By Mariana de Paula, Swimming World College Intern
Volunteering in college is often not the exhausted student-athlete’s priority, but there are quite a few reasons to consider giving some of that precious free time away. Student-athletes need to fulfill needs, pay the bills and still manage to enjoy some leisure time. This is, unfortunately, one of the reasons why sometimes volunteer work is put on the back burner.
The University of West Florida swim team has a tradition when it comes to volunteering. Every year, their women get together with Seastars Aquatics to help children with swim lessons.
The Salvation Army pool, located in Pensacola, FL holds the only swim team in the nation that offers free lessons for children who are economically, physically, or mentally challenged in some way. After interacting with these kids, the personal growth is so satisfying that the only feeling remaining is gratitude.
With that said, here are some very good reasons for college athletes to volunteer more often:
1. Learn to Listen
If you are willing to help someone or somewhere, you will need to focus on their wishes and their needs. Being an active listener is not an easy task, but it’s something worth developing. Listening carefully means understanding their body language, opening up and evaluating your feedback. Some studies even confirm that volunteering can combat depression and many mental illnesses.
2. Improve Social and Communication Skills
When volunteering, as in every other job, communication is key. In order to be successful, we need to communicate with each other and obtain, most of all, mutual learning. In volunteer jobs, learning is a two-way process and we can always share experiences. That makes you not only a better communicator, but a better person as well.
3. Encourages Leadership
Whether being in a big group or going by yourself, volunteer jobs always require organization and rules. To be a leader is to confront difficult situations with patience, and challenging ones with solidarity.
In a stressful situation, it gets hard to listen to other people. That’s where a leader shows up as an encourager. A leader does not tell people what to do, but rather does it themselves and encourage people to do the same.
4. Develop Empathy
It’s very easy to have sympathy towards someone in poor conditions. Sympathy comes from the thought that you are better than someone because they are in need of something, so you feel bad about them and think you care.
Empathy, on the other hand, is looking at someone else’s eyes and knowing that you are the same. Having in your mind that the only thing that separates you from them is luck, and that they don’t need your pity, but your support.
By being a volunteer, you give some of your full life to someone else. You wish to do better for them, so they can be as happy and fortunate as you are. You are just another hard worker.
Working with people and places you have never seen may look strange at first, but removing yourself from your comfort zone is rewarding. Volunteer jobs provide an unique opportunity for people to get in touch with new people and new environments that can be very helpful in the future. During your service, you might develop relationships that will benefit you when searching for a job. You never know who your boss may be, or where you will be working. It is good to be remembered as the person who helped when they needed it the most.
6. Adds Value to the Resume
If none of the previous reasons have convinced you, then this one will certainly do so.
According to a Global Volunteer Network survey, 87 percent of employers believe that volunteering can have a largely positive effect on career development for those between the ages of 16 and 25. Besides that, a large number of employers agree that volunteers make excellent employees, being clear that they’re not selfish people, but are people able to see the big picture. Having volunteer experiences enhances your chances of being selected for a job, as you appear to be more dedicated and passionate than the average candidate.
Here’s an opportunity to volunteer in case you have the itch now: Seastars accepts donations through their website all year round!