New Campus Countdown: Focus on Sport and Fitness

As we continue our countdown to the new Kilmarnock Campus, this month we turn the curriculum spotlight on the Sport and Fitness department.

The College’s Centre of Sporting Excellence will accommodate over 300 sport and fitness students as they move from their current home at Townholm.

We caught up with John McTaggart, Curriculum Manager for Sport and Fitness.

Tell us about the Sport & Fitness department at Ayrshire College


We are all about giving people with an interest in sport and fitness the chance to increase their employment opportunities by developing the skills, qualifications and experience that they need to progress.

We have NC level to HND level courses, which range from Coaching and Developing Sport to Fitness, Health and Exercise.

Many of our students have progressed to university and are now working as P.E. teachers, some are even working at the College. Others have gained employment with local councils, sports centres, gyms as well as securing full-time jobs abroad in the industry.

Due to the nature of the course where they have the opportunity to engage with such a wide spectrum of society through placement and volunteering opportunities, students gain essential life skills which enable them to join various uniformed services including the police, fire brigade, and armed services.

We have great opportunities for students, which provide the best chance possible to reach their full potential.

What initiatives are your team involved with?

We pride ourselves on the partnership work we do with various community groups. They are an integral part of our curriculum essential to the professional and personal development of our students.

Students, staff and the College have been recognised for this partnership working, SQA, College Development Network and Youthlink Scotland. We were the first educational establishment to be awarded 5 STAR’s by Scottish Student Sport for our community work.

‘Headline makers’ have included:

  • Sports Coaching students have been fitness testing Ayrshire’s next crop of rugby stars.
  • Fitness students have secured personal trainer jobs at one of Ayrshire’s biggest gyms.
  • Our students are the first in the West of Scotland to receive a brand new specialist coaching course delivered by the Scottish Football Association.

We have had several award-winning students pass through our doors, highlighting the fantastic work we carry out around the College and beyond.

What do you think makes the department successful?

I believe the key to a successful Sport and Fitness department is the willingness of staff and students to engage with the College and the wider community.

Going that ‘extra mile’ is important in order to maximise existing opportunities and create new ones.

How important is working with local employers to the department?

Working with local employers is essential to the department. In recent years we have had four former students gain full-time employment with East Ayrshire Active School. This is as a direct result of our students gaining work experience with A/S, be mentored by the A/S staff alongside school staff and community partners.

We work closely with Ayr United and Kilmarnock F.C. who have employed many of our students on a part-time and full-time basis.

What facilities and equipment will the students benefit from?

We are very excited to introduce our students to our new 3G, floodlit football pitch. This will be an innovative new area for our students to learn, have fun and reach their potential. We will also have a modern new games hall and dance studio.

There will be a big focus on the health and fitness courses as we will have an industry-designed gym and fitness facilities which will provide our students with enhanced essential skills, knowledge, opportunities and experiences which will make them even more attractive to potential employers.

There will also be fantastic sponsorship opportunities available to local companies as well as our facilities being available to the public. We are looking forward to using this ‘new era’ as the chance to make our Sport and Fitness department even better.

For all the latest information on our new campus development in Kilmarnock click here.

A list of all Sport and Fitness related courses can be found by clicking here.

Winning staff member shares his secrets to success

At the end of 2015, Curriculum Manager John McTaggart won the prestigious SQA Champion award at the SQA Star Awards ceremony in Edinburgh.  John shared his winning formula in a very candid sit-down interview.

John’s journey

John McTaggart

I’m now in my 17th year at Ayrshire College. I began on a part-time temporary basis, splitting my time between a few colleges. Back when I started here we were in the old sports building which had a gymnasium with one badminton court and changing rooms that could accommodate ten males and ten females. When I arrived there were just three classes running with around 45 students in total. Once the College expanded there was an opportunity to make my position permanent. I’m now based at the Townholm Campus with over 300 students.

I started my own student days with an NC at Clydebank College. I was 23 years old and didn’t have experience or qualifications. I left school with two standard grades and was living in a housing scheme in Glasgow where I had been unemployed for seven years. I’ve now got more degrees than I’ve got standard grades!

I genuinely believe that there’s someone you meet in your life that can make a real difference by showing an interest in you. I am fortunate to have met a few significant people that have influenced me from Ayrshire College but I’ll always be grateful to Jim Tait, the Head of Sport at Clydebank College, for giving me a chance. I’ll never forget that. Jim was caring and compassionate and was willing to give people a chance irrespective of where they came from, what age they were and what they had done in the past. It was never about what the person had done, but what they could do in the future. I believe this is essential in further education which for many is a second chance and, for others, maybe even their last chance to change their life for the better.

There was another lecturer, who wasn’t even a sports lecturer, Sheena Grey, who had a massive influence on me as a person. She wasn’t scared to put students in their place if they were ‘stepping out of line’, but she would always give credit where it was due and praise when deserved. She taught me the importance of discipline, manners and respect – something which I believe is vital in the education of everyone. Outwith family, we need people like this in our lives who can act as mentors by guiding you in the right direction and teaching you right from wrong. Role models are very important.

On his role as curriculum manager

Becoming a curriculum manager was the natural progression for me. My predecessor, Sandy, was here for 29 years and I was heavily involved in a lot of what he had organised. It’s not something I ever envisaged doing as I believed my strength is working with the students. The downside to my current position is that I don’t have a day-to-day involvement with students anymore but, on the plus side, I can have a bigger impact on all students now rather than the ones I’d have been directly teaching.


I’m quite proactive within the community,mso in this position I can make decisions quicker without having to go through the formal process of speaking to a lot of people.

There’s no typical working week for me. Things happen and change on a day-to-day basis. I feel like a hamster on a wheel – as soon as you stop it’s hard to start again, so I just don’t stop! I have a wife and three kids, three dogs and other voluntary commitments, but because I’m emotionally invested in my work, I make time. It can’t be a just job, it’s all-consuming, and every staff member here buys into that ethos of hard work.

A representative from Scottish Student Sport recently commented that we’re the most proactive college anywhere in Scotland by far – no one can touch us. We’re more proactive than lots of universities. Last year we were the first ever educational establishment to get five stars for volunteering in community work. We agree to requests straight away and then work out a way to do it.

We’re here for the community and we’re here for the students. We don’t say “this will be great for our students” and utilise a community group because it’ll solely benefit them. It’s mutually beneficial for everyone. The value of the initiatives we run is the experience and the benefit to the students and the community.

The student journey

It is genuinely all about playing a part, however little it is, in the student journey.


Some students come straight from school without a clue about what they want to do. We have the opportunity to mould them into successful young people. To have that influence and the opportunity to have a massive impact on people’s lives is the best part about working at a college.

I like to think I treat every single student the way I would want my son or daughters treated if they were at college. I genuinely mean that. If they step out of line we need to tighten the reins in and that’s important. If they’re excelling, it’s important to emphasise that as well.

We’ve had some excellent students move on to become PE teachers, coaches in the SFA, and managers in disability organisations, while some are in USA full-time. I was down at the Citadel today and the leisure attendant there is someone who left us with an NC qualification. For him, that’s a massive success. He was unemployed for four years and couldn’t get a job. He came to college for a year, where he picked up a reference, a track record of turning up on time and a history of conducting himself in the appropriate manner. That’s as big a success for him as someone getting a degree. I’m exceptionally proud of him, and everyone else that’s come through this college and moved onto greater things.

The last four appointees to East Ayrshire Active Schools have been from this sport department. That’s phenomenal.

We were recently asked to do a presentation at the Scottish Student Sport conference on the back of our five-star award. The presentation was the culture of volunteering. It’s now expected that if you come to Ayrshire College’s sport department you’re going to be volunteering in the community.


It’s taken a long time to get to that point. That didn’t happen in one year.

I think people might have previously thought ‘why would I volunteer?’, but now we don’t have to sell it at all because of the success our students have achieved from it. We give them exposure to things they might not have thought about doing as a career, like working with disabled people, or working with older adults. Look at our previous Student of the Year, David Cunningham, as an example. He’s now a manager for Partners for Inclusion. That’s providing 24-hour care for people with disabilities. Prior to coming to college he’d never have thought about doing something like that.

Award recognition

To be honest, I was more chuffed that the department (for Innovation) and a student (Stephen Wilson for College Candidate of the Year) won at the SQA Star Awards than I was about picking up an award myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I do feel lucky to have won the SQA Champion award. I feel lucky to have such good staff, students and community partners. However, I’m just the person that’s the figurehead for this building that happens to receive the trophy. It’s a culmination of everyone working together.

I’m getting personal here, but my Dad died two years ago. When Kay Adams announced my name as the winner, I was outside talking to the janitor. The award itself is just a bit of glass, but my Dad would’ve been chuffed with the achievement. My mum now has the trophy on her mantelpiece.

However, I reiterate that although we’ve been quite successful in awards recently that’s not because of what I’ve done. It’s a collective team.

It’s not just the lecturers either: it’s Fiona Oswald at reception, it’s Bob Ferguson the janitor, Lesley Higgins at Student Services, Helen Chambers at Inclusive Learning, the canteen staff, the construction staff next door. You can’t do it in isolation. You’ve got to make that big difference as a team. The staff are brilliant. We all have a common goal. We go to competitions and events together. It doesn’t feel that there’s a hierarchy as such – “I’m a lecturer you’re a student”, or “I’m a curriculum manager and you’re a lecturer” – everyone works together.

For the last four years, a student from our departmenthas won Overall Student of the Year for the Kilmarnock campus. Somehow we continually manage to get students to that level.


These student have also been recognised nationally. In the last 4 years:

Mary Palmer

  • Highly commended – SQA College Candidate
  • Highly Commended – College Development Network Student Contribution

David Cunningham

  • Highly Commended – SQA College Candidate

Angela Alexander

  • Winner – SQA College Candidate
  • Winner – College Development Network Student Contribution

Stephen Wilson

  • Winner – SQA College Candidate
  • Highly Commended – College Development Network Student Contribution

The plans for 2016

Recently I was down at the Citadel for a meeting with Ayrshire Sportsability and Scottish Disability Sport. We’re organising a week-long programme of activity of disability sport. That’s five days of boccia, swimming, athletics and football. It’ll be the first of its kind – up until now we’ve just had days of these activities. But now we’re looking at identifying talent and creating a pathway for them to move up.

The SQA disability unit that I’ve written in conjunction with Ayrshire Sportsability and Scottish Disability Sport means that our students will be the first students in Scotland to have a customised SQA qualification in Inclusive Sports leadership. So we need to create opportunities where our students get exposure to disability client groups doing a variety of different sports.

I’m helping to create a programme of activity of competitive sport that covers the whole of Ayrshire and is creating opportunities for our students. And, of course, there’s also the small matter of our move to the brand new Kilmarnock campus in 2016.

ayrshire college-82.JPG

The move to the new build will change things for the students, and the staff. We’ll be able to get more community groups in, we’ll be able to get busloads of schoolkids in. From that point of view it’ll be phenomenal. However, a big aim for me will be trying to keep the great community spirit we have over here. We’re a tight-knit bunch in this small building, the students all know each other. Some of them are here for four years, and they pass Fiona in reception every morning. I’m a big believer that it’s not the bricks and mortar that makes the College, it’s the people within it. Although the facilities will be absolutely brilliant, we have to ensure that we keep the bond that we have formed.

The man behind the success

I’d say I was pretty decent at all sports. I wouldn’t have been brilliant at any, but decent in them all. When I was at university, I played for just about every team going – football, volleyball, rugby, hockey, shinty etc. Since I’ve been in this job, I’ve only played about two games of table tennis. I mean, I could probably still beat you, but it can be hard to find time for playing sport now.

Sport is a vehicle to improve people’s lives. Kids leave school with no qualification, no experience, but if they’ve got an interest in something we try to work with them to develop that and give them opportunities. 

We can make their lives better.

It doesn’t have to be sport – it can be music, art, maths, drama, it’s just about giving people an opportunity, and that’s the great thing about college.




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)

Guest post – Dr Waiyin Hatton on Ayrshire Sportsability 

 Dr Waiyin Hatton is the Chair of Ayrshire Sportsability Charitable Trust and a member of the Board of Management of Ayrshire College. Ayrshire Sportsability recently won the Association of Scottish Businesswomen Best Business Charity Award 2015, citing Ayrshire College as one of its key partners.

In this guest post, Waiyin describes the work of Ayrshire Sportsability.

Ayrshire Sportsability was born in 2001 after I met a group of children at an event organised by Rainbow House at Ayrshire Central Hospital. Their attitude of ‘just get on with it’ was so inspiring that a small group of like-minded people, with a passion for promoting sporting opportunities for youngsters with disabilities, organised the first Ayrshire-wide Come and Try event for 200 youngsters. The relationship between Ayrshire Sportsability and the College started here, with students from the former Kilmarnock and James Watt Colleges helping out as volunteers.

Ayrshire Sportsability has grown from strength to strength, working with partners like Ayrshire College, East, North and South Ayrshire Councils, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, North Ayrshire Leisure, Scottish Disability Sports and Sportscotland. Over five days, the 2015 Come and Try event was attended by 600 youngsters and over 30 adults, including students from the College.

With the College’s support, we organise a range of one-day events to promote sporting pathways, eg athletics, boccia, football, gymnastics, martial arts, racquet sports, swimming, wheelchair-curling and wheelchair-rugby.

Ayrshire Sportsability promotes inclusion by building local capacities in coaching and clubs. We support individuals, clubs and other organisations through our Grant Award Scheme. Celebrating local achievements, Ayrshire Sportsability makes annual awards for Young Athlete, Athlete, Activity in the Community, Active School and Coach. Supporting the 2012 London Paralympics legacy, we introduced the first ever Ayrshire Roll of Honour in Disability Sports to over 30 local disability athletes who have represented Scotland and/or the UK over the last 10 years.

The partnership with the College offers every single sports student the chance to work with diverse groups, not to tick boxes but to provide the students with a meaningful academic experience. Such opportunities also mean vital voluntary hours are accredited to students’ Citizenship through Sport and Volunteering unit. Several students who have volunteered in disability sport are pursuing this as a career.

Ayrshire College has been the essential ingredient in the success and growth of Ayrshire Sportsability. We share the same passion for ‘making a difference’ for people with disabilities through sports. The students’ enthusiasm and professionalism have truly raised the bar at our events.

 We have ambitious plans for the future – increasing the range of sports at festivals, expanding coach development programmes, and supporting more athletes, clubs and schools in the Grant Award Scheme. Plus holding the first ever Ayrshire Para-Games in 2016!

Ayrshire Sportsability relies entirely on donations and sponsorships, making grant applications and fundraising events. With support from the local communities, we continue to realise our aspirations for people with disabilities in sports.

Find out more about Ayrshire Sportsability at