Alex Cockerham on the left of the photo stands with a group of children and other teachers during an outdoor goalball session in Tanzania

It’s Student Volunteering Week and we’re celebrating some of the wonderful student volunteers that have helped us over the years. First up is Goalball UK’s very own Alex Cockerham!

Where were you studying and what were you studying when you became a Goalball UK Activator?

Sport Development with Coaching at Sheffield Hallam University.

How did you find out about volunteering with Goalball UK?

Through the role as a Student Sport Activator at the University Steve Cox put an advertisement out for volunteers for a tournament in Sheffield in 2018. I didn’t know anything about goalball beforehand, barring a few YouTube videos after signing up. I wanted to try something new so I went along and the rest is history!

What were your first impressions of goalball?

It was completely different to what I had played before or watched. This is one of my favourite things about goalball, even if it does lead to some puzzled faces when describing it at first!

What activities have you taken part in?

During my time as a volunteer, I have had the opportunity to take part in lots of activities and gain experience in lots of different areas of goalball. This includes becoming a Level 1 IBSA qualified referee and gaining experience in coaching goalball at South Yorkshire Goalball Club whilst I was at university.

What has been your favourite experience so far?

Whilst I was a volunteer: While on my university placement in Tanzania, I got to deliver goalball which was amazing. It was largely thanks to the experience I gained volunteering at Goalball UK competitions and club training sessions ahead of the opportunity. It was challenging at times having to overcome the language barrier with my extremely limited Swahili whilst coaching people with a visual impairment, but it was all part of the fun and tested me to be out of my comfort zone and to be adaptable. My 15 minutes of fame is that I was on Tanzania National TV!
In my entire goalball experience (including being a member of staff): Getting to be a part of the Great Britain team at the 2022 European Para Youth Games is something I am extremely proud of. It made it even more special that everyone in the men’s and women’s teams had been a part of the #FindTheNext Goalball Academy in some way along their journey to becoming international goalball players, and bronze medal winners!

Would you recommend volunteering to a friend?

Of course! Goalball has such a friendly atmosphere where everyone wants to do the best they can, there is a role for everyone, no matter your experience.

What advice would you give to a student who is thinking about volunteering with Goalball UK?

Be open to trying something new and ask questions. If you have something you are interested in which could be linked to your university degree, ask how you can learn more and we will try to find a way to support you.

How did the Activator role lead to you being employed by Goalball UK?

After attending a number of competitions and progressing as an activator and referee, I got the opportunity to shadow members of the staff team to learn more about their roles. They were all really supportive and the opportunity allowed me to get a really well-rounded understanding of goalball and the national governing body.
When the role became available I applied as soon as I could and was thankfully successful in securing the role. I started with Goalball UK in September 2020 after completing my undergraduate degree.
A young Alex Cockerham oversees an indoor goalball game
Alex Cockerham leads an outdoor goalball lesson whilst in Tanzania