Sports Writer Wei-Lun Chen previews UB Sport’s ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award, an accolade that recognises exceptional work that often goes unnoticed

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Images by Twitter/@UBRFC , Jonty Mitchell , Wei-Lun Chen ,

Many students volunteer in sports clubs at the University of Birmingham. Some volunteer as committee members, whereas others contribute through coaching, organising activities, or covering the media side of their club. Volunteers are undoubtedly the heart and soul of university sport groups.

The Volunteer of the Year award commends the time and effort that certain individuals have devoted to their clubs. Three individuals have been shortlisted for this year’s award: Xander Chevalier from Korfball, Matt Evans from Rugby Union, and Guy Perkins from Athletics.

Final-year politics student Xander Chevalier has been the co-president of the korfball club this season. Chevalier said he has been eager to promote the sport because ‘compared to other sports, korfball is less known to students.’ In a bid to achieve this, he organised korfball’s first Varsity match against Nottingham. Fellow co-president Sam Wells told Redbrick that the amount of passion that Chevalier puts into the sport has not gone unnoticed by his clubmates and it inspires others to get involved in korfball.

The amount of passion that Chevalier puts into the sport has not gone unnoticed

Chevalier also worked as a media volunteer for UB Sport. In his role, he emailed sports clubs every Thursday to obtain match reports to be published online. Additionally, he previewed and reported on many BUCS games himself. This included previews for the BUCS Super Series events, such as UpRoar and Xplosion, which were designed to attract more spectators to watch from the sidelines. He was also tasked with posting ‘medal alerts’ on UB Sport’s Twitter and Instagram. On the nature of his role, reporting on many different sports, Chevalier said, ‘It was intense as BUCS Nationals for nine sports were going on at the same time.’

Chevalier encourages people to work as a media volunteer because the work it involves motivates people to participate in sport. ‘It helps with someone’s university experience,’ he commented. Reflecting on his time in Birmingham, the co-president said, ‘I had never heard of korfball before I came to the university and I stumbled into it. Without korfball, I think my university experience would have been very different.’

The second nominee for the award is Rugby Union’s Matt Evans. A third-year maths student, Evans had enjoyed playing for the club in recent seasons, but he was forced to take a break due to a recurring injury. Being determined to remain involved in some capacity, he decided to take on a coaching role. Rugby union player and incoming Sports Officer Rob Hegarty said, ‘after his injuries, instead of quitting and just watching the games, he admirably stepped up to take the job of helping coach the threes.’

As Evans had not planned to venture into coaching, he initially lacked the typical qualifications for the role. However, the players helped him to quickly settle into his new role. Evans said, ‘the respect I received from the players and coaches was remarkable.’

The men’s thirds, that Evans coached, have had a strong season in their BUCS league, winning seven of their nine matches. Looking back on the campaign, he said, ‘the most enjoyable part of his season was watching players develop as a result of the training that the coaches put in together. It was amazing to see their hard work and patience paying off.’

‘I just felt I was giving my part back to a club that has given so much to me’

On his nomination, the player-turned-coach said, ‘I was utterly shocked when I found out I was nominated. I was appreciative of the support and attitudes shown by the players and coaches towards me this year, but I didn’t realise their appreciation was to such an extent to want to nominate me for this award. I just felt I was giving my part back to a club that has given so much to me.’ Evans hopes to continue in the same role again next year if possible.

Guy Perkins has been nominated for his contributions as President of the Athletics and Cross Country Club (BUAC), a club that has undergone significant change over the past year. There were captains who looked after different disciplines within the club and there was no president position. Initially, Perkins volunteered as secretary, but his title was soon changed to president to reflect his leadership and the amount of the work that he had carried out.

The Head of Athletics, Luke Gunn, said that Perkins ‘was very much the driving force of the committee.’ Gunn added that ‘he got involved with everything but never overstepped onto the roles of the other people in the committee.’ Perkins has also had to balance his duties on the committee with his own training pursuits.

As President, Perkins organised volunteering for the external events, such as the Birmingham and London half-marathons. The club provides around 20 volunteers to help out on these occasions.

‘I feel glad knowing I’ve made other people’s lives a bit better!’

Asked what motivates him, Perkins said that he ‘wants people to experience different things, have a good time and be happy with the club and their time at the university.’ He also enjoys the sense of achievement when helping others. ‘I feel glad knowing I’ve made other people’s lives a bit better!’

The Volunteer of the Year award acknowledges the unsung heroes across sport at UoB. The nominees have been crucial to the smooth running of their respective clubs, and more than deserve this recognition.

To find out who wins Volunteer of the Year, tune into the UB Sport YouTube channel this Friday at 7:30 pm.


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