‘Joining a student society made me come out of my shell’
Meet JMSU’s new Vice-President (Activities) Pedrom Tavakolli
Ped, tell us about the role?
VP Activities is about promoting and coordinating the clubs and societies, of which we have 50 alone in sport but also include subject groups like Law and Nursing and others covering all sorts of interests. My job is to ensure they run smoothly and plug into JMSU support and wider activities. It’s very broad in terms of the people I interact with.
What are your objectives for this year?
When I first campaigned – the priorities were helping societies recover from COVID, making the best of the new SLB building and also inclusivity. As I’ve come into the job, I can see that the first and the last are one and the same because if you’re very inclusive you need to help everyone get and stay involved and do well. So now my third theme is to help men’s mental health. As an athlete myself I understand you don’t always want to speak to the captain of the team in case you don’t get selected in case you are perceived to have a problem. So we need to refocus on this idea of ‘it’s ok not to be ok’ especially after the year we’ve all had.
Last year I was vice-captain of the Mixed Martial Arts club and although I spoke to lots of people and got a sense of people struggling, I think we’re really looking at only the tip of the iceberg as people don’t speak out. Yes, people want to play in teams and enjoy their sport but it’s also about creating a sense of community. Traditionally, it’s always been teams do socials together but we want to get to a place where teams and societies mix and support each other both on and off the playing area. We’re about creating that togetherness and inclusivity because we all have so much in common.
Last year sport and socials dropped off the map because of COVID, so people have missed out a lot, haven't they?
There was a bit challenge keeping people engaged. It was very hard even keeping students on track at an academic level, let alone via sports and societies. But some did remain active and JMSU itself put on a lot of activities online – fitness sessions and the like to engage team players and non-team players. Now this year we’re geared up to bounce back again.
Post-COVID, are students even more conscious of their health and fitness?
Yes definitely, this year is absolutely about participation and getting as many people active as possible. Yes, you can join a sports club or society but you don’t have to be in the team or be of a high standard to play regularly, whether it is football or netball or cycling and you don’t need to be competing every week.
The message this year is just join; you don’t need to be a BUCS competitor to be in the club – it’s good for your health, your mental health, and you meet friends or maybe even to learn something about yourself.
When did you sign up to JMSU as a student?
In my first year, I was very course-oriented. Yes, I knew there was an SU but they weren’t as visible as they are now. I studied law, and my first society was the Law Society where I made a lot of new friends. To be honest, it made me come out of my shell and I think a lot of people find this; that they really come alive when they join something. It’s easy to follow your timetable for the week without truly engaging in the university community. Going to those extra-curricula or social events you get the opportunity to have conversations you’d never have had.
Getting involved in JMSU at society or committee level or whatever, is also a good opportunity to bolster your CV and stand out from the crowd. Most importantly, it gets you ready for life after uni. JMSU does genuinely give you so many life skills, yes you can get life skills from your course, but being involved in student union life gives you a different flavour of skills. A different perspective.
Looking back at the year we’ve had – what do you think you’ve learned?
A lot! Perseverance is a big one. A lot of times, myself and Jake Poole, the MMA Club captain would face a lot of setbacks and blockages and we always found a way around it. So keeping going became the most important thing and it gave us the confidence to know that we’d always come out better off if we kept trying. We always came back stronger.
I started boxing when I was 16 and thought I was tough but I wasn’t really. The mental side of COVID has been challenging for us all and that is what I learnt to really deal with over the past 18 months. We’ve all had to overcome obstacles we never imagined we’d have to deal with, and it changes you. I was lucky too because winning Sports Person of the Year was a big moment in the year. I’d never really looked at myself as successful.
I thought going above and beyond was just the standard, so winning that award jointly with Jake made me realise I had achieved a lot, which is nice.
We appear to be in the tail-end of COVID but do you think students should still be worried?
I think naturally some will be worried - that’s perfectly normal. JMSU is here as a team if people do have concerns. Our message must continue to be about being sensible, being mindful of others, maintaining good hygiene behaviours. It’s on us all to remember that the virus is out there, you can still catch it and pass it on and we have to approach it as a community not as individuals.
This is what we’ll be reminding all sports clubs and societies as they plan their activities this term. If you’re feeling unwell take a test; look after yourself, look after everyone else.
Do you have thoughts about life beyond LJMU?
Right now my focus is about this year and the task ahead. I am 100% committed to the job I’ve been voted in for by the student voice. There’s a few things in my mind. My sister’s gone into Law and I think my parents would want me to do the same but let’s see what happens.
I’m just glad we’re all back together and there’s that new buzz about the place.