In honour of Student Volunteering Week (19-25 February 2018), we thought we’d catch up with a few of our legendary volunteers from some of the prestigious events hosted on the University campus in the last 12 months. This time, we chat to Kingstun Nelson, a third year student, about his time as a volunteer with the Jamaican Athletics Camp.
A team of 80-strong Jamaican athletes descended on the University’s campus at the end of July 2017, ahead of the World Athletics Championships in London. The team had previously visited the facilities back in 2012 prior to the Olympics, and seemed keen to come back and check out the developments! They were full of praise for the facilities and enjoyed 11 days of training on our brand-new athletics track and in the recently-opened Sport & Fitness club.
With all of these athletes, their managers, team leaders, doctors and assistants, there was clearly an opportunity for people to help out – from tasks such as driving mini-buses of athletes from one venue to the next, to organising ice baths, to setting up for practice. UBSport was tasked with the challenge of finding student volunteers to help – outside of term time and in the height of summer.
Kingstun was one of the first people to put himself forward for the role. Here, we chat to him about his experience.
How did you get involved with volunteering with UBSport?
In my first year at UoB, I was unsuccessful in making the University Basketball Team. Phil (UBSport’s Student Experience Officer) had attended one of my lectures, promoting the Extra Mile – the student volunteering programme within Sport. I then spoke to him about this opportunity and was encouraged to attend a training session. Following this I was granted a Basketball Activator role.
If you could pick one, what would be your highlight of your recent volunteering experience?
Outside of my volunteering responsibilities, shortly after my shift had finished during the Jamaican camp, Fedrick Dacres (one of the discus throwers) invited me to play against him on the PS4 in a street fighting style video game. Although he defeated me mercilessly, it was a great bonding opportunity with the athlete and will forever be a fun and surreal story to tell.
What key skills do you think you picked up/developed?
Networking: To this day I am still in contact with the vice president of the Jamaican Athletics Administration Association (JAAA). I am also still in contact with several of the coaches.
Problem solving: There were a number of times when I was asked to assist in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. This required me to think outside of the box to help the athletes, coaches, management (of both UoB and JAAA) and my peers. This was things like needing to find a substitute for equipment that we did not have.
Would you recommend it to others – and if so, why?
Yes! Without a doubt. It was a great opportunity to see how a large sporting event can be run first-hand and you gain a true sense of pride knowing that you helped to make this happen. It was also an amazing chance to witness some of the most elite athletes in the world. It helps you to realise not only how committed and competitive they are, but also how similar and social they are. We got to experience these professionals in their down time, which was amazing.
What was the most interesting activity you had to do?
I was asked to escort an athlete into the city centre so that he could go shopping. It was fun walking around Birmingham city centre with a walkie talkie, escorting a 6ft 3″ highly muscular discus thrower wearing Jamaican kit, and his coach of a similar build. They drew a lot of attention!
Give us an example of what it’s really like to be a student volunteer?
I was requested to fetch water for a group of athletes by the tent located on the grass in the centre of the track. On my way back to the group I passed Warren Weir (Olympic bronze medallist). I offered him a bottle of water but he kindly refused. He then told me to leave the remaining bottles on the track by him. I told him that the others had asked for the water to be bought to them – but he insisted that the bottles should be left by the track. I was unsure how to respond as I did not want to ignore the athlete, but I was convinced that it was better for me to bring the bottles to the other athletes that had asked for them. I left the pile by Warren but took a handful of bottles to the tent. Here, as the other athletes began to humorously yell at Warren, it became clear that Warren had played a prank on me…
Interested in volunteering with UBSport? Read more information on our website, or get in touch with Student Experience Officer, Phil Heighway.
Pictured: Fredrik Dacres (Discus), Kingstun and Ramone Bailey (Long Jump)