Jonny Muir coaching at Aberdeen Schools Rowing Association

Playing our part

How one club changed the face of rowing across Aberdeen 

There are thousands of sports clubs in Scotland run by dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable volunteers.

However, the employment of a full-time coach, even for a finite period, can help to enhance a club’s development and Aberdeen Schools Rowing Association (ASRA) have used targeted funding to great effect in recent years.


The club has changed the face of rowing in Aberdeenshire, with a number of rowers coming from state schools as well as the private schools that previously formed the backbone of the rowing community.

Targeted investment

Aberdeen Schools Rowing AssociationDirect Club Investment (DCI) is a large-scale sportscotland club development project which distributes National Lottery funds directly to clubs over a period of two to four years, giving them time to embed significant change.

A £40,000 DCI grant awarded to ASRA allowed them to hire a full-time pathways development coach, Jonny Muir, on a four-year contract. He ran taster sessions for S1 and S2 pupils at 12 schools across the region, engaging more than 1,000 young people in rowing, and encouraged pupils to further their interest in the sport at ASRA. The result was a growth in the schools membership of the club from 133 to 190, and 451 children took part in the wider schools programme in 2017-18.

“When I first came to the club, we all talked about what school we were from and it was such a mix, a wide range of schools in the countryside and the city,” says junior rower Abigail Topp, who attends Kemnay Academy in Inverurie.

Jakub Zbikowski with junior rowers at Aberdeen Schools Rowing AssociationJakub Zbikowski (front left), another junior rower who attends Harlaw Academy in central Aberdeen, said: “I used to play badminton and football, as the rest of the school did, but then Jonny came in with the schools programme and got me into rowing.

"Jonny’s attitude just caught my interest in the entire thing.”

Stevie Baxter, Scottish Rowing’s workforce development manager, said: “Rowing is a fantastic sport that provides opportunities for anyone, regardless of their background. Having someone like Jonny through DCI funding has enabled ASRA to provide opportunities for kids who might not have had the opportunity to participate in rowing.

“Regardless of whether you’re a social rower or an individual who wants to get a podium performance at the Olympics, this is a fantastic opportunity and Scotland’s world class sporting system provides that.”

Changing perceptions

Jonny Muir of Aberdeen Schools Rowing AssociationJonny has advanced his UK Coaching Certificate credentials with the support of Scottish Rowing, and ASRA has achieved great success at national level during his time with the club.

“One of the achievements we are most proud of is our victory in the British Schools Head,” he said. “We picked up gold in the Junior Under-15 Championship eights, racing schools like Westminster, St Paul’s, Eton, all the traditional rowing schools that you can think of.

“The growth at ASRA is a direct result of the DCI funding. I’ve been able to go into schools that maybe haven’t had access to rowing previously and give that opportunity to kids within the school.

“Going out to schools in the past three or four years, I’ve been able to develop a relationship with these guys and I think some people’s perceptions about the sport have changed.

“Abigail and Jakub are both examples of young rowers who have become great role models, on and off the water.

Abigail Topp at Aberdeen Schools Rowing Association"They came through the state school programme and now people are looking up to them and wanting to follow in their footsteps.”

Abigail (left) added: “I wouldn’t have got into rowing if it wasn’t for Jonny coming into my school. Now I’m training six times a week and travelling to compete at the weekends, so it’s a big commitment. Next year I’m hoping to trial for the Great Britain under-18 team.”

ASRA has been helping young people to participate and progress in rowing on the banks of the River Dee since 1960, and the club has undergone a major expansion since the turn of the century.

The club has a large, state-of-the-art boathouse which was expanded with the help of a £100,000 grant from sportscotland’s Sport Facilities Fund in 2012.

Club president Bryan Steel, who joined ASRA in 1969, said: “Direct Club Investment enabled us to employ Jonny Muir as pathways development coach. He has been brilliant for us and the four years we have had him have been a wild success.”


Indoor rowers at Aberdeen Schools Rowing AssociationFind out more 

About rowing

About school sportcommunity clubs, coaching and funding in Scotland

About #PlayingOurPart2018

  • Playing Our Part: summary of progress is sportscotland's annual report 2017-18
  • Check out the other two case studies featured on Sport First: 
  • Visit the Playing Our Part home page to explore the data that illustrates our progress in the period April 2017 to March 2018
  • This report covers the third year of the 2015-19 corporate plan: Raising The Bar. It allows us to assess what progress we have made towards achieving our impact measures
  • You can find also Playing Our Part alongside previous annual reports on the sportscotland website 

Want to talk about it? 

We'd love to hear your feedback on #PlayingOurPart2018 in the comments section below, or you can contact the communications team at sportscotland.  

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