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


Guest post – John Rainey on the Ayrshire College Foundation

John Rainey has 50 years of experience in Finance, HR, Project Management, and System Development and Implementation. He has held senior positions in Manufacturing, Logistics and Distribution, Sales and Services, Management Consulting and Pharmaceuticals in the UK, Geneva and in the USA. Most recently, he set up his own consultancy company focusing on Change Management.

John served on the Board of Management of the former Ayr College for eight years and was a member of the Ayrshire Partnership Board which managed the merger leading to the creation of Ayrshire College. He is now Chair of the Ayrshire College Foundation. We spoke to John about the Foundation.

Why did you get involved with the project?

I was happy to get involved in the setting up of Ayrshire College Foundation as I’m all for making sure that these kind of projects are given help to get off the ground.

Why was the Ayrshire College foundation set up?

The main reason was to invest in education projects. We want to advance education by providing financial support for projects and activities carried out and supported by Ayrshire College.

What types of project have you funded?

The Foundation made a grant of approximately £3 million to Ayrshire College in 2015 to support the upgrade of Student Services facilities on the Ayr and Kilwinning campuses.

Who can apply for funding?

Anyone can apply as long as they want to promote an educational project within Ayrshire. We will consider any application as long as it is in line with the objectives of the Ayrshire College Foundation.

What kind of projects would be likely to be approved?

There’s a very broad spectrum of projects that could be funded by the Foundation.

A project that we recently approved is Mission Discovery, where school and college students will work with astronaut trainers, rocket scientists and NASA leaders for a week. Mission Discovery is proven to enhance students’ scientific and technological skillsets, while developing innovation and team work. The three Ayrshire local authorities are working with Ayrshire College on this project.

Applications for funding need to fit the criteria of being in Ayrshire and supporting education and training.

If someone has a great idea what process should they follow?

They should submit an application form. If successful, this will be followed up with a face to face interview and a presentation to Foundation trustees.

How long does the process normally take?

Trustees meet every quarter to consider new applications and review progress of funded projects. The process for receiving an application and reaching a decision normally takes between three to six months.

What does it involve?

It’s important that the application has been thoroughly prepared and researched, and includes details such as how much funding is required and the timescales involved. We recommend that applications are submitted at least four months prior to the planned project start date.

Once a project is approved how will it be monitored and evaluated?

During the twelve months after a project is approved, we will be looking for progress reports to let us know to what extent the project’s goals have been achieved and what lessons have been learned.

How do I find out more?

More details about the Ayrshire College Foundation and how to apply for funding are available on our website


Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire

An Ayrshire group set up to develop the young workforce in the region was launched at a conference during Ayrshire Business Week 2015.

The Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire regional group, funded by the Scottish Government, was unveiled on 6 October 2015 by Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training.

The Group’s key aim is to equip young people with the skills and attitudes to help Ayrshire businesses grow and prosper. Explaining the purpose of the new group, the Cabinet Secretary said,

“We want an improved relationship between schools and employers that will allow all of our young people to progress, whatever their background or gender. Young people across Ayrshire’s three local authority areas can look forward the development of fresh career pathways to ensure they are well placed to maximise their potential.”

Launch of Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire (Jim English, Chair of Developing Young Workforce Ayrshire; Iona Murray, Microsoft Apprentice; Alan Lee Bourke, Global Cloud Delivery Executive, Microsoft; Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary Fair Work, Skills and Training; Val Russell, CEO, Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce; Nicole Dunlop, Head Girl, Greenwood Academy)

Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire is being led by the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce and will be supported by a dedicated team of staff. Chief Executive Val Russell said,

“Ayrshire Chamber is delighted to be leading the Ayrshire regional group. Working closely with partners in the public, private and third sectors, we will ensure that young people are equipped with the skills and attitudes required to help Ayrshire business grow and prosper.”

The Chair of the new group is Ayrshire industry leader Jim English, General Manager at Hyspec Engineering. Jim said,

“We believe in realising the full potential of our young workforce in Ayrshire through a clear and focused industry-led strategy. We hope to achieve significant change on how we go about this by working collaboratively.”

Ayrshire College is fully behind the Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire group and Vice Principal Jackie Galbraith is the vice chair of the new group. She said,

“Ayrshire College is delighted to support the new Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire group. Strengthening the links between employers and education is critical for Ayrshire’s future and will benefit young people and the regional economy.”

Membership of Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire Steering Group

The new group’s steering group is made up of representatives from the private, public and third sectors. The group met for the first time on 19 October with a great turnout from private, public and third sector employers including Ashleigh Construction, Barclays, Buzzworks, Centrestage, Dustacco, NHS Ayrshire & Arran, QTS, Sercon, Stellar, Trump Turnberry, Utopia Computers, Voca and YipWorld.

In addition all three local authorities, Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce, Ayrshire College, the Federation of Small Businesses, CeeD Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, and JobCentre Plus were represented.

Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire Steering Group

Origin of Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire

In June 2014, the final report of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce set out how to improve opportunities for young people across Scotland and the pivotal role employers should play in developing young people.

In December 2014, the Scottish Government accepted all 39 recommendations in the report and published a 7-year implementation plan in its youth employment strategy, Developing the Young Workforce. The plan outlines key themes for schools, colleges, national agencies and employers with associated actions and key performance indicators.

An important recommendation was the creation of employer led groups to provide leadership and a single point of contact between employers and education. Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire is the regional group for Ayrshire and its focus is to:

  • Encourage and support employers to engage directly with schools and colleges
  • Encourage more employers to recruit more young people.

What will Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire do?

The group aims to ensure that young people develop the skills and positive attitudes required to take the next steps towards the world of work. It will work closely with the 26 secondary and associated 137 primary schools, 11 ASN schools and all campuses of Ayrshire College.

Building on the foundations of well-established employer engagement at school and college level in Ayrshire, the group will ensure that all young people reach their full potential, nurture the confidence to develop career and vocational interests including entrepreneurship and ambition.

Activities taken forward by the group could include:

  • Encouraging employers to offer quality work experience placements for school and college students
  • Working with schools guidance teachers and career advisers to support the delivery of careers education
  • Persuading employers to recruit more young people, including Modern Apprentices
  • Simplifying engagement by working with micro and small employers, local authorities, schools and Ayrshire College
  • Establishing school/employer partnerships across in secondary schools
  • Enhancing the links between vocational education provision and needs of the local, regional and national economy
  • Promoting the Investors in Young People accolade to employers
  • Promoting the youth equality agenda to employers
  • Creating an Ambassador Programme to share best practice and celebrate success
  • Removing  barriers, perceived or otherwise, to employer engagement
  • Communicating with students, teachers, parents and employers
  • Developing an accessible and inclusive strategy to improve opportunities young people moving into the workplace

Want to know more?

If you want to find out more about Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire contact Claire Baird at the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce by email at or visit the website