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Athletics club appeals for new coaches to come forward

Orkney Athletic Club hopes to grow the club’s coaching network, and appealed for new members to join the committee. Back row, from the left: Carolynn Leslie, Kay Gilmour, Ian Sutcliffe, Aly MacPhail, Julia McArthur and Inga Linklater. Front row, from the left: athletes Finn Aberdein, Emily McArthur, Rafi Linklater and Mark Linklater. (Orkney Photographic)

Can you assist in putting a spring in the step of Orkney’s young athletes?

One sports club is appealing for help as it attempts to plug a coaching shortage — and secure the future of one of Orkney’s most popular and diverse sports clubs.

Orkney Athletic Club (OAC) boasts a small, dedicated band of six coaches at present, but the club is desperate to increase coaching capacity and encourage a new breed of coaching recruits into the sport.

Aly MacPhail, the club’s volunteer coordinator, said: “We’ve got lead coaches but what we don’t have are assistant coaches. The pressure now that’s on these lead coaches is high because if they can’t turn up, there’s no one to help them coach.”

Recognising the need to develop a sustainable coaching network, it is the club’s ambition to recruit assistant coaches who will be taken under the wing of the current crop of coaches.

Through mentoring, the new assistants would develop and further their skillsets, and receive training both within the club and through Scottish Athletics, gaining national qualifications in the process.

OAC is now striving to boost this succession of coaches in order to ensure the club can go from strength to strength, and be in as strong a position as possible for the 2025 Orkney Island Games.

The scarcity of coaches has already had an impact on the club’s activities, as OAC has recently made the “difficult” decision to halt it’s offering at one age-group level.

Aly said: “It was really difficult, because we know how sad younger athletes are and their parents are too — but we made the decision not to continue coaching the under-11 athletes, for those aged nine to 11.

“If we can establish some more people to come forward, we can train up these volunteers and hopefully in an ideal situation, restart that younger age-group in the autumn.”

Training across the basic disciplines of running, jumping and throwing, the role would entail a time commitment of at least one hour per week.

“You don’t have to be a previous athlete,” stresses Aly. “You just need to have a love of athletics and a willingness to learn.

“It will be the basic run, jump, throw skills that you will learn, which is the basis of all sport.”

The club has also recently lost its club development officer, Kim Hamilton, who has moved on to new pastures, and it is not just the coaching network the club hopes to expand. There are also vacant positions on the committee, and OAC is keen to hear from anyone who may be able to assist with the behind-the-scenes work of athletics.

“We’ve got a lot of really young athletes who are really keen,” says Aly, who is also the athletics representative for the Island Games.

“They’ve got that in their sights, so we want the club to be vibrant and functioning well, and we see this as an opportunity to get the club into a better framework.”

If you are interested in assisting OAC, whether it be through coaching or as a member of the committee, email alymacphail123@gmail.com, or call Aly on 07769 680674.