Department of Sport

Sean O'Sullivan 2020

Sean O'Sullivan

Sean has been studying at the University for five years and for three of those was a para-sport scholar. 

He has been training and playing with the University badminton club since his first year - making valuable contributions to their BUCS team results.

As well as competing internationally on the parabadminton circuit, Sean also immersed himself in to a number of voluntary roles, including sports officer for the disabled students network and a volunteer on the Men's Health Active programme.

All of his efforts both on and off the court were rewarded with the Vice-Chancellors award in June 2020.


How have you been involved in sport, fitness and volunteering at University? 

I have always been a pretty decent parabadminton player and trained with the England squad. I didn’t know about the sports scholarship programme, but bumped in to the Disability Sport Officer at the Registration Fair and she informed about the support that was available. 

Sean OSullivan competing

I've been a scholar for a couple of years for parabadminton. I've also been an active member of the University Badminton squad and played a lot of BUCS games and also have been a team captain. I also like to keep fit and have used the David Ross Sports Village gym regularly during my time here. 

In the second year it was more of the same, but with the scholarship I received a bit more support and my training signifcantly increased. I played more internationally and so was a bit more focused on performance and playing in BUCS.

In my third year, I got involved in the Men’s Health Active (MHA) initiative and supported the focus group, launch night and volunteered on a weekly basis. I went regularly to the boxing session, really enjoyed it and ended up supporting the coaching of the session. I also attended the MHA talk shops and conversation cafes, which I got a lot out of. 

In my final year, I was elected as the Sports Officer for the Disabled Students Network and worked with Jessica to try and develop more inclusive opportunities for students. 


For two years, I also have supported the disability sport module for sports rehabilitation and physiotherapy students, where I went to talk about my disability and sporting experiences. It's been a busy four years! 

What have you enjoyed about your experiences? 

For starters the facilities themselves (facilities, coaching and guidance) is something that you just don’t get in other places – that's been massive for me. BUCS has been a lot of fun, although frustrating to start off with competing against non-disabled peers and losing every game, especially in my first year, I did turn things around though. BUCS felt less serious than playing internationals and it was a more enjoyable way of being competitive. I’ve met some great people and the camaraderie within the squad has been brilliant.  

In terms of being involved MHA, I liked the fact that I was doing something good for other people and providing the platform for people if they’re struggling.  

Sean OSullivan Badminton

I came to University after being a big fish in a small pond and it took some time to adjust. It was hard to get your head around the fact that you’re a small fish in a big pond. I was being realistic when I started, but I felt dead average and I struggled with that. I’m comfortable with that now, but I went on a journey with reconciling that. In my second year I had surgery on my leg and that affected me and I couldn’t train for a while. My sense of purpose was removed over the summer and my mental health took a dive. I got in to a state of mind where I was quite low and I didn’t know how to get out of that rut. It took a long time to get over it, as there were also other factors affecting me. In my final year a switch flicked and I embraced all of the opportunities open to me at University – including MHA, Strictly Come Dancing Notts, salsa dancing and the disabled students network

What has been your highlight so far? 

Being part of the badminton squad has been a real highlight - everyone was so welcoming, accommodating, supportive and truly inclusive. My disability was never really highlighted, I felt like one of the team.   

What have you found challenging? 

Its very tough when you first come to University – finding your place and not being the  best. For me it was a bit of a culture shock, especially in my first year.  

From a performance point of view, sticking with training and not losing heart has been tough, especially when you’re continuously losing game after game. It fed in to a cycle of negativity for me and I found it difficult to get out of. I’ve definitely got a different perspective on it now – it's given me more confidence and my performances on the badminton court are a lot more consistent - I found my mojo! 

How do you think things could be improved / developed to enhance the student experience? 

Encourage more sober socials within clubs and societies, to make it more accessible to disabled students. Night clubs in particular, can be a bit overwhelming and not everyone’s cup of tea.  

One piece of advice for disabled students - don’t be backwards in coming forwards – make sure that you ask for help if you need it, the support is there. If you don’t say anything, people are not going to know that you need that help. Be honest and speak to people, tell them what you need and how you want things. I wish that I’d done that from the start.

University of Nottingham Sport

David Ross Sports Village
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 74 87000