5 young people and 2 adult mentors play a balancing game with a bamboo stick

Young Ambassadors

Celebrating inclusivity during Scottish Disability Sport Week 2023

The Young Ambassadors (YA) programme prides itself on being inclusive and accessible to all young people across Scotland. To mark Scottish Disability Sport Week 2023, we wanted to spotlight some of the fantastic work going on in Edinburgh to deliver the programme in Additional Support Needs (ASN) schools.

Jill Coleman is an Active Schools Coordinator in Edinburgh with responsibility for the ASN school cluster and has been delivering the YA programme in those schools over the last 8 years. Mattie McLachlan is also an Active Schools Coordinator in Edinburgh and has worked closely alongside Jill over the last few years.

Together, they have shared with us, an insight into the work they are doing to ensure that the young people they work with can participate in and reap the full benefits of the Young Ambassadors programme.

The importance of participation

Emphasising the importance of providing opportunities like the YA programme to all young people, Jill said:

"I believe that all young people have the right to these kinds of opportunities, and that includes young people with additional support needs.

“It gives those who have a passion for sport the opportunity to have their voices heard and encourage other young people in their schools to get involved.”

Support behind the scenes

The young people, of course, could not benefit from the programme if it wasn’t for the people who make it all happen.

Behind every passionate and successful Young Ambassador is a supportive and understanding mentor and the YAs in Edinburgh’s ASN schools are no exception. For Jill, it is essential that she has a good understanding of what works for each individual and can tailor her approach accordingly. She explained:

“I need to know what each young person likes so sometimes it’s a case of asking, is a visual going to be better than explaining something verbally? That’s the sort of thinking that goes into my support.”

Having clear lines of communication by keeping the YAs up to date with current activities as well as upcoming opportunities is a fundamental part of both Jill's and Matthew’s approach to reducing anxiety and uncertainty. Mattie emphasised:

"We always make sure that we are there to have conversations about where they are at on their journey and to check in that they are comfortable with the pace of work.”

Never-ending benefits

The YA programme, as described by Jill and Matthew, presents endless benefits to the young people who participate. From training sessions to attending events, the programme plays a pivotal role in skill development and confidence-building. Mattie explains:

“One of the biggest benefits we see for our young people is the social opportunity. They meet with YAs from other schools and really build up relationships that we know last for years after they have been on the programme.

“I recently bumped into one of my former Young Ambassadors who is now doing sports coaching at Edinburgh College and he still talks about being on the programme so positively and the friends he made during that time.”

Skills for life

Through the YA programme, the young people that Jill and Mattie have worked with have been able to gain skills and qualifications that they will carry with them for life. Detailing the many opportunities available to the young people who participate in the programme, Mattie said:

“The courses and the qualifications they can gain are great.  We deliver the Intro to Coaching Children, UK disability and inclusion training and some leadership courses as well – all great things for their CVs.

“There are also opportunities to deliver across the city. Last year we had a boccia festival where 70 pupils from our schools attended and the Young Ambassadors delivered one of the stations there.

“Opportunities like that massively develop their confidence in delivering to new people and just generally being around new people too. There are so many things that they get out of it - all those soft skills that will help them so much later in life.”

An opportunity for all

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of individuals like Jill and Mattie, young people of all abilities are finding their voices, building connections and developing skills for life. Jill summarised the importance of providing opportunities like the YA programme to all young people, saying:

“The Young Ambassadors programme is a great way to ensure that young people from a range of backgrounds are involved and engaged in a really positive experience.”

Find out more

YA Website

YA Instagram page

YA YouTube channel

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