November 28, 2018, by brzmjb1
An Interview with Jack Kavanagh, UoN Sport Volunteering Officer
What is your job title, and what does it involve?
So, my job at the University of Nottingham Sport is Sport Volunteering Officer. In nutshell, I look after all volunteering that happens within sport both here on campus but also within the local community. The thing I love about my role is how varied it is. I get to work alongside our SU Sports Clubs who deliver in local schools, upskill and train new student coaches, work with international charities, and provide mentoring and careers advice all at the same time. No two days are the same – and I think that’s what keeps me on my toes!
How did you first get involved in volunteering?
I first got involved aged 14 when my Dad was football coaching at a local club in Nottingham. I used to just go and lend a hand and do some of the smaller jobs – putting the cones out, a bit of refereeing, collecting all the subs. It might have seemed small at the time but within two years I had my own team, was coaching twice a week and gaining qualifications. It’s strange to think that it all started by going and collecting cones at the end of a training session! I still volunteer to this day – I think it’s just become a part of who I am now.
What attracted you to volunteering? And why do you keep doing it?
I think my answer to this is two-fold. First of all (and most importantly), I enjoyed it. I love sport, and I enjoy helping others, so by volunteering I was effectively combining the two together. Volunteering should never be a chore, it should be something you actively enjoy and when you find that opportunity, you never really regard it as volunteering do you?
Secondly, I think I always understood the long-term effect that volunteering was having on me both personally and professionally. I gained so many skills through volunteering. Yes, I’ve picked up a few qualifications along the way, but it’s the problem-solving skills, being calm under pressure, communication and ability to lead others that have had the biggest impact. Many won’t believe this – but I was actually quite shy back in the day, although I’m not sure the UoN Sport team would believe that!
Can you tell us about your most rewarding session you have delivered?
This one’s a really easy one (and is a bit of an X Factor sob story so apologies in advance) and actually happened when I was 17. I was at a primary school in St Annes, Nottingham, and there was a child at the time who refused to take part in PE. Instead she used to sit on the side and watch and draw, and for the record she NEVER took part in PE. I was actually being assessed during this session for my course, and through a bit of coaxing and a lot of support, for 10 minutes I somehow managed to get her involved in some of the activity. She absolutely loved it, but after 10 minutes decided she wanted to sit back out and draw.
At the end of the session she came up to me and thanked me for making her enjoy PE, and she passed me a picture she had drew to say thank you. The next week, she was in her PE kit ready to go, albeit for only 30 minutes, but nevertheless her perception of PE had changed.
That picture I still have to this day – it sits proudly alongside my degree certificate, and to me is worth just as much.
I always find it amazing the effect volunteers can have on other people – you might not realise it at the time, but all of those small things you do really can shape incredible experiences for other people.
Any funny stories or times you’ve had to improvise while running a session?
Too many to mention! I can remember doing a session at a few years ago where were supposed to have 30 children in the school hall, so when over 120 turned up it was there was a bit of a panic. I can remember an old tutor saying to me once – “if everything goes out the window and you have a load of people stood in front of you waiting – it doesn’t matter what you do, just do something”. That’s exactly what we did – It was biggest game of passing a ball under peoples’ legs and over their heads in history – but it worked, and we made it happen.
Top tip to anyone starting out:
Pick something you enjoy and take the leap. If it’s something your passionate about, whether that be a particular sport, using sport to change lives/perceptions, media, etc., the chances are you’ll gain an incredible range of skills without even thinking about it.
But also make the leap and do it! At UoN Sport you are always supported by staff, and you will have always have training before you deliver – so it’s the perfect way to get involved! There are various opportunities from one day events like ‘Discovery Days’, to school delivery with ‘Leaps to Success’ and nationwide opportunities with ‘Laureus Sport for Good’. All of our opportunities can be found at uonsportleaders.com – or just drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
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