Categories: News and Resources

Katie Ferro


With winter sport about to get into full swing, many people will be aware that enrolments for netball and soccer teams are filling up. So, let’s spare a thought for the many volunteer mums who actively participate across many positions, season after season – rain, hail or shine!

Soapbox recently reached out to 1,000 of our unsung heroes to find out more about the sports that mothers volunteer for across Australia.

The age range of our survey covered Mums (and Grand-Mums) in the 18 to 65+ age group and the majority of respondents were between the ages of 25 and 64.  Here’s what we found:

Volunteer numbers correlate closely to overall participation rates

The top 10 sports that mums volunteered their time for were:

  1. Swimming
  2. Other sports
  3. Soccer
  4. Dancing
  5. AFL
  6. Netball
  7. Basketball
  8. Tennis
  9. Athletics
  10. Martial Arts

These figures correlate quite closely with overall child sport participation national statistics provided by Sport Australia in 2018 that show the top ten sports in terms of participation to be swimming at 31.8%, soccer at 14.1%, AFL at 8.8%, dancing at 8.0%, gymnastics at 7.6%, basketball at 7.3%, netball at 6.6%, tennis at 6.0%, athletics at 5.5% and cricket at 5.4%.[1]

Grand-Mums volunteering at a significant rate

It is interesting to note that age formed no barrier when participating as a sports volunteer. The largest percentile of mums participating overall was Swimming Mums and Dancing Mums in the 65+ age bracket at 15%.

While this significant number was not reflected across all sports, the high participation of the over 65s here is an important reminder of the role that grandparents play in assisting with sports activities while parents are at work.

Volunteering by Age-group

Swimming also attracted the widest age range of volunteers, with younger mums in the 18–24 age group getting involved at 14%.

In attracting the participation of the mums aged 45–54 percentile, Netball (10%) and Basketball (9%) were well represented.

Soccer volunteer participants fell mostly in the aged 35–44 and 45–54 groups at 10%.

Average time donated when volunteering generally on a monthly basis

The mothers were surveyed on the amount of time they donated, with some giving up more than 10 hours per month. In the top bracket it was Rugby League mums at 20% who were most likely to donate more than 10 hours of their time per month. Gymnastics was the second most likely sport to involve mums in excess of 10 hours per month at 16%.

The majority of participants across each sport except Rugby League and Gymnastics, were most likely to volunteer for an average of 1­–5 hours per month.

The more children the more likely to volunteer

In the survey group, 30% were the mother of one child; 44% the mother of two children; and 26% the mother of two children or more.

Surprisingly, the size of a family doesn’t seem to reduce the mother’s capacity to participate, with mothers of 3 children volunteering more or the same amount of time than mothers with one child across all sports. Mothers with more than three children volunteered more across swimming, other sports, soccer, AFL and netball.

Soccer and Netball mums more likely to volunteer as coaches or managers

Interestingly, when asked to describe their main function as a volunteer for sports, the mums surveyed were less likely to take on coaching or managerial roles.

With the exception of Soccer mums, more than 62% of the surveyed mums spent their time in general activities. Fewer than 16% spent their time in a coach or manager role.

Soccer mums were the exception, with 19% of mums functioning as a manager compared with 45% taking on general activities. At the other end of the scale only 2% of Swimming mums functioned as a manager and 2% as coach, compared with 94% who took on general activities.

Netball had the greatest percentage of mums in the role of coach at 15%, followed by Rugby Union 12% and Oz Tag 11%, then Athletics 7% and Basketball 7%.

Other than soccer the greatest percentage of mums in the role of manager were Basketball at 18%, Rugby League 15%, Netball 13% then Hockey 11% and Oz Tag 11%.

Sport Australia highlights that 2.3 million Australians donate their time and energy to community sport and recreation, estimating the value of that time is $4 billion per annum.

So, as we dust off our netball uniforms and soccer boots for another year, we salute the many mums (and dads) who are there on the ground – coaching, managing, washing the uniforms and running the canteens – week in and week out.

These findings were gathered from the Soapbox Mum’s Omnibus which contains a wealth of information about Australian mums. We will be releasing further data over the coming months.