Berwickshire’s new active schools coordinator Magnus Moncrieff has pledged to make sure that as many of the region’s kids are catered for as possible - whether they are naturally sporty or not.
Having taken over from former Berwickshire coordinator ‘Marathon Man’ Paddy Dearlove in August, Magnus is finding his feet and adjusting to the area.
And so far, so good, he told The Berwickshire News.
“I was previously the active schools coordinator for Stornoway but I always wanted to come onto the mainland,” he explained.
“There are more opportunities and a wider variety of sports here, and the kids are really enthusiastic.
“At the rugby and hockey festivals recently, and the other work I’ve done here so far, I’ve found them to be really positive. They’re really enthusiastic about sport, and that makes the job a lot easier.”
Magnus grew up in Orkney, and says he is used to rural living. “I know what it’s like in terms of communities, it’s very close knit,” he said.
“I’ve found there’s a friendly rivalry between some places here which is good in a sporting sense.
“At the same time some kids aren’t so keen on the competitive side - that’s why the recent rugby and hockey festivals were festivals, rather than having winners and losers. But I think a bit of competition is good in sport, it prepares them for life really.”
The 32-year-old says that partnership working is very important in his job, not just with sports clubs but with teachers, senior pupils and NHS Borders.
“A big part of it is trying to make sure that what’s going on in schools is followed into the community, so kids can carry on what they’ve been doing in school,” he said.
“It’s brilliant doing test sessions of new sports or activities, but if there’s nowhere for them to go to follow on from that it kind of kills the enthusiasm.
“It’s also trying to make sure that the kids are aware of what’s going on in the local community and that they do have those direct links to clubs.
“The big challenge is not just trying to make sure there is a wide variety of activities open to them, but that they know about them at the same time.
“You just expect everyone to know all the clubs and things that are out there, but Berwickshire is a big area, from Eyemouth all the way across to Greenlaw and Coldstream, so there’s things going on that people might not know about if they don’t live in that community.”
And Magnus says it’s important to promote the links between the schools and the clubs to make them more accessible to children.
“When you go along to something new at that age it can be quite daunting, especially when it might be in a community you’re not used to,” he explained.
“So I’ll get club coaches to come into the schools and speak to the kids about what they do, then if they want to go along they will see familiar faces there.”
With obesity levels among young people at worrying levels in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, there is a growing emphasis on health and wellbeing in schools.
“Looking back when I was growing up I was always encouraged to go out and play sport. That’s what my sister and I did, but I think there were always children that weren’t as active as others,” Magnus said.
“Of course there has been advances in technology now so more kids are involved in it. But I think as a whole there were children when I was growing up that weren’t as active as others, and it wasn’t because they were inside playing on X Boxes or whatever. Obviously technology hasn’t helped, but at least part of it now is trying to get kids more active, with the Wii Fit and dance mats and things.”
Magnus believes that all children can enjoy being more physically active, even if they don’t enjoy conventional sports.
“I think it’s important to make sure that you are maximising the opportunities for kids today, so they can get out there and get involved,” he said.
“Of course, there are kids that aren’t sporty, and those that reach a certain age then drop out, so it’s just finding out what they are interested in really.
“In those cases I’ll speak to teachers, find out how involved during PE they are, or what interests them, what they like doing outside school - it’s just trying to tap into the kids and give them the opportunity to try new things.
“Like Zumba toning at Eyemouth for example, we introduced that because it’s very different and can attract some of the ones you wouldn’t expect to go along - the majority are girls but there were some boys too which was great to see.
“It’s a challenge to try and make sure that as many kids are catered for as possible, but that’s what makes the job enjoyable,” he added.
“Working in sport is very enjoyable anyway, but giving kids the opportunities I had is brilliant. I enjoy working with kids and working in sport, so in my mind this is the best job in the world!”