The 2018 Young Ambassadors conferences brought together 623 young people from local secondary schools and their mentors across Scotland.
With conferences in Perth, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen, young people had a chance to meet athletes such as Sarah Law (Scotland rugby international) and Kieron Achara (Team GB basketball captain) as well as two bronze medallists from Gold Coast 2018, diver James Heatly and triathlete Marc Austin.
Athletes came along to inspire the next cohort of Young Ambassadors as they took the opportunity to learn and develop as leaders in sport from their peers and predecessors.
Young people at the heart
In Edinburgh, host Stefan Hoggan, a former para athlete in swimming and triathlon, started off the conference with a joke while introducing some of the amazing former YAs to the stage. They shared their experiences and gave the audience advice and tips on how they could maximise their time as a YA, promoting and growing sport intheir schools.
Stella Thompson of Edinburgh Conference did the same thing, confidently and enthusiastically encouraging her peers to "say yes to everything" as part of their Young Ambassadors journey. Later in the day, the new class of 2018 attended workshops where more experienced Young Ambassadors took them through training and skills development sessions, preparing them to return to their schools bursting with ideas.
Stories of inspiration
Stefan shared his incredible story during each conference, giving Young Ambassadors an insight into his sporting journey. He talked about missing out on the 2014 Commonwealth Games, struggling with his sexuality and dealing with changes in his life.
Having gone through hard times, he advocated that “the only disability in life is a bad attitude” and said that this positive approach had allowed him to move on and come out on the winning side.
Sarah, who has 35 caps for Scotland and has played for Scotland 7s every year since 2013, was one of the stars of a 15-14 win over Wales in the 2017 Six Nations as she successfully kicked a penalty in the dying minutes of the match at Broadwood Stadium.
Her inspirational story of commitment, balancing studies and training and working with her coaches and mentors, was great inspiration for the YA class of 2018.
Kieron, who has 100 caps for Great Britain and is captain of Scotland, told the young people about his journey in sport. He recalled how coaches at his local club helped him get to training in the early days, as his mum didn't have a car.
Reflecting on being dropped from the GB team one year before the London 2012 Olympic Games, almost destroying his dream of playing in a home Games, he talked about how with the right support and perseverance you can achieve your goals.
James and Marc both shined as brightly as their Gold Coast medals when they talked about combining training with education and family life.
James highlighted the importance of support from family and friends as they can be the best source of inspiration and motivation. Marc praised the support and encouragement he had received from his parents over the years.
“My family is always making sure that I follow my dream, supporting my decision to work hard every day. They do not push me into things I don’t want to do, they want me to be happy with my journey” – Marc Austin.
Leaders of the future
Since the programme’s launch, 3,500 Young Ambassadors have been selected to promote sport and inspire other young people to get involved in sport in their schools, clubs and local communities.
The National Lottery-funded programme is a key element of sportscotland’s contribution to developing young people as leaders in sport. A Young Ambassadors conference team presents at the annual conferences alongside sports development professionals. This year’s team was led by Fraser Anderson and Finlay Hamilton.
Fraser, who attends Kirkcaldy High School, said: “Becoming a Young Ambassador this year has been brilliant. I have gained new skills and new friends and the Young Ambassadors programme has allowed me to help encourage others to take part in sport, and that is what is needed.”
Finlay, who attends Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline, said: “Having the opportunity to deliver at the Young Ambassadors conferences has been amazing for me. It has really been a fantastic experience and has helped develop me both as a Young Ambassador and as a person. The programme has given me new skills that I will be able to use throughout life.”