Posted: August 20, 2019

Name of the organisation you volunteer for?   Desford Lawn Tennis Club

How did you find out about the organisation? I found out about Desford Lawn Tennis Club by attending one of the summer tennis camps the club ran. I really enjoyed it and then I joined the club. At the age of 15 I started volunteering with the Saturday morning junior coaching sessions and have been volunteering ever since.  

How long have you been involved?  I have been volunteering at Desford Lawn Tennis Club for 8 years now. 

What attracted you to the role?  A lot of people have helped me improve my tennis and I wanted to give something back to the local community and make a difference to others. I also started volunteering because I am also autistic and passionate about getting more people with special needs to participate in sport.  I get so much out of sport and I want others to have the same opportunity; just because you have special needs does not mean you cannot play sport and have fun. 

What do you enjoy about the role? I enjoy using my skills and knowledge to help a wide variety of people improve their tennis and get into sport.  I help at tennis sessions for people affected by cancer, inclusive tennis sessions for people who have disabilities, over 50s tennis and special school coaching sessions as well as Saturday morning junior coaching sessions.  I also enjoy seeing how much the participants are improving each week.  It is very rewarding to see the participants smiling after they have finished the session.     

What difference has volunteering made to your life?  My volunteering at Desford Lawn Tennis Club has helped me develop my communication skills, provided me with lots of different opportunities to speak to lots of different people and has helped me overcome some of the challenges I face with speaking.  Volunteering has also boosted my confidence because I can see that I am making a difference to others and that people appreciate it. I have also got so much more self-belief from my volunteering which has helped me to  achieve goals and overcome other challenges, both on and off the tennis court. 

Has it led to anything else?  Last year, my volunteering at Desford Lawn Tennis Club was recognised by being selected as the BBC Get Inspired Sports Personality of the Year Unsung Hero for the East Midlands for 2018. I was lucky enough to then go forward to represent the East Midlands for the National Unsung Hero Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year event in Birmingham.  In July 2019 I was awarded a Diana Award for my volunteering, an award for young people recognising their social action or humanitarian work established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales.  I’ve recently been invited to join the Sport and Recreation Alliance Youth Advisory Panel, where I am keen to advise coaches on disability sport. 

BBC Unsung Hero Award

If you are inspired by Matt's experience of being a volunteer and want to get involved yourself visit the Volunteering page and register your interest. Alternatively, come along to the Making a Difference Volunteers Fair on Tuesday 8th October 2019 to speak to local organisations about volunteering. 

Make a Difference!

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Matt Chilvers
next generation