Success in Sport: Kai Johnson

This week Ayrshire College has been showcasing students who have had incredible achievements in sport.

To recap, we presented:

MondayWilliam Dunnachie, football coach

TuesdayAinsley-Ann Smith, taekwondo fighter

WednesdayRoss Strachan, handball player

ThursdayShannon Carrick, ice skater

To round off the week, we highlight the achievements of 17-year-old Kai Johnson, from Mauchline, who is a talented motorbike racer and NC Sport and Fitness (Advanced) student. Here is his story.


I started off on mini-motors. Someone around the corner from my house had one, and that got me started. I would’ve been around 8 years old.

In my third year I won the Scottish mini-moto championship. Then I moved onto 50cc racing and came 5th in my first year of that, and 3rd in my second. After that it was 125cc – where again I won the championship.

I was asked to go to Spain to try out for Red Bull. Unfortunately I didn’t get in, but I was one of 100 to make the tryouts from thousands of contenders. Of course I was nervous but I felt like I was doing well.

What I love about it is the adrenaline; the experience. But also the racing community. I’ve made loads of new friends and have met professional racers through this.

It’s more of an English thing, I’m one of the few Scottish people who do the British Superbikes.

I’m not doing anything this year due to a lack of funding but hopefully next year I’ll be in the Spanish championships, racing a Moto2 which is a 600cc. I’ll be improving my lap times as it’ll be the same type of tracks as before.

I’m finding the College course really interesting – I’m enjoying it. At the end of the day I’d love to get into something related to sport and fitness.

But hopefully I can become a professional racer again. The British Superbikes last year was my first year being professional and if I had done it this year I would have won the championship as my lap times were the same as the person in first place – but there’s a lack of sponsorship.

We need sponsors to ensure I can do it next year.

If you would like to sponsor Kai, you can contact for further details.

Success in Sport: Shannon Carrick

This week Ayrshire College is showcasing students who have had incredible achievements in sport.

On Monday we kicked things off with the story of William Dunnachie, who left it all behind here to coach in California with UK International Soccer for nine months.

This was followed by a look at the career so far of Ainsley-Ann Smith – a 17-year-old European medallist in taekwondo.

On Wednesday, the achievements of 18-year-old handball star Ross Strachan were highlighted.

Today we bring you 15-year-old Shannon Carrick’s story.

Shannon Carrick

Shannon Carrick is an ice skater. A pretty good one at that.

She first started ice skating at the age of 7 after her mother – who Shannon calls “so supportive” – encouraged her to join a sport.

The 15-year-old from Patna now skates every day, showing real dedication in travelling to Dundee Ice Arena to ensure she’s practicing on the very best ice rink available.

“The Team GB skaters all go there”, she said.

Shannon is one of those skaters. She was first chosen to represent Great Britain at the age of just 12.

She said “I would say that was my biggest achievement, because I was so young. I’ve competed for Great Britain three times now and I absolutely love it.

“I’ve also been to four British championships and although I’ve not won yet, I’ve been close and would say I’ve performed really well in the championships.”

Shannon said “Ice skating has been amazing for me.

“I’d love to make a living from skating. I’ve already been to Slovenia and Romania but I’d love to get into ice shows and tour the world.”

Right now she is studying NC Sport and Fitness and does have alternative plans for the future just in case she has to put the skating on ice.

She said “I’m enjoying the course – we’re learning all about different sports. At the end of it I’d like to either be a personal trainer or work at Active Schools.”

Watch Shannon skating below.

Success in Sport: Ross Strachan

This week Ayrshire College is showcasing students who have had incredible achievements in sport.

Already we’ve presented the story of William Dunnachie, who left it all behind here to coach in California with UK International Soccer for nine months, and Ainsley-Ann Smith, a 17-year-old European medallist in taekwondo.

Today we highlight the achievements of 18-year-old Ross Strachan, from Livingston, who is a talented handball player and HNC Coaching and Developing Sport student. Here is his story.

Ross Strachan

How did you get started in handball?

I started off playing handball when I was in Primary 5. There was a handball festival tournament at my school which I went along to and really enjoyed. I got a leaflet that day to say there was a club down near my house in Livingston, so I went along to that and I’ve been playing handball ever since. That’s been 9 years.

I had to give up playing football to concentrate on it fully. I thought I’d have more of a chance of a place in the Scotland and GB squads in handball rather than football, so I thought I’d stick at it and see where it takes me. It’s went pretty well so far!

 Where has the sport taken you?

I’ve been to Sweden for five years in a row and Denmark twice, along with lots of tournaments in England. I was supposed to go to Hungary but the tournament got cancelled.

I’m a coach for the Scotland U17 squad.  I’m also a referee. I’m hoping to get onto the European Handball Federation young referees programme which would take me across the world refereeing professional games and getting paid.

 Is handball’s popularity growing?

Interest is picking up, definitely. Interest was really low when I first started and there weren’t many participants. Now more clubs and teams across Scotland are getting involved. 

You’re also hoping to get more Ayrshire kids playing handball by helping the College out with this project


The Scottish Handball Asssocation’s Chris Kerr providing coaching tips to Ayrshire College students at the Skills Centre of Excellence

Yeah. The College has established a partnership with the Scottish Handball Association, which is great for me as I’m looking for more experience. I do coach back in Livingston when I’m not through in Kilmarnock, but it’s good to get stuff up and running here.

Once kids start coming along they really enjoy it, it’s really different for them. It’s not like football or rugby, where everyone knows what that is, handball is a sport not a lot of people know or understand.

So it’s good to get kids involved and promote my sport more and get young kids involved in sport.

 Finally, how are you finding the College?

I’m loving Ayrshire College. It’s really good. I was hoping to go somewhere closer to where I live however I did not manage to secure a place in Edinburgh College whereas Ayrshire College gave me a place straight away as I had the right grades to meet their entry requirements.


They’ve been really helpful, great with me, and I’m glad I came here.

The main goal at the end of my studies is to become a PE teacher. If not, then a development officer in handball.

Success in Sport: Ainsley-Ann Smith

This week we are showcasing students who have had incredible achievements in sport.

Already we’ve presented the story of William Dunnachie, who left it all behind here to coach in California with UK International Soccer for nine months.

Today we highlight the achievements of 17-year-old Ainsley-Ann Smith, from Galston, who is a talented taekwondo competitor and HNC Coaching and Developing Sport student. In her own words, here is her story.



I’m a two-time European bronze medallist who, for the past two years, has competed for Scotland. All in I’ve won over 50 medals during my five years of competing.

I won the two European bronze medals in Belarus, and I’ve also competed in Czech Republic, Ireland and England. I was supposed to go to Italy this year but unfortunately I was out with a back injury.

I’m hoping to go to the Netherlands at the end of November and next year I’m planning on competing in Greece and Italy.

Believe it or not, I got into taekwondo because I was bullied when I was younger. I would’ve been 8 or 9 and I was a bit on the chubby side, but it helped my confidence and also made me lose some weight.

I started out at Newmills in a small class of around eight kids. Now I’m at Newmills, Stewarton, Ardrossan, Irvine and Alloa!

I train and coach for an hour on a Wednesday, four hours on a Thursday, two each on Fridays and Saturday, and depending on whether I have a competition – I could have seven hours of taekwondo on a Sunday. On top of that I go to the gym, and once a month I have two hours of black belt training.

In hour long blocks, I’m coaching the kids and sparring with them. For the four hours on a Thursday it’s really intense fitness work – patterns, sparring and drills. When I was going to Belarus it was constant fitness, fitness, fitness.

There’s an adrenaline rush, you get a good kick from it. I also work with children with disabilities. The sport is rewarding – you’re coaching them and they’re looking up to you – but they’re winning medals at the same time.

In the future I’m hoping to take over my club and start my own classes. Right now I’m a class assistant. I also plan to continue competing and hopefully I can win gold at the European or maybe even World Championships.

Watch Ainsley-Ann sparring below.

Success in Sport: California Coach William Dunnachie

In the latest issue of The Student Voice, UK International Soccer promoted the opportunities they offer to young coaches in a feature titled ‘Ayrshire College students live the American dream’.

One of the coaches featured in the piece, former Ayrshire College student William Dunnachie, swapped Cumnock for California for nine months and is due to return at the end of November.

We caught up with William while he is still over there to gain a greater insight into what it’s like to leave Scotland behind to coach in the States.

Here is his honest appraisal of how the experience has been for him.



What made you want to go out to USA?
Ever since I was 16 years old, I knew I wanted to coach or teach sport.

When I was at Ayrshire College studying Coaching and Developing Sport, I got offered the chance to come out to USA at the age of 18. But at that time I didn’t feel I was ready for such a huge step.

After graduating and gaining more experience over the years it prepared me for the next big step. I was working in a hotel as a bar supervisor and I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I took the plunge and applied for the position at UK International Soccer and got accepted.

I wanted to come to USA to learn about the States and how football (or soccer to them) is growing over here.

My goal was to teach the children what I had been taught growing up as a player and pass on my knowledge and experience to help them improve their overall game.

Can you give me a detailed breakdown of what you’re doing out there?
I’m a Technical Training Programme Coach. I am assigned to a region and work with them to deliver a programme where I coach football on a daily basis.

I hold daily clinics for children aged 6 to 19. These kids can attend classes for an hour, or stay for three hours, to work on their football skills. With the younger players we mostly work on passing and dribbling, but as the players get older we move on to more advanced skills and exercises.


I’m based in San Jose, California. I worked with a second coach in the spring but on my own in the autumn. It’s been great for me as I was shown the ropes – learning how to coach and work in the area. Then latterly I’ve felt I’ve had more responsibility in my work; making sure everything has been running smoothly and the coaching has been at a high standard.

The summer however was a little different to the spring and autumn. We got the chance to travel to different places in USA and coach at summer camps for the kids.

These are 5-6 day camps running from 9am-11am or 9am-3/4pm. The camps are open to boys and girls aged 3-19. The summer camps were an amazing experience for me as I got to travel all over California and I was even lucky to work up in Oregon for a week.

What have been the best things about living in California?
Where can I start about California, the place is amazing! The weather, the people, the scenery it is just fantastic.

When I first arrived I landed in San Francisco to rain, and I had just left the rain in Scotland, but that soon changed. I was coaching every day in 30+ degrees weather, maybe even higher in the summer.

The people in California are amazing. They treat you so well and with a great amount of respect.

As soon as they heard me speak they knew I wasn’t local, and in a way it made them more interested in getting to know me and my Scottish background.

The kids are also amazing. They treat you as if you were a celebrity! Especially during the summer camps: the kids are saying “we are being coached by professional coaches”, asking “can we have your autograph?” On occasions I have signed a few for them.

My overall experience of California has been amazing and it will be one I will never forget.


What have been the challenges?
There have been many challenges for me coming out to work in USA.

The first one was how big a jump it was leaving it all behind in Cumnock: my family, my friends, my life, and going to a country where I knew nobody.

I am a family person and the thought of leaving my family behind was a huge decision for me, but they supported me and encouraged me to go and pursue this career.

It was especially hard for me to leave behind my little niece, who is 2. She is my world and I am very close to her so saying goodbye was the hardest thing to do.

Apart from that it wasn’t very challenging adjusting to the California lifestyle. I mean, how could you complain walking around in shorts every day, wearing your sunglasses and hitting the beach most days before going to coach?

Do you feel what you’ve learnt at Ayrshire College has helped you throughout this opportunity?
Absolutely, my three years at Ayrshire College gave me the experience and knowledge on how to coach and how to be successful with what I do. I loved my time at the College and if I could do it again I would.

Do you need to use a different coaching style/technique for this compared to working in Scotland?
Yes, the whole concept of coaching over here is different.

Kids are born into baseball, basketball, American football, unlike kids in the UK who are mostly born into football.

So a lot of the Americans are new soccer fans and soccer itself is still growing, but it is doing so very fast.

You have to be very patient with the kids when coaching as most of them are new to the sport and are doing things for the first time.

With the kids who have experience of playing the game you can bring in more advanced skills and exercises for them to work on. Overall though I think coaching in USA is going to help me wherever I coach – whether it be in USA or back home, as I feel I have gained a huge amount of knowledge and experience from this line of work.


Did you go out there yourself and what’s it been like making new friends?
Yes, I came to USA on my own and it was the first time being away from my family for so long. It was a huge step for me and my life but with the support from my family and friends I knew I had made the right decision.

There are – at times – moments where you get homesick and miss everyone back home, but with social media now you can call, text, Skype all the time, so that really did help me.

As for making friends – it is very easy to do. From day one I met all the new coaches who were working in the Bay Area and we all clicked straight away.

We met weekly to do some training and even just have some lunch, which helped a lot.
I have been living with one host family who have hosted me since the spring and all of the autumn season. They have become like a second family to me. I was introduced to their family and friends and these are people who I will never lose contact with.

What are your plans for when you get back later this month?
When I come home at the end of November I plan to spend Christmas and New Year with my family, since I have been gone for 9 months. It’s such a long time for me, so I have a lot of making up to do! I have missed the last two years due to working in a previous job so there is no way more fitting than to spend it with my family and friends.

As for work, what I have done in USA has given me the inspiration to keep pursuing this career. I have several ideas of what I want to do next in my life, whether it be starting my own coaching business, working for a coaching company or going to university to continue my studies.

But the main thing is that I keep doing what I love to do and that is coach kids and see them leave saying they had fun with a huge smile on their faces because that is priceless in this business.


This week, we will be showcasing tales of incredible sporting achievement in a variety of different sports.

You can look forward to hearing from…

Tuesday: Ainsley-Ann Smith (taekwondo)
Wednesday: Ross Strachan (handball)
Thursday: Shannon Carrick (ice skating)
Friday: Kai Johnson (motorbike racing)