In December 2009, Orkney Athletics Club [OAC] became one of eight clubs to take part in the Club First Programme sponsored by LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group. Four months on, scottishathletics speaks with club coach Aly MacPhail about impact already made by LDC funding...
"Our membership is at almost 100, nearly double from last year. We’ve seen lots of growth since being selected for LDC funding, it’s been a fantastic confidence boost for OAC. The sponsorship has allowed us to make significant strides in development in a short period of time, particularly in coaching and athlete development," explained Aly.
As part of the Club First programme, clubs were given support in areas such as coach education, assistance to host open activities to encourage new members and drive up participant numbers, cover for athletes travel costs to attend competitions and backing for coaching costs linked with community Run Jump and Throw clubs to name a few.
"Three coaches are currently being funded on their level 2 qualifications. Our improved coaching structure now enables junior athletes to try all athletic events but also gives them the opportunity to develop in specific events with more technical input from specific event coaches as they progress through the age groups.
“LDC funding is also helping OAC support a programme in partnership with Active Schools over the Easter holiday to allow local kids to try athletics. In December, we hosted a welcome night alongside our Christmas fun event, which incorporated our awards ceremony. We had our best ever attendance with almost 100 people. Welcome packs were given to all athletes along with an LDC water bottle.”
Participating clubs have been tasked with meeting targets as part of the programme. Many outlined objectives are designed to further enhance the clubs' development, including things like, obtaining a clubmark award, delivering a minimum of two parent/volunteer recruitment evenings, aligning two coaches per club to engage with local Run Jump and Throw clubs and identifying five coaches to attend the IFAC [International Festival of Athletics Coaching] Conference in Glasgow as well as supporting five coaches through Level 1 or 2 UKCC qualifications.
"We gained clubmark accreditation in February, which has given us a clear structure to establish development plans, guidelines and policies. We are now working towards the Gold Sportsmark Award with the Orkney Island Sports Development Officer," added Aly.
Clubmark accreditation is awarded to clubs that comply with minimum operating standards in four areas: playing programme, duty of care for safeguarding and protecting youth, sports equity and ethics and club management.
"We're also developing a much needed website too in conjunction with the Orkney Communities’ website. Our progress seems to be snowballing into several areas; for example, we now have over 20 people, consisting of coaches, active school coordinators, parents and volunteers, awaiting the level 2 track and filed officiating course in Orkney.”
Scottishathletics’ Marketing Manager Fiona Curr said: "Orkney AC is the perfect example of what this funding was meant to do for clubs. They have really been proactive in making the most of the sponsorship and meeting set targets.”
The LDC Club First programme started in May 2009 and initially sponsored four clubs, Giffnock North AAC, Kilbarchan AAC, Edinburgh AC and Central AC. After doubling LDC's sponsorship through sportscotland's Sportmatch Scheme, athletes at Aberdeen AAC, Arbroath and District AC, Kilmarnock H & AC and Orkney AC were added to the programme to cover all Scottish regions.
Sportsmatch, funded by the Scottish Government and administered by sportscotland, aims to match commercial business sponsorship on a £ for £ basis.
LDC Marketing Director Rob Pendleton commented: "It is really great news when you see the benefit the LDC Club First programme is providing. The objective is to provide a spur for coaches, young athletes and clubs themselves to improve, and through this improvement to have a positive impact for scottishathletics and the communities in which they operate."
Aly concluded: "The amount of growth and development we have seen, leading on from LDC's sponsorship, has been hard work but very rewarding. It has been a combined club effort from committee members, coaches, parents and athletes. We really appreciate the LDC funding and hope they see a great value, or return, for their sponsorship-we know we do. The clubs’ achievements and success in 2009 will be tough to beat but we are up for the challenge in 2010."
Orkney AC club profile
Current members: 93, 80% are under 18
Coaches: 6 coaches and 2 assistant coaches
Training: Tuesday's and Thursday's from 17:45 to 19:15
Facilities: Pickaquoy with a 400m track, infield and a large indoor gym space
How Orkney AC got started
Arthur Groundwater started what is known today as Orkney Athletics Club back in 1987, coaching a handful of athletes at Stromness Academy. Originally called Team Raven Athletics Club, the team affiliated with Stromness AC in 1988. When the Pickaquoy Sports Centre opened up in Kirkwall in 1997, the club decided to make the track at "Pick'y" their home and rebrand as Orkney Athletic Club.
2009 club achievements
- 12 gold medals, 6 silvers and 2 bronze at the North District Championships, placing OAC second in the final medal table
- 20 athletes selected for HIPPO (Highland and Island Performance Participation Opportunities)
- 15 athletes selected for McCain Scottish Youth Athletes League at Grangemouth coming away with 6 medals and an overall third place finish for team HIPPO
- Bronze for Mags McCrae and silver for Claire Wilson (senior club athletes) at the NatWest Inter Island Games in Alland
- HIPPO top club award for gaining the most points in HIPPO events throughout the athletic season in 2009
- Overall under-13 age group HIPPO trophy
- Overall female HIPPO trophy
- 2 under-11 athletes named HIPPO Olympians, one junior athlete given HIPPO Endeavour Award