Volunteer of the Month: Zejun Yao

November’s volunteer of the month is Zejun Yao. Leeds Sport chatted to him about the volunteering he is involved in and how it felt to be recognised for his fantastic efforts. 


Which volunteering programme are you on & what does your role involve?

I am volunteering as a Coaching Scholar for Leeds Sport . My role is to support the Cross Country Club and the lead coach Greg with a multitude of activities from programme planning to weekly team training and individual student development in distance running.

How much time do you commit to volunteering per week and how do you manage this alongside your studies?

During term time I am delivering approximately 2 to 3 hours of coaching at the University per week This includes two evening sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, usually on grass or track, followed by a Saturday morning run too. It takes effort to balance study/research time with volunteering but also simultaneously helps me to become more productive and flexible.

What made you want to volunteer?

Running and coaching directly reflects my passion for both sports activity and my practice-led PhD. The work-in-progress coaching experience with the university team will help me to confidently develop independent and team working skills. It will enable me to envisage the short to long-term training programme development and team management. Volunteering for the student community in various outdoor locations allows me to improve my leadership skills; being able to accurately deliver more in-depth and behind the scenes knowledge and critical thinking.

What is the best thing about volunteering?

‘Joie de vivre’ or ‘Joy of living’ – I consider the Coaching Scholar programme as a unique experience which would benefit the transition from a postgraduate student athlete towards an independent athlete/coach in the future and am looking forward to the opportunities to continue supporting our student community.

What are the challenges?

The programme and coaching covers both team training and club race events, which relates directly to BUCS, the National Cross Country Championships and the following track season. I am currently working closely with the lead coach of Leeds Sport to discuss the annual planning for both recreational and competitive student athletes. During the weekly training sessions, I provide live feedback to participants and communicate the challenges that have arisen between the collective and individual needs of the group. Additionally, I offer advice and demonstrations by providing additional training support for injury prevention, strength and conditioning development.

Would you recommend volunteering to others?


How does it feel to win Volunteer of the Month?

Feeling like a running ‘Kaomoji’ (emoji)!


‘Jun has thrown himself into his coaching role with great enthusiasm and is a valuable member of the cross-country club. In spite of being injured this season, he has continued to cycle to coaching each week to support his fellow students. He has also undertaken two coaching qualifications in a short space of time (Leadership in running fitness, and Coaching Assistant) and hopes to take his next qualification soon. Parallel to this Jun is a well-rounded and interesting person to be around!’ Suzzi Garnett, Sports Volunteering Officer

You can read more about Jun and his PhD work here: https://www.letjun.run/