April 30, 2020, by Emily Bateman
Alumni Spotlight: Mark Bullock
The University of Nottingham alumni community stands at over 280,000 worldwide. Many graduates were involved in sport and physical activity during their time at Nottingham and their experiences have had lasting impacts on their careers and personal lives.
As part of our new alumni profile series, we caught up with Mark Bullock (Economics BA Hons, 1989), an advisor in international inclusive sports development and a member of the University of Nottingham Sports Board.
In this blog, Mark shares with us how sport at Nottingham influenced his career, how his current project supports disabled people to stay connected and active in lockdown, and his advice for students during this challenging time.
My Nottingham story
“I chose Nottingham based on family recommendations and upon visiting the campus it made the decision very easy. I spent two years in Derby Hall, before living on Derby Grove in Lenton.
“Sport was a major part of university life for me; representing the University playing tennis and numerous sports for Derby Hall. I was also Sports Secretary for the Hall, President of the Tennis Club and a Karnival Rep, before embarking on a sabbatical year as a Student Union Officer.
“My experiences had a huge influence on my career. My year as Athletic Union President cemented my thinking that I wanted to go into sport as a career, and I went on to study at Loughborough University for an MSc in Recreation Management. My dissertation linked me back to Nottingham, focusing on the opportunities for community tennis development in the city around the 1991 Fed Cup, and subsequently led to me securing my first role as Tennis Development Officer for the City of Nottingham.
“Since leaving the International Tennis Federation in 2016, I’ve been running an inclusive sports consultancy business, aimed at developing and promoting opportunities for disabled people to be active. As a member of the University of Nottingham Sports Board, I aim to ensure that inclusion is central to strategic thinking and Nottingham remains at the forefront of the inclusive/disability sport sector.”
My work during the Covid-19 outbreak
“Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, I was already very active online to promote disability/inclusive sport and to influence providers, coaches and volunteers to think more inclusively. I was working on a few online projects and the current situation has dramatically accelerated my progress.
“It was immediately evident that there was shortage of online resources giving disabled people ideas on how to be physically active at home, and what was available was not easy to find. In my opinion, there were very few audio described resources for the visually impaired and limited information on physical activity at home for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities. There was also a gap in terms of providing guidance on how disabled and non-disabled people can be active together.
“During lockdown, I have developed online exercises and challenges to post on social media, and my wife, Samanta, and I have set up a physical activity play list on her YouTube Channel.
“Our videos include throwing and catching activities, volleyball, an inclusive Andy Murray 100 shot rally challenge, and a dance class delivered virtually by an instructor based in Brazil. I am also sharing content on Twitter and Instagram: @mark___bullock
“The aim was to get some content out quickly given the demand and the YouTube videos are designed to not be too prescriptive, but to plant seeds in people’s minds about how they can be active at home or in the garden with what they might have in the house.
“Of course we wanted the content to be as inclusive as possible, so this is factored into the ‘equipment’ that we use (e.g audible balloons with rice inside). We also wanted to facilitate social interaction (for people isolating together) as this is not just about physical fitness, it is also about trying to recreate some of the other benefits of physical activity and sport.
Whilst aimed at disabled people, anybody can engage with the activities. Inclusion works in multiple directions and the games can be adapted and progressed for anyone. To make activities harder someone could stand on a wobble board or touch the floor after each hit/shot. These activities are good for fitness, but also provide fun social interaction.”
My words of advice
“I would encourage students with a disability to exercise frequently, stay socially connected online (these two can be linked) and stay positive. This is a tough time for all of us and we are having to adapt, be resilient and look at the way we do things differently.
“It is also OK to not feel OK, to feel anxious about the current situation, your exams, a job offer etc. Talk to people that you trust and seek support, if necessary. I have learned that life is not a linear progression of successes. The road is bumpy with a few detours and roadblocks. I may (or maybe not) look like a successful alumnus that has always achieved, but I can assure you all of us will face challenges along the way. It took me 30 years to learn what success really means to me. And I’m still learning. Physical activity and sport and the connectivity that they provide are great ways to deal with anxiety and stress.”
The new online Health and Wellbeing Hub from University of Nottingham Sport also offers a range of online resources – get in touch to suggest an idea or make a contribution.
In addition, we’d love to hear from University of Nottingham graduates who would like to share their story with our community. Register your interest via our Alumni Profile Form or contact our Sports and Alumni Relations Officer, Emily Bateman, at Emily.Bateman@nottingham.ac.uk