Sport volunteering is a fantastic way to meet new people, discover world-class sport behind-the-scenes and develop new skills, and UBSport’s Extra Mile programme is designed to help students find opportunities in sport, regardless of course or sporting ability. This September, the prestigious World University Squash Championship was a perfect opportunity for volunteers to contribute to an amazing international event, at the same time as gaining key experience and skills.
Between 5 – 12 September 2018, 80 athletes from 20 nations descended on campus for a week of the best university-level squash in the world. The World University Squash Championship comprised both an individual and a team event, complete with opening and closing ceremonies and medal presentations. All of the competitors stayed in the new Bournbrook student accommodation on campus in the new Bournbrook Pavilion, and used the 6 ASB permanent squash courts in Sport & Fitness, plus a specially-erected all-glass show court in the Munrow Arena.
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 helping referees with scoring, cleaning the all-glass show court, and doing social media of the event. One of our volunteers was Emily Sutton, who helped out for most of the week. We chatted to her about her experience during the Championship – from how she got involved, to what she did, to how she found it.
I wanted to contribute to this event because I am trying to volunteer as much as I can whilst I’m in university, to get a feel for what happens behind the scenes of these different events. As the Squash Championship was held at the university I thought it would be good to volunteer, as I knew a lot about the venue and surrounding areas so felt my knowledge would be useful. I also wanted to be able to put it on my CV as experience, as this is the type of industry (sports events) I am interested in going to when I finish university. So the more experience I have the better chance I’ll get at getting a job!
I was allocated the role of an attaché for teams Austria and New Zealand which included several responsibilities. An attaché is a role where you are a designated aid to something, in this event being a team, to make sure that they know where everything is and have everything they need during the event.
As an attaché, I had loads of varied responsibilities which kept me busy! I had to go and pick up my teams from the airport, and then drop them off at their accommodation, where I helped with the logistical stuff: checking them in, getting their accreditation, showing them the layout of campus, etc.I showed them around the accommodation and the surrounding amenities, and I also walked them to the Sport & Fitness club so they knew where they had to be every day when they were playing squash. Throughout the Championship I had to make sure that they knew the timings of all their matches and special events – such as the players’ dinners and the ceremonies they had to attend. I was basically their go-to for any practical questions, help regarding the schedule and locations, from when they touched down in Birmingham to when they left for the airport.
Both New Zealand and Austria were very relaxed! As soon as I picked them up from the airport, I showed them around but then just left them to it. They ended up venturing into the centre to look at the Bullring and Brindley Place. They made my job quite easy as my teams didn’t really have any requests during the event, but I know the other attachés had some quite specific requests from their teams which meant they had to run around a bit more! I got on very well with my teams and they weren’t worried to ask me anything when they needed to – it was a really nice experience being able to meet and work with international students and build up nice relationships with them!
My highlight has got to be when I thought I lost my players at the airport…! I went with Zena,the Director of Sport, and Coleen from FISU (the International University Sports Federation, which runs all the World University Championship events around the world) to pick up two athletes. Coleen had been waiting a while and I had been standing with the signs. After about an hour, and all the flight attendants telling us that their flight had been down for hours, Zena and Coleen left to head back to the event and I was tasked with finding the players! After doing everything I could – phoning Phil (Head of Volunteering for the event) to see if he heard anything, asking people at the airport, traipsing round to see if I could spot them…I eventually found them, only to have to wait another 40 minutes for the next lot of transport to come! Turns out they were just stuck in a queue going through passport control – and luckily we could all laugh about it afterwards!
One of the skills that was vital to the role of an attaché was organisation – especially for looking after two teams. I had to make sure I knew what times both teams were playing and check they were both alright before their matches – that they had all their equipment, they knew who they were playing, etc. I had to build up good relationships with them and enhance my communication skills, because if I needed to do things like relay important information or show them something urgently, I had to be confident to chat to them and pass on details in an efficient and clear way. Another slight barrier was that even though the Austrian team spoke very good English there was some words that they didn’t understand, which meant my communication had to be very precise.
Yes of course, volunteering is the best fun! There’s so many new, friendly people to meet. Plus it’s the best way to see behind the scenes of an event if you are interested in finding out things like the logistics of how they run, how many people are involved, what sort of time and effort it takes to pull off all the different elements. It is also a really good way to build up your general working experience in a way that it probably more enjoyable than others!
Interested in volunteering with UBSport? Read more information on our website, or get in touch with Student Experience Officer, Phil Heighway.