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In conversation with Pat Gibbs, Student Union Officer for Sport and Development

Pat Gibbs talks about his time as the Student Union Officer for Sport and Student Development.

Pat Gibbs standing outside of the Indoor Sports Centre.

By Oscar Coupal, Sport Editor

Recently, I spoke to the Students’ Union’s (SU) Sports and Student Development Officer, Pat Gibbs, to learn more about his role, the achievements he has accomplished so far and his plans for the future.

In his first year at Bristol, Pat was encouraged by his parents to trial for the university football team despite having an injury and a year later he found himself as the social secretary of the club, organising nights out and strengthening the community of the team. Last season (2022-23) Pat was elected as the club captain of the University of Bristol Athletic Football Club (UBAFC), a role that demands punctuality and responsibility and one that was extremely rewarding for him. Pat comments:

‘I really enjoyed making a positive impact for a lot of students… there were times when I would stand at social or at the side of the football pitch and have a moment to reflect on seeing a load of people that I’m helping really enjoy themselves and make their university experience’.

The opportunity to become the Sports and Student Development Officer arose from Pat’s position as club captain. He was contacted in February 2023 by the SU Head of Student Opportunities for a meeting to discuss his suitability to become an SU Officer.

The meeting was held twelve hours before the application deadline, giving Pat only around six hours to write a manifesto and commit to becoming a candidate. Election week started the following Monday with Pat describing it as ‘one of the most full-on weeks of my life’.

Pat gained much of his support from online networking to ‘get his name out there’. He attributed his experience as club captain as a vital factor to coming out on top against his three rival candidates across the five-day election week.

When discussing the demands of his job, Pat commented: ‘as I have been elected by students, my role is to effectively represent the student body and, in my area specifically, people involved in sports and student leaders. I make sure their voice is heard in university meetings and on a wilder scale’.

Pat is committed to ‘develop[ing] the sense of community surrounding Sports at Bristol, tailor committee training for different groups and review financial accesses and existing barriers to Sport’.

Since starting the job, Pat has managed to implement several useful changes. The free Wednesday bus from Tyndall’s Avenue to Coombe Dingle now runs later into the evening, allowing for more students to watch and participate in sport. In addition to this, Pat ran an introductory session in September for club captains to increase the visibility of his role and the information on the support that is available all year round.

The economics graduate also spoke about his desire to improve student wellbeing and ideas he has formed to do so, such as the role of a ‘wellbeing champion’. Pat described a ‘wellbeing champion’ as someone who ‘promotes a positive culture… and creates a healthy atmosphere that is not cliquey, egocentric, or toxic’. Moreover, a ‘wellbeing champion’ would be able to ‘signpost their members’ to available help and ‘handle issues with disclosure’. Lastly, Pat wants to instil in ‘wellbeing champions’ the fundamental knowledge of the support resources available, as he plans to cut no corners when it comes to the welfare and wellbeing of students. The ‘wellbeing champions’ would be on the committees of sport societies to offer a helping hand to any members who are struggling.

Reflecting on his time so far in the job, Pat has come to realise that ‘sport is the thing that gives me most joy’ and that he ‘enjoys giving opportunities to people through sport’. For those of you potentially considering applying for the role of a SU officer, Pat’s advice is to ‘just do it!’, as he has obtained a wealth of experience, developed his interpersonal skills, and broadened his future horizons.

Featured image: Pat Gibbs/Bristol Student Union

Would you consider becoming a SU Officer?