Stirling teenager Vincent Connelly thrives on proving doubters wrong and he is aiming to complete a terrific year of progress by winning the Community Champion of the Year award at the sportscotland Year of Young People Awards 2018 on 26 January.
sportscotland is teaming up with Scottish Sports Futures to host the inspirational awards night to showcase how sport can create positive social change and to celebrate the incredible dedication of the young people who give selflessly to sport in their local communities.
Vincent’s work at Shell Twilight Basketball in Raploch, Stirling is a perfect example of that and has led to him being named as a finalist for the national award.
The Twilight Basketball initiative, delivered by Scottish Sports Futures in conjunction with Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities and Shell, has grown into a national programme which provides free basketball sessions in a safe setting.
Vincent has hailed the impact the initiative and the responsibility of being a young ambassador has had on his life, saying it has encouraged him to think about pursuing a career in sport or coaching.
The 16-year-old St Modan’s High School pupil has been attending Twilight for seven years. When aged 15 he applied to become a young ambassador at his club, a role usually taken by volunteers closer to the upper age limit of 21.
Rising to the challenge
Vincent revealed the youth workers at his club were unsure if he was ready to make the step from playing to running training drills, among other responsibilities. But that drove the teenager on and he won them over after taking his first session. Since then he has continued to put in extra work to ensure his sessions are of the highest standard for his players.
He said: “The youth workers at my basketball club weren’t too sure if I was the right choice to be ambassador. When I get my first chance to prove anyone wrong, I try my very best to do that.
"After the first session of me coaching by myself they pulled me aside and said ‘we’re gobsmacked, we didn’t think you could do it.’
"I just feel like if anyone needs help I can be there to help them. I’ve taken two sessions myself and one of them was the first week of me being ambassador.
"I felt under a bit of pressure because I’m the youngest ambassador at my Twilight. I started off doing some drills and some things I’ve seen before. But I went on to try some new things to see if the players liked it. They told me at the end that they really enjoyed it and they wanted to do more stuff competitively. So I went on YouTube and other sites to research competitive drills and match-type drills.
“It helps me with my free time as well; it gives me something productive to do rather than going on YouTube and watching stupid videos or something.”
Vincent admits his involvement in sport has helped him to grow up quickly, and he says he gets immense satisfaction from seeing the progress of the youngsters he takes under his wing, both at Twilight and through his volunteering at the Big Noise Music programme.
He said: “I feel I’ve matured much better than I would have if I didn’t go [to Twilight]. I was immature until I was made ambassador and I was given an adult role, then I felt like this could help my future career.
“When I leave school I’m thinking of doing something in sport or coaching. The ambassador course and Twilight helped steer me in that direction.
“I also help at the Big Noise music programme in Stirling. I can see the improvement in the kids that go there and I see the same in the kids who come to the basketball.
“It feels great; it feels like I’m having an impact on their lives.”
Find out more
On 26 January at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow, 10 awards will be handed out that recognise the contribution of the young people who engage in sport through SSF and those who have supported them throughout the year.
Tickets cost £38 for coaches or young people involved within SSF, £50 for an individual and £450 for a table. Places will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Scottish Sports Futures website.