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Home arrow Communication arrow Leisure and the Motive to Volunteer: Theories of Serious, Casual, and Project-Based Leisure

Contributions in sport

Tom Baum and Leonie Lockstone (2007) surveyed existing work on volunteering in the context of mega sporting events such as the Olympic Games and the Football World Cup. They argued that there is a lack of holistic research that takes into account the wide range of themes and issues that pertain to volunteering in the sports events context. The prime focus of existing work to date has been on the volunteers themselves, their motivation, and their sources of satisfaction. The authors identify the evident gaps that exist in understanding areas such as what volunteers do at mega sporting events; who they are; what motivates them; how volunteering influences their lives; what associated activities they do surrounding the event in the host city; and the extent to which volunteering is recidivistic. In their conclusion they present a tentative research framework for guiding future study of this important area.

Harrington, Cuskelly, and Auld (2000) applied the Yoder (1997) modification of Stebbins’ (1992:38-46) P-A-P system to volunteer activity in Australian motorsport. Stebbins argued that professionals and amateurs in the same activity are linked to a public who shares an interest in what the first do. Yoder (1997) modified this system by substituting “commodity agents,” hybrid forms of “professional/commodity agents,” and “amateur/publics” in Stebbins’ model. Stebbins (2007/2015:7) labeled this the P-CP-AP system and its discussed strengths and weaknesses.


Harrington and colleagues considered the relevance of Yoder’s work for their study of volunteers/amateurs at the Queensland 500 V8 SuperCar Race. They were surveyed about the nature of their volunteer activity within motorsport and their involvement in motorsport as amateurs. The authors found that these volunteers were career volunteers with a unique ethos setting them apart from both marginal volunteers and motorsport fans. They were also engaged in amateur motorsport related activity and participated in motorsport organizations, showing degrees of involvement in the social world of motorsport. These findings support the proposition that the volunteers represented a hybrid “career volunteer/ amateur” within this form of commodified leisure, constituting thus a further variant on Stebbins’ original model. The research also considered the possibility of conflict between career volunteers/amateurs and the agents of commodified leisure.

Cuskelly, Harrington, and Stebbins (2002/2003) studied the changes in commitment of a sample of volunteer administrators of community sports organizations. For many of the sample the reasons they gave for volunteering initially differed from those given for continuing to volunteer. Levels of organizational commitment also changed over time declining for both marginal and career volunteers, though their study did suggest that the second are still more highly committed than the first.

A Canadian study of francophone volunteers (Gravelle and Larocque 2005) sought to identify the variables that explain volunteer involvement and to measure their importance as determinants of this involvement. The 2001 Francophone Games event was used as a basis to identify explanatory variables and to test the concept of serious leisure. A sample of 122 volunteers, mainly employees of the University of Ottawa, was recruited for this research. Data were collected using a questionnaire developed according to the serious leisure model. The research confirmed the relationship between serious leisure and volunteer work. This research also demonstrated that volunteer work is often perceived as a basis for “gain.”

Christine Green and Laurence Chalip (2004) studied commitment and general volunteering (i.e., type unspecified) at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney. They confirmed six hypotheses derived from the literature on volunteering. These included: [1]

  • 2 Sense of community at the event enhances volunteers’ satisfaction and commitment.
  • 3 Initial commitment to the event is a function of volunteers’ sense of efficacy at the beginning of the event and benefits (prestige, learning, excitement, helping, social benefits, and professional benefits) that the volunteer expects to obtain.

The findings suggest that volunteer managers need to consider closely the nature of the volunteer experience, rather than only the nature of the rewards that their volunteers receive.

Doherty, Hamm-Kerwin, and Misener (2010) interviewed a sample of older adult volunteers serving in Canadian community sport organizations the goal being to understand their experiences in this form of leisure. An interdisciplinary framework of serious leisure, older adult volunteering, and older adult leisure was used to interpret the findings. Volunteering in this context was found to be consistent with the distinctive characteristics serious leisure such as substantial involvement, strong identification with the activity, and the need to persevere. Older adults viewed their experience as extremely positive, enabling them to make a meaningful contribution and to receive several benefits from their participation. The most frequently noted negative experience was interpersonal relations, though overall, this was not enough to drive participants away from this activity.

The aim of a recent study by Ogut, Yenel, and Kocamaz (2013) was to determine the reasons for volunteering in Turkey’s sport federations. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews with twenty-two career volunteers working on various managerial levels of the sport federations. The authors found five reasons for participating as volunteers: (1) to develop a career, (2) to express their love of sport, (3) to express their need to be helpful, (4) to fill their leisure time, and (5) to carry out their social responsibility. The benefits of the volunteers were examined along three dimensions. The study also explored the individual and social benefits of organizational volunteering. “Consequently, the findings supported the Serious Leisure Theory and indicated that there are favorable relations between the participation reasons and the benefits of volunteering in sport federations” (Ogut, Yenel, and Kocamaz 2013:48).

  • [1] Volunteers’ sense of commitment to the event at the end of theevent is a function of their satisfaction with the event experience.
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