Ayrshire College recognised for Connecting Communities

Ayrshire College recognised for Connecting Communities

Ayrshire College’s Connecting Communities initiative, that has seen over 1,500 Ayrshire boys and girls participate in free sport, has won awards at the recent Herald Digital Awards and Scottish Football Association (SFA) Grassroots Awards.

On Thursday 25 August, Ayrshire College representatives accepted the Digital Community Award at the Herald Digital Awards, just days after being named the Best Community Football for All Project at the SFA Grassroots Awards, presented by McDonald’s and the Sunday Mail.

Connecting Communities was officially launched in 2019, in partnership with Vibrant Communities, East Ayrshire Active Schools, Ayrshire Sportsability, the Kris Boyd Charity and KB9 Academy. The programme provides free weekly football, para-football, dance, rugby and multi-sport sessions to boys and girls aged 5-18.

The initiative is supported by local sporting heroes Kris Boyd, Rose Reilly and Gordon Reid, who run football and rugby camps at Ayrshire College’s Kilmarnock Campus. The Kilmarnock Community Supporters Trust also runs sessions.

Connecting Communities develops a culture of free and sustainable health-based activity for students and the local community. Every session organised under the Connecting Communities name is free of charge, with free kit provided to every participant and free packed lunches during both Easter and Summer camps.

1,017 participants signed up to the most recent Summer camps, while 382 people enjoyed the Easter camps and 447 are weekly attenders.

Students on the Sport & Fitness courses at Ayrshire College volunteer to help coach the sessions, with students last year dedicating over 10,000 combined hours to the Connecting Communities initiative.

Working in partnership with the SFA and the local development officers, in particular Garry Hay, the students have gained valuable training opportunities, most notably being put through the SFA’s VIP programme free of charge.

John Brown, Scottish FA -Regional Manager, said: “At the Scottish FA we are extremely proud of our strong partnership with Ayrshire College. Our strategic objectives seem to mirror those of the college perfectly, particularly within the Connecting Communities project. One of our key strategic aims to increase lifelong participation in football, making sport as inclusive as possible and removing barriers to participation such as access and affordability.

“My colleague Shirley Martin was keen to increase female participation in the local area and James Adams’ team at the college made this a massive success through supporting female only classes delivered by sports students. The Ayrshire College team, with John McTaggart at the helm, integrated and expanded these classes massively; becoming the Rose Reilly Soccer Centres and created the Kris Boyd equivalent for the boys. All the usual barriers of cost, access, and lack of family support were tackled by the college to ensure all young people, regardless of background could attend.

“Another hugely successful strand of The Scottish FA’s strategic partnership with Ayrshire College is the Coach Education programme. Selected students are enrolled in Scottish FA’s V.I.P - Volunteer and Inspire Programme, which takes young people between 16 and 24 through a series of workshops and vitally the formal Coach Education qualifications that improve their abilities and increase their employability. Ex-Kilmarnock FC Captain and local legend Garry Hay works hand-in-hand with lecturer Johnny Sinclair to ensure the students complete their qualifications and invest their skills in volunteering within their local communities across Ayrshire. The students, Scottish football, and the Communities all benefit in equal measure!

“The Scottish FA sees Ayrshire College as a key partner that shares numerous aims, objectives and values and we look forward to continuing to work closely in the years ahead.”

7 September 2022

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