One young teacher’s progression through Scotland’s sporting system has come full circle – having started out as a sportscotland Young Ambassador (YA), Ian Rae is now giving back to the scheme as a mentor just eight years later.
Now a physical education (PE) teacher at Stonelaw High School in Rutherglen, Ian began his sporting journey aged 15 when he became a Young Ambassador during his fourth year of secondary school.
As a pupil of Calderglen High School in East Kilbride, Ian helped organise an event for primary seven pupils which used sport to welcome new students to the school. It was this experience which inspired him to apply to the sportscotland Young Ambassadors programme.
Ian remembers the significance of attending his first ever Young Ambassadors conference. He said: “I remember the Emirates Arena in Glasgow had just been built and we had the chance to go to there, learn about being a YA and meet other young people from right across Scotland. It felt special to be in such an amazing venue and to realise the impact sport could have on other people’s lives, and the role I could play in this.”
It didn’t take long before Ian’s enthusiasm for sport was having a positive impact on his school – and it made him think how he could do more.
Ian continued: “During my time as a Young Ambassador I set up a school basketball team for S1 and S2 pupils, which is still running to this day. I was a keen basketball player and coach, so this was a good way for me to encourage others to try a new activity.
“I started to think about a future in PE teaching for the first time. I began to realise how much I enjoyed sport and working with young people and put two and two together – there was an opportunity to combine these passions.”
The right path
Ian began coaching basketball with the South Lanarkshire Colliers and became convinced that this was the right path for him.
“Young Ambassadors inspired me to look into PE teaching as a possible career and spurred me on to start coaching outside of school – all of which gave me increased confidence to continue pursuing a life around young people and physical activity”, Ian added.
It wasn’t long before Ian was enrolled at the University of Stirling to study for a degree in Physical Education – but his journey didn’t stop there.
In 2014, Ian was accepted onto sportscotland’s Young People’s Sport Panel. He said: “I joined the panel while I was at University and was really excited about the networking opportunities, as well as the different national initiatives I would have the chance to get involved in.”
As a member of the panel, Ian proudly helped launch the campaign for the first School Sport Awards, which recognise schools’ commitment to putting sport at the heart of their ethos. Ian was part of the judging panel, deciding which schools were worthy of a bronze, silver or gold award based on their innovation and achievement in delivering school sport.
Fast forward five years, and Ian’s own school has become a gold-standard school for the first time, thanks – in part – to Ian’s passion to go for this coveted award.
Through his teaching role, Ian has also now become a Young Ambassadors mentor, taking his pupils through the programme and empowering them to promote sport and its many benefits to their peers, just as he did when he was at school.
He said: “Seeing the opportunity Young Ambassadors gave me and the impact my own mentor had on my life, made me want to fill this role and have that positive influence on others.
“My experiences as a Young Ambassador and member of the panel taught me the importance of giving the students the freedom to express themselves, encouraging them to come up with ideas and make informed decisions.”
In the last year, Ian’s group of Young Ambassadors have successfully delivered and promoted Active Girls Day, helped the school achieve its gold School Sport Award and set up a girls’ rugby team.
Ian reflected on his changing role within the programme and the significant impact it has had on his life.
He said: “It’s great to play a supportive role and help get the ball rolling on projects the Young Ambassadors are keen to pursue. The many things the pupils can actually achieve are not always apparent to them, so it’s my job to give them the confidence to implement the changes they would like to see. Seeing their progression through the programme gives me a real sense of pride.
"Young Ambassadors steered me in a positive direction, towards a path of sport. All of my passion for coaching and teaching started there and it’s come full circle as I see the next generation of Young Ambassadors flourish.”