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Exploring the Volunteer Experience of Women of Color in Local Tennis Communities
Eric Legg | School of Community Resources and Development
Eric Legg was a recepient of Global Sport Institute's Inaugural Year Seed Grant Program
Volunteers play an essential role in the production of sport from community through professional levels. Millions of volunteers perform functions include coaching, field maintenance, event management, and national leaders of sport governing bodies (Wicker, 2017). Given the important role of volunteers, in sport understanding their experience is crucial to ensuring the sustainability and success of sport programs. Of particular interest is the experience of volunteers from diverse backgrounds. Ensuring diversity in representation and influence is a social justice issue and a performance issue, as research indicates that diverse teams perform better financially, and are generally more innovative (Díaz-Garcia, González-Moreno, & Sáez-Martinez, 2012).
However, a recent meta-analysis indicated that race and sex diversity actually had a small negative relation with team performance (Bell, Villado, Lukasik, Belau, & Briggs, 2011). Given, therefore, that diversity may not always be related to performance, it is important to approach the study of diverse volunteers from a social justice lens, and not just a performance perspective (Spaaij et al., 2018). Although a substantial body of research within sport examines the motivations and experiences of volunteers, the bulk of existing research explores volunteers in general, board members, or executive committee members (Wicker, 2017).
This leaves a gap in understanding experiences of volunteers who are not in leadership positions. Further, researchers have noted the importance of additional research related to specific, and diverse population groups within sport (Hoeber, 2010). The purpose of the present research, therefore, is to explore the lived experiences of women of color who are either current volunteers or potential volunteers within tennis. As such, this research will not only fill the identified gaps, but also expand on in-progress research (Legg & Karner, in progress) that explores the experience of diverse national-level volunteers within tennis. Preliminary findings from that research indicate the need to examine issues of diversity at the local level, and this research addresses that need.