Get involved! Sport is for everyone!

Sport and Fitness Lecturer, Elizabeth Smith tells us about her journey into a career in sport and some of the highlights of her year at Ayrshire College so far.

Sport has always been a part of my life one way or another. Whilst at school I played in variety of sports teams including hockey and tennis. However my passion was for athletics and my teachers at St Convals/St Josephs encouraged me to take part in regional activities where I was seen by coaches from Ayr Seaforth and asked to join the club. I had a very successful time at the club winning many titles along the way. One of the highlights I have was when we were asked to do a run through for the Commonwealth Games in Meadowbank where I got to see a few of my role models of the time Lindsey McDonald and Sally Gunnel.

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At the time sport was a hobby, on leaving school I went to College and did a Nursery Nurse course which led me to moving abroad where I worked as a nanny and then a classroom assistant in schools. I was involved in many sports clubs and inter school competitions. On returning home to Scotland I continued to volunteer in local schools again taking lunchtime and after school sports activities which were popular as it was made inclusive to all children regardless of abilities.

It has not always been easy to make room for sport as I had three children to bring up and worked part time in a local post office, my passion was kept alive through my children’s involvement in sport which helped me to make the life changing decision to return to College as a mature learner to pursue my passion for sport.

I started my journey as a NC student and subsequently progressed and achieved my HNC then HND in Sports Coaching and Development. I then attended Scottish Agriculture College/ University of Glasgow where I gained a BA in Sport & Recreation Management. My lecturers from Townholm campus encouraged me to take another big step to become a lecturer, I attended University of Stirling where I achieved my (TQFE) Teaching Qualification in Further Education.  I was offered a job as a bank lecturer and thankfully I secured a full time permanent job as a Sport and Fitness Lecturer.

Highlights of this year
I am now working in the Skills Centre of Excellence in Irvine which is linked to Irvine Royal Academy. It’s a great campus which has the feeling of being one big family where we help and support one another. We have over 200 students who are studying Sports Coaching, Applied Sport Science and Fitness Health and Exercise. Based here and you get to know every one of them. I think the students benefit from this nurturing environment as they receive a well-rounded learning experience, they can be themselves and you can really see their confidence and self-esteem develop. It is also very sociable – they get to know students from other courses who come from all over the West of Scotland.

The highlights of the year have been the partnerships we have in the community with Kilwinning Sports Centre, SRU, SFA , Irvine Sports Club, Beith Astro, KA leisure and South/North Ayrshire Active Schools. Along with our links with local schools including Haysholm and St Marks .We have broadened the students learning with training courses with Positive Coaching Scotland, Scottish Disability Sport, Rugby Ready course. Our students have volunteered at many events including being runners for the SFA, Marshalls for Scottish Rugby games, Primary School after school programmes as well as sports days, and best of all our student football team won the South West League Title.

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Lets Have More…
Participation in sports by all our students. One of the things I’d like to see more participation in lunchtime/ after college clubs. These clubs are for any college student and not just sports and fitness students but for any student from Ayrshire College. We have capacity for teams in football, rugby, volleyball, basketball, badminton, netball, athletics and golf we also have the capabilities for exercise classes and a fully functional gym.

Let’s have more girls on our sports courses!

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Did you know 40% of girls have dropped out of all sports activity by the time they reach 18.

Almost half of adult women in Scotland (43%) participate in little or no sport at all.

79% of girls aged 8-15 did not see being fit and healthy as important.

Only 17% of girls in Primary 7 – Secondary 2 report doing moderate physical activity for 1 hour on more than 5 days per week as recommended by national guidelines. In addition 42% of girls in this age group report doing 1 hour or less per week of vigorous physical activity. (Reference: Making Women and Girls More Active; A Good Practice Guide).

As a female lecturer I fell I can make a difference by helping young women gain access, embrace opportunity and enjoy sport by making my lessons fun and encouraging students to be the best they can be.

It is important that everyone feels welcome to take part regardless of their abilities as it should be fun and enjoyable one of the best ways is to have a buddy system where you come to take part /practise in activities in pairs or groups of two or three where it can be less daunting and more fun when you have friends with you.

One step at a time ………………….we can achieve anything we set our minds to!

One of Elizabeth’s students is Kirsty Wilson, 17 from Portencross in North Ayrshire who has just completed her HNC Sports Coaching at the Skills Centre of Excellence in Irvine.

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Kirsty went to Ardrossan Academy last year and with four Highers in the bag she was all set to start a course in Interior Design. However over the summer holidays last year she completed a leadership course with Active Schools and the experience dramatically changed her careers plans.

Kirsty says, “I am a really practical person and like to be active. My experience working with primary school children was enlightening. I love seeing how much fun the children had playing sport and the positive effect it had on their lives. Sport makes people feel good and makes me feel good too.

I used to do athletics at primary school and I was the school captain. We won our races and when I left they started to lose. I went back as a volunteer and they started winning again – it was really satisfying to know the difference I could make. I didn’t do PE as a Higher at school – I really had no interest yet when I worked with Active Schools, I saw the potential for a rewarding career.

I applied to lots of places that offered sports courses but when I came here I thought I’d fit in and it’s close to where I live. I have not regretted the decision for a moment. The lecturers have been really helpful and the pace of work is fine. On our course we have had lots of opportunities to volunteer. For example every Friday I coach athletics in Largs. I was also invited to coach at an Easter camp and I got paid for this.

One of the highlights of the year has been experiencing playing rugby. It’s a really exciting game. The Head of Rugby came to the college and has explained the opportunities available to coach rugby and offered me an apprenticeship. I am the youngest in the class and there are four girls and eighteen boys so it was a privilege to be asked – but I don’t want to specialise just yet. It does not really bother me that there are so few girls in my class. I’m quite a girly girl and at first I wore a lot of make-up. I never felt judged and I find myself with a more natural look and feel accepted.

I like to work with the Primary school children and tell the girls – come on you are just as good as the boys – you can win. I think I’m quite a good role model as I helped them win and made them feel good about themselves.

The highlight of my year has been trying new experiences, building up my self-confidence and meeting new people. The coaching course has helped reaffirm what I am good at and what I enjoy and if I have inspired children to pursue sport, I will feel I have made a useful contribution. Next year I have a choice to make between doing the HND course or going straight into university. We have also been talking to KA Leisure about coaching vacancies they have, so I could go straight into employment. It’s exciting to have so many opportunities.

We still have places on sport and fitness courses at Irvine and Kilmarnock.  To apply go to Courses

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