In the last year, Caroline Weir has played in a World Cup, scored the winner in a Manchester derby and captained her country, as well as partnering with Andy Murray to further help her career progression.
It has been an impressive rise from the 24-year-old who began her footballing career in Dunfermline before journeying south and playing for Arsenal, Bristol City, Liverpool and Manchester City. Now a regular in Shelley Kerr’s Scotland side, Weir cites the early part of her career as crucial and knows that without volunteers, her career to date wouldn’t have been possible.
During volunteer week, Caroline took the time to talk about the huge influence volunteers can have on young footballers and society in general.
How did volunteers help you in the early part of your life, when you first began playing football?
Volunteers were everything when I was growing up, kicking a ball. They ran the team and coached the team. There was no girls side when I was five so I went to Elgin Star Boys Club for five years before moving to Hibs. Even when I made that move, it was volunteer work that kept things going. There was a committee that was made up of parents who made the choice to volunteer and make things better at the club.
My Dad was one of them and became chairman of Hibs Ladies, working a lot trying to push things forward with the women’s game and associating the set-up more with the men’s team. He came up against some interesting people, to try and move things forward. I think it was a challenge for him at the time, and without him and the other volunteers I wouldn’t have had a team to play in. When I was there, I'm not even sure Willie Kirk, the first team coach was getting paid a wage. People didn’t do it for money, that’s for sure, and I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the volunteers who put in the hard work when I was younger.
How influential was your Dad in your career?
I joined Hibs when I was 10 and after a few years, my Dad ended up as chairperson and spent so much time helping out that my Mum would get annoyed. I would be training most nights which he would take me to and on other nights he would have meetings to try and progress things. He tried to develop a pathway from the under-10s to the first team. When I joined at 10, I didn’t even know there was a first team but he developed a clear pathway which allowed us to have something to aim for.
My Dad and all the other volunteers really helped myself, Claire Emslie and Kirsty Smith who all came through at Hibs. I have so much time for all the coaches who volunteer to take a team as it’s not just as simple as turning up at the weekend. There’s a lot to deal with and a lot of responsibility.
You attended the McDonald’s Grassroots Awards last year, for the first time. How inspiring was it to hear some of the stories?
It was an honour to hear some of the stories that were told about some of the work that people put in that you don’t always see. These people give up so much time to create opportunities for other people.
One story in particular was really inspiring. Isla Buchanan, a referee, spoke about her journey and background which was incredible. I had the chance to chat with her during the night as well which was special.
Without volunteers, do you think you would have gone on to achieve what you have?
Without volunteers I wouldn’t have had a team to play in when I was younger and probably wouldn’t have played football which is kind of crazy. After I left Hibs and joined bigger clubs, I still came across so many people who gave up their time to help. At Bristol, there were a lot of volunteers such as a chaplain who was great and a person I could speak to if I ever needed it.
Because my Dad put in so many hours when I was younger, it makes me appreciate volunteers more and what goes on behind the scenes. It would always annoy me when people would complain about certain things and they didn’t know the efforts volunteers were putting in and the challenges they were up against. They are the ones who can make the difference.