping the most vulnerable and unwell people to engage with support locally. It’s proven that being active is good for your mental health and wellbeing, but people experiencing mental health problems can often struggle to engage and access  local sports services. It’s really important that Sport in mind exists because we can bridge that gap and work as a steppingstone for people. Our sessions help to educate people about the benefits of being active and help participants take control of their recovery in a positive way. Sport in mind provides the space for people to have fun but also to be supported and feel safe, and our volunteers are fundamental to us being able to provide this service.

Without our sessions less people would be getting active and therefore improving their mental health, which could exacerbate their physical health problems. People with severe mental health problems often die 20 years younger than the general population, so it’s important we exist for people.

We are using sport to bring the community together, so fewer people feel so isolated and alone, providing an opportunity to make friends and a sense of belonging. It’s also about providing respite. You don’t have to talk about your mental health problems at our session, the real aim is to have fun.

At Sport in Mind we have all kinds of volunteering roles available; From in session support roles like Naomi’s, to office-based skills, media and marketing support, event and fundraising roles. If you would like to learn more about how you can get involved, please do drop us a line at [email protected].

You can also find more information here: volunteering mental health sports (