Craig Gordon, 23, is a sports development intern at sportscotland. He recently graduated from the University of the West of Scotland where he completed a Sports Development degree while actively volunteering at East Renfrewshire Council and coaching football in his spare time. From volunteering at his local church to a paid position within his local authority, we find out more about Craig’s experiences, the skills he gained and his future plans.
What sports do you take part in, and how did you first get involved?
Football is my main sport and it was my very fist sport. I’ve done pretty much any sport you can think of - even gymnastics but that was very basic, just a few simple rolls! I do quite a bit of swimming, running and golfing (weather permitting). I chose football because I really enjoy the team aspect of it, I think the adrenaline and buzz I get from football and playing with my team is just an amazing feeling.
Why did you decide to take it a step further and get involved with volunteering in coaching rather than just playing sport?
I knew I wouldn’t be able to play sport at this level my whole life, so I started thinking about what to do afterwards. I always wanted to be involved in sports, in any capacity really, playing the sport obviously being the main goal, but the more I noticed my coaches, the more intrigued I got. I started volunteering with my church and my local authority – where ironically, I do pretty much anything apart from football. I think that since I started doing it I see sport in a different perspective and as cheesy a sit may sound, I’m able to give something back to the sporting community.
How did you manage to do all your volunteering and coaching throughout full time education?
I started off when I was about 12-13 years old and I carried on through high school and university. I guess by then I was using my coaching and as a way of dealing with stress rather than just an obligation. It helped to reduce that stress that came from working on my dissertation. The last year of university can be tough on your mental health and having something to release that pressure was very important. But you need to remember that University comes first, and your future depends on it, so you have to prioritise. But once I hit a wall with course work, having coaching or my volunteering was a release and I always looked forward to it.
What kind of skills did you gain through your coaching and volunteering and how do they apply in your professional work?
Probably my communication and confidence. It helped with job interviews as well, being able to talk to strangers or do a presentation. In a way it was life changing because I could not do any of that before.
"Before I was involved with coaching I would never be able to do an interview like this, speak to a group or kids or crack a joke."
Also, I improved my organisational skills with all the planning I need to do to fit everything in my schedule. And I hope with the things I am still learning through it I can keep improving!
From your own experiences, how do you think young people could make a difference in sport in Scotland?
I think young people can bring new ideas and a fresh perspective. Having a coach that you can relate to can be game changing for young athletes. It is almost like I am more of an older brother figure rather than a coach, which allows me to get to know the young footballers better and help them out with more than just their football skills. Of course, it is important to appreciate older coaches and carry on their lessons but with better grasp on technology and maybe fresher ideas we can make sport more accessible and friendlier.
Any words of advice on how to combine education, volunteering and sport?
Just grasp every opportunity with both hands, you never know where a volunteering opportunity might take you. But also, remember that high performance sport might not be a forever career, so take care of your education and be sure to learn multiple things and keep your options open. Scheduling and planning are what allows you to combine them and maintain some social and family life, which is very important. Might be hard at first, but just like everything else, it gets easier with practice.