Today we are celebrating RLSS UK volunteer Alan Sutherland! See his story below.

What role do you play as a volunteer for RLSS UK?
I play a variety of roles from Lifesaving Instructor or Lifeguard TA at Wells and Yeovil Lifesaving Clubs to Regional Official at competitions (and Referee at BULSCA competitions) and recently Branch Official Tutor to competition organiser to Somerset Branch Hon. Secretary and Safeguarding Officer. I am also involved within regional activities including open water events, competitions and running/assisting with training courses. I have been an exchange leader for the last 4 years taking groups to the Czech Republic, Germany and this year to Russia, as well as hosting an exchange in the New Forest last year.

Why did you initially become involved in lifesaving?
I became involved in lifesaving in October 2006 – I moved from Newcastle to The University of Bath and came across the Lifesaving stand at the Freshers Fair. I went along and enjoyed myself and haven’t stopped lifesaving since! I’ve often thought about why I became involved and I have my grandmother to thank – just before university started I visited my grandparents in Scotland. On a day trip my grandmother ended up running into a metal fence behind a house and collapsing; she was semi-conscious, had a head wound and, very visibly, a broken arm. I remember supporting her and trying to care for her but having no idea what to do. I think that event just before university helped sway me to join the lifesaving club.

What is your lifesaving background?
Before university I had not been involved in lifesaving and there was no history of family or friends being involved. I was a member of University of Bath lifesaving club for 5 years at university and had the privilege to be Chairman for two years. Given the quick turnaround of students, I quickly took my Lifesaving TA qualification and started training new and existing club members with a number of other TA’s. It was at University I got involved in competition lifesaving through BULSCA and served as Treasurer for BULSCA for one year and did my Branch Officials course in Southampton taught by Elaine Lewis and Janet Castro. I also joined Bradford on Avon LSC for a few years while at university and trained to become a lifeguard, while also teaching Rookie Lifeguard. I became involved in the committee and introduced lifesaving sport to the adult group. I joined the Avon and North Wiltshire Branch as Competitions Secretary then as Hon. Secretary. When I finished university, I moved to Yeovil for work and joined Yeovil LSC and Wells LSC. I teach at both clubs and also get to train at Wells. I also joined the Somerset Branch doing a variety of roles – Club Development Officer, Hon. Secretary and a Safeguarding Officer, in addition to being involved in the West Region as competition organiser and supporting and running training events. I have been involved in competition lifesaving since 2006 first as a competitor and then more as an official and now as a Branch Officials Tutor. I have also been able to officiate at the National Lifesaving Championships and Speeds Championships in recent years and have refereed at a number of BULSCA competitions – I especially enjoyed being the Head Referee for the BULSCA Student Championships this year. I have been involved in leading lifesaving exchanges and talking with international lifesaving organisations about exchanges in recent years. I was fortunate enough to attend an event in 2010, which has really catapulted RLSS UK into new international exchange opportunities.

How long have you been volunteering for?
I started volunteering in 2007 when I completed my Lifesaving TA qualification and haven’t stopped since.

What keeps you motivated to continue to give up your time?
I really enjoy teaching people new skills that could help them or someone else. I love the moment when someone puts what you have taught them into practice and they get a look of understanding what you have been teaching. I also believe that it is a worthwhile cause and there is so much we can do to try and help prevent drownings and this is my small contribution towards it. Lifesaving has become part of my life and I have made so many friends across the UK and overseas and I enjoy meeting them and the social aspects of lifesaving.

What’s in it for you?
I get the opportunity to contribute towards a worthy cause, which I believe in. I’ve also benefitted hugely from lifesaving in my personal and professional life. Before I got into lifesaving, I was a very shy and reserved person. Once I started teaching, being a Club Chairman, being part of BULSCA, being involved in running Branch and Regional activities, officiating at competitions, I become much less reserved. All of these situations forced me into talking with others, giving presentations to people I didn’t know and leading others. This has helped me personally to grow, but has really helped in my professional life as an engineer where I have used the skills I’ve learnt through lifesaving in a business context. This could not have been possible without the support of some excellent lifesavers and members of RLSS UK staff, who have helped me to achieve more.

Who is your inspirational figure?
I would say I have two inspirational figures – my parents. They have always supported me in whatever I do and have never put me under pressure to meet a certain standard. They have brought me up to not only think of myself but to think and help others. This is something that both my parents have done for me.

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