Iulia recognised as Volleyball England Volunteer of the Year 2021 runner up!

Massive Congratulations to our Club secretary – Iulia Protesaru – who has been recognised by Volleyball England in the 2021 National awards as runner up in the Volunteer of the Year category! You’ll all know Jules – she’s a rock within the Club.

On winning the award Jules said “To say I’m chuffed is not enough. I may not be a winner but a runner up for Volunteer of the Year is still amazing considering the incredible work people do for this sport”. Asked what Jules is looking forward to she said “My 2021 goal is to get people to love volunteering”.

It’s a great time to get involved – after being named Club of the Year in the Volleyball England awards in 2020, Riga has gone from strength to strength despite Covid’s best efforts! We are currently welcoming new volunteers who are looking to make a difference in the sport we all love – if you are interested get in touch!

The nomination that lead to Jules’ recognition is below – well done again Jules – you are amazing and we are all grateful for all you do for the sport and for our Club everyday!

Jules’ nomination

Jules is secretary for Coventry and Warwick Riga Volleyball Club but her reach, enthusiasm and impact on volleyball, our players and our volunteers goes way beyond that role.

Jules joined the committee just over 2 years ago. As a new volunteer to the sport she rapidly found her groove and stepped up way beyond what was expected of her to have a massively positive impact on our Club. 

Over the last year this positive impact has included:

  • She has been instrumental in the launch of our new website. She took the time to ensure it was exactly what the club, our members and potential new joiners needed and that it really reflected the ethos of a friendly and welcoming club. She tested the concepts on user groups and obtained quotes from parents to particularly encourage juniors wanting to join the Club.
  • As a result enquiries from new members have gone through the roof with at least 5 new enquiries a week via the website or our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). Jules helps reply to each of them setting herself a service level to reply to all new member enquiries within 24 hours – no mean feat on top of a full time and demanding day job. 
  • Recognising that we need to be sustainable she has also been thoughtful in implementing automation to help with enquiries – with automated replies and tagging on Facebook to help enquiries self-serve where possible. Through Jules’ good work on promoting the Club we soon had 100 plus juniors on our waiting list (despite COVID restrictions meaning we could do little activity!). Again with an eye on sustainability as we struggled to track these on a spreadsheet requiring a lot of manual input, she set up a CRM system which logs these automatically from a form completed via the website by enquirers. This has saved our volunteers hours of time freeing them up to do more valuable activity such as coaching as well as giving new members a better experience when contacting us. A win-win all round! 
  • Jules was also the driving force behind our application for Return to Play funding from Sport England which ultimately saw the Club being awarded £1,638. This has enabled the Club to safely return to play following COVID with hand sanitiser and other safety equipment being readily available for our members. The impact of this and great morale from it has been fantastic to see.

Jules is also keen to learn and has really developed her skills, knowledge or experience over the last year. She’s gone from newest member of the committee to the one many turn to for advice and guidance in a very short period of time. Good examples include:

  • Digital first – she volunteered to learn from our existing webmaster and take over the overhaul and day to day running of the website and social media. This wasn’t a role Jules had done before but she sought advice and guidance and learnt the programming and other skills to make a massive success of it. 
  • Collaboration – working alongside other committee members she has learnt how and where to collaborate as she helps all the new enquiries. If we can’t help as a club she now knows other local clubs to direct enquiries to or refer them to West Midlands Volleyball Association or Volleyball England for help as appropriate. 
  • Running sessions – in addition to all of the above Jules has taken on responsibility for running some of our recreational sessions outdoor. As COVID restrictions relaxed we had no one available to commit to running outdoor sessions but loads of players desperate to get back to playing! Once again, Jules stepped up. She learnt all the COVID requirements from our COVID officer, attended all the training the Club provided, shadowed someone for the first couple of sessions and is now regularly running these each week liaising with others and continually inspiring others to volunteer and play at them. 

Jules approaches all of the above with a friendly approach and good sense of humour. She has inspired and motivated so many over the last year becoming a fulcrum of our club. Some examples include:

  • I am one of the longest serving volunteers at the Club having volunteered for nearly 20 years. Quite frankly with all the challenges of the last year I have been close to giving up. But Jules’ unwavering support, motivation and drive has spurred me on. Instead of giving up I am now coaching juniors as well as continuing to keep our accounts in order! She’s the kind of inspiration everyone needs to keep going through those tough times and remind us why we love the sport and love doing what we do. 
  • The impact of the COVID restrictions on how we were able to run training sessions has been tough. This was particularly felt with the rule of 6 where we had a number of members dissatisfied with what training looked like as a result. Jules tackled this head on with a virtual meeting of coaches and team managers to openly discuss the challenges and come up with solutions. She created online surveys to get member feedback that the committee could then action, keeping all members engaged and motivated to keep involved with the sport. 
  • The return to play funding Jules secured was a massive morale boost for the committee, our volunteers and our players. She ensured we promoted this widely. She also significantly promoted our Club of the Year 2020 award and ensured everyone was aware it was down to a collective effort of the whole club to achieve this helping cement that club ethos amongst our members. 
  • She’s also always the first in the committee WhatsApp chat praising others and thanking them for what they do. Her words and thoughts touch all of us and keep us well motivated to keep adding value and growing the success of the Club. 

Overall without Jules’ commitment and her impact to motivate our players and volunteers our Club certainly would not be coming out of the other side of COVID in such a strong position and with its members and volunteers so well engaged. Volleyball England’s the Game Plan strategy focuses on Volleyball for Life (Jules is at the heart of promoting opportunities that volleyball provides for everyone), Get Keep Grow (she has strengthened our club and made it more sustainable) and An Ace Service (she is continuously improving our products and services). As a Club we owe her massively for keeping us going through a really tough period and that’s why we think she deserves to be recognised by Volleyball England as Volunteer of the Year.  We certainly hope it will also be a thank you to her and help motivate her to volunteer and remain involved in the sport for life! Thanks Jules! 

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