Nottingham Open serves up valuable work experience for DMU students

British tennis number one Johanna Konta may have received most of the plaudits at the recent Nottingham Open but it was advantage De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), as three of its students reaped the rewards of volunteering at the event.

Herbie Johnson, Harriet Dean and Ben Challis – all studying on DMU’s  postgraduate sport management course – took the opportunity of volunteering at the event after the opportunity was set up for them by the programme leader.

 Nottingham Tennis

Working as Volunteer Coordinators for the Viking Open Nottingham and Nottingham Trophy tennis tournaments, the trio saw first-hand the organisation needed to pull off a slick sporting event.

DMU has organised student trips to numerous important sports sites including the London Olympic Park, Wimbledon, Twickenham, and the National Football Museum, as well as the Munich Olympic Park, Allianz Arena and the FC Bayern Munich Museum, the Garmisch-Partenkirchen ski jump stadium, and the Igls bobsled track in Austria.

Here, they share their experiences of coordinating hundreds of spectators and discuss the value of volunteering.   

Herbie Johnson, 24

“We’re very fortunate studying in the sports faculties as there are always new volunteering opportunities being made available to us. During my time at DMU, I’ve managed to secure internships and experience at USA Bobsled and Skeleton and Leicester Riders, so, when the chance to volunteer as a coordinator at The Nottingham Open, I jumped on it.

“I wanted more insight into how sports events run effectively. The Nottingham Open usually attracts crowds of 7,000 each day but due to the pandemic, that capacity was reduced and meant the role of the volunteers were altered. We needed to ensure social distancing was enforced and explain to some people why various precautions were put in place.

“It demonstrated the need for clear communication as our team of coordinators were responsible for all the volunteers – which could reach up to around 100 on the busiest days –  across the two weeks.

“As a team, we checked everyone in and out of the tennis centre, so the hours were long most days but it never felt too much of a drag because the organisers and volunteers were so good to us.

“It was such an enjoyable experience, that I will volunteer where I can next year – even if I have a job. I just hope to be able to help out in front of a capacity crowd.”

DMU Works also provides students with advice on placements and opportunities for students to gain work experience.

Harriet Dean, 24

“The programme team is very vocal, encouraging students to gain practical work experience to understand what goes into organising events first-hand. DMU is strong when it comes to organising openings for its students, so when the team posted the opportunity to help manage people on a large-scale event was too good for me to turn down.

“I worked with Herbie and Ben to ensure that all the volunteers knew exactly what they were doing and where they should be stationed. We were always on hand to provide support to spectators and make sure that everyone was following the covid protocols put in place. 

“Managing a sports event, particularly ones that span a couple of weeks, is very different from every other event I’ve worked on. You can’t just recycle all the banners or procedures you did in the last event, so every day at The Open was a new, but interesting, challenge.

“You don’t have to understand everything about a sport or its history to enjoy a really rewarding experience. Volunteering was as much about gaining an insight into sporting events as it was about making new connections. I found myself making friends with one older volunteer and we have stayed in touch after the event.

Ben Challis, 22

“The Nottingham Open was the biggest event I have been a part of so far. During my undergrad course, I organised charity five-a-side tournaments for DMU Football but I’ve not had responsibility for so many people. It was a real eye-opener.

“It was a very varied role; no days were the same. I’d be setting out the order of play one morning and next I’d be leading the volunteering briefings. As social distancing was in effect, we worked hard with the volunteers to make sure that the venue was Covid-secure.

“That variation helped improve my confidence across a range of disciplines and only fuelled my ambitions to get into sports management. With the Commonwealth Games coming to Birmingham next year, I’ll be keeping my eye out for some potential roles.

“Volunteering is about throwing yourself in the deep end. It’s such a rewarding experience – there’s a reason why many volunteers get the ‘bug’ – and I wouldn’t change my experience at the Nottingham Open.”

Dr Heather Dichter is Associate Professor of Sport Management and Sport History and helps organise volunteer opportunities for students enrolled on the newly rebranded Sport Management MSc.

She said: “With sport’s return this spring and summer, events like the Nottingham Open needed volunteers, and we were thrilled that they wanted to take on some of DMU’s postgraduate students.

“We’re really lucky in Leicester that we have top-level professional sports in our city – football, rugby, cricket, and basketball – and so many international sporting events are close by so there are so many opportunities for students on the course. 

“The Nottingham Open is one of those great events that draws amazing athletes as it takes place just before Wimbledon.  The event provided the students with such a great experience in helping a major sporting event run successfully.”

Students can find out more information about the Sports Management MSc and the modules on offer here.


Posted on Monday 26 July 2021

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