Meet Tom… a volunteer, who is active on and off the track

The English Federation of Disability Sport is celebrating Volunteers’ Week- the annual campaign to celebrate the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. This year’s Volunteers’ Week focuses on saying ‘Thank You’ to the millions of volunteers who regularly contribute to society. Volunteers are the lifeblood of sport and especially in sport for disabled people. Every year, we depend on the time, energy and money of many who support our work. Tom’s story is just one example of a volunteer in sport for disabled people.

Volunteering in sport comes natural to 20 year old Tom Minchington. He has always been a keen sportsman and has met hundreds of volunteers on his own journey. Tom has Cerebral Palsy and as a young disabled person, he found that there were very few opportunities for him to take part in sport. But he always hoped to have a career in sport. Now he is taking part and giving something back to his local community, through sport.

While he was still a student in Somerset, Tom took part in the first disability athletics competition, organised by Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership- held at Yeovil Athletics Arena in April 2009. It was here Tom achieved qualifying times to compete at the Disability Sport Events National Junior Athletics Championships that year.

Then, Tom was one of 16 athletes from Somerset, who attended the event as part of the South West Team. This was the first time Somerset had even entered as a team in the national event. Achieving silver in the 100m and bronze in 200m, Tom was also part of the 4 x 100m relay team. His commendable 200m time meant he went on to be selected as a South West representative in the UK School Games- where he won bronze.

Tom joined his local club and trained there every week.

Since then, Tom has competed nationally as a junior and won medals at the nationals in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In 2011 and 2012 the South West region took home the team trophy. As the captain, Tom proudly collected the award on both occasions.

He is now too old to compete as a junior athlete in this year’s nationals being held 13 and 14 July at UCLAN’s Sports Arena in Preston. However, he acknowledges the experience he has gained to help others:

“It was the most important event of the season for me. That’s why I put in all the hours of training in each week. It was really important as a young athlete to go to the National Athletics because it gave me a chance to represent my region, which is a real privilege. And when you win medals for yourself and the team- it’s a real honour. But the most important thing about the event was that it gave you an idea of what the big competitions are like, so you can learn to deal with the pressures they bring”.  

In 2012, Tom also captained the Southwest School Games team and won a silver medal in the long jump for ambulant athletes at the amazing Olympic stadium.

Off the track and field, Tom has gained his level 1 coaching qualification in athletics and now helps at track sessions. He volunteers at his local athletics club to deliver sessions to a group of students who have a learning disability. Adding to his list of volunteering, he also gave time to ‘Playground to Podium’ and ‘Aviva UKA Talent Introduction Days’.

Tom’s contribution was recognised last year when he won the Young Achievers Awards- in the sports category. These Awards recognise inspirational young people aged between 16 and 25, who have made outstanding contributions in volunteering. At the time, Peter Ptashko, chair of the Young Achievers Trust said:

“The judges were incredibly impressed by Tom’s confidence and commitment in not only changing perceptions about disability in sport, but also in his own personal achievements. He has inspired those around him, acting as a role model for other athletes and encouraging them to take up coaching too.”

Tom is a great ambassador for disabled people taking part in sport and as a volunteer. The English Federation of Disability Sport loved his enthusiasm so much, that he was chosen in January as a case study for the Disability Sport Events promotion films. His line- “grab the opportunities” was used across social media to promote the film.

Watch the film

We hope many more disabled people “grab the opportunities” to be active- on and off the field of play.

Volunteers’  Week runs from 1-7 June. Find out more and to get involved visit the new Volunteers' Week website.

Looking for a volunteering opportunity to suit you visit our I want to volunteer page. Or get in touch with EFDS to find out how you can help support our work.