Kicking off a bright coaching career
Aimee Pollock didn’t enjoy school. By her own admission, she had planned to drop out despite having no idea what she wanted to do.
She was, however, very good at sports and became a Young Ambassador for Active Schools.
“I did quite a few sports. I played netball, volleyball and handball at school… and I still play football.”
Born in Ayr, Aimee went to Coylton Primary before attending Ayr Academy. But it was her Active Schools Coordinator who recognised her potential.
The Active Schools Network is supported by sportscotland and is dedicated to developing and delivering quality sporting opportunities for children and young people.
“I wanted to be a Coordinator,” Aimee admits. “Being a Young Ambassador was more about promoting the sports. So I started at Junior Coaching Academy and that progressed into the coaching side of things.”
But she wasn’t just coaching young boys and girls.
“It went from age 6 to 65. I did ASN (Additional Support Needs) as well, both children and adults. I volunteered for three years and then got a Modern Apprenticeship… alongside a casual contract.”
By now, Aimee had a clear idea of what she wanted to do.
“The school I went to is classed as a disadvantaged and disengaged school within my area. Because I had made such a positive change in my life… South Ayrshire Active Schools thought it would be good for the kids to see that there are other routes and other things you can do.”
Being that role model and having a positive influence on children really motivated Aimee and the Modern Apprenticeship provided her with plenty of opportunities to gain experience, despite the global pandemic.
“During Covid when we couldn’t get into schools, it was about keeping people active. So I came up with the idea of online fitness videos. We did different challenges… like the toilet roll keepy uppy challenge, and came up with our own challenges as well.”
But once things began to return to normal, Aimee noticed a significant drop in gross motor skills, particularly in Primary 1.
“They had missed out on so much. So I liaised with head teachers… and I came up with a gross motor skills project to deliver to Primary 1.”
The project involved basic tasks such as throwing, catching, dance and coordination and encouraged different ways to move the body like running, skipping or jumping. After just three sessions, they saw a 78% increase in gross motor skills.
Having finishing her Modern Apprenticeship, Aimee went back to college and achieved a Higher National Certificate in Sports Coaching and Development. It was a busy time during which she was studying at college during the day and coaching with Active Schools in the evening.
“I was also a Sports Development Officer two days a week at St John’s Primary in Ayr.”
As if that wasn’t enough, she then enrolled for a Higher National Diploma, deemed necessary for the Coordinator role she hoped to secure with South Ayrshire Active Schools.
“But they changed the rules,” Aimee tells me, “and you no longer needed a degree.”
That being the case, she withdrew from the course and applied for the job of Active Schools Assistant for South Ayrshire, securing full time employment on a four-year temporary contract. It was, she believes, a perfectly placed stepping stone towards that Coordinator role.
It’s heartening to learn that the young girl with no interest in school and no ambition, was able to find that one career path that really made her tick.
“I grew up in very rural village,” she explains. “The only opportunities given to us were if you were really good in school or if you were really, really good at sport. There wasn’t that middle ground for those who just wanted to come and play and enjoy themselves. A lot of parents can’t afford to buy football boots or equipment… and that’s a shame. Everyone should have the opportunity to play a sport they enjoy. I just wanted to bridge that gap and provide opportunities.”
This led to Aimee volunteering as a coach at Whitletts, an activity centre in James Brown Avenue, Ayr, an area prone to anti-social behaviour.
“It’s in a really deprived area. I used to run sessions every Tuesday and Thursday night… for children just to come and play football. It was more to get them off the street, to give them a safe environment. They all still come and I still continue with that session.”
She is also responsible for setting up two girls’ teams at Whitletts Vics, one for ages 5-10 and the other for 11-16s. She went out of her way to get to know the kids and gain their trust by spending time with them and promoting the concept.
“Whitletts is really good. They have a clothes bank. They have old boots they can donate. It’s a community football team so they get funds… to be able to subsidise costs, which is really good. I really hope more teams can do this. In my role as Active Schools Assistant I can work with the clubs and get them on board.”
It was this forward-thinking attitude coupled with her coaching at Whitletts that resulted in her winning the Young Coach of the Year at the sportscotland Coaching, Officiating and Volunteering (COV) awards in Glasgow in October. The award recognised the significant impact she has had as a football coach. She was also commended for the positive and thoughtful approach she takes to coaching and for the strong relationships she has built up in the area.
“I was nominated by somebody within the Active Schools team and then sportscotland shortlisted me and I managed to win it!”
She still sounds surprised, although, I can’t understand why. The sportscotland COV Awards celebrate those who break down barriers, inspire and enhance the lives of others through sport. This young lady is thoroughly deserving of such an accolade and I’m sure there’ll be plenty more successes in what promises to be a very bright future.
As if reading my thoughts, she tells me she’s currently applying to sit on the Young People’s Sport Panel (YPSP).
“If I’m successful, I want to implement something in the whole of Scotland. Can we close this gap? Can we create community sessions and work with the clubs?”
In the meantime, Aimee continues to work with South Ayrshire Inspire, a project within Active Schools that works with ASN children and adults.
“I’ve done that for five or six years now. I run the multi-sports for them. I also did my Level 1 boccia. I’m a qualified boccia coach so I can provide a different sport for them to play and enjoy.”
For those who may not know (myself included), boccia is actually a Paralympic sport where athletes throw, kick or use a ramp to propel a ball into the court with the aim of getting closest to the ‘jack’.
It’s clear Aimee gets a tremendous amount of satisfaction from helping and encouraging others but it’s good to know she still finds time to play right-wing on the football pitch.
“I’m still part of the Kilwinning ladies team. I train twice a week and play a game on Sunday.”
Well played, Aimee!