Young Borders sports stars have a passport to success

Pupils from Edenside Primary School in Kelso, Kelso High School and athlete Guy Learmonth promote the new "Passport" scheme to encourage children use local leisure facilities.
Pupils from Edenside Primary School in Kelso, Kelso High School and athlete Guy Learmonth promote the new "Passport" scheme to encourage children use local leisure facilities.

SPORTWISE Borders kids are gearing up for a year of activity in celebration of the London 2012 Olympics.

Primary school children from all over the region have signed up to the 2012 Olympic Passport scheme, while 22 secondary pupils are working tirelessly as London 2012 Young Ambassadors (YAs) within their cluster areas to promote not only the Games but also sport and active health in the Borders area.

Both initiatives are being run in conjunction with Active Schools and Border Sports and Leisure Trust.

The Young Ambassadors programme was initially introduced down south before developing up through Scotland and into the Borders.

In 2009, four Kelso High School pupils, Kirsty Hill, Ben Leslie, Anna Ramsay and James Stewart piloted the scheme with great success and now the school boasts four platinum, two gold and two Adistar silver ambassadors. Pupils on the platinum level act as mentors for those on gold and silver.

In 2010, sports retailers Adidas gave their backing to the programme, allowing it to expand further and giving all local secondary schools the opportunity to recruit two pupils to act as Adistar ambassadors.

Gold ambassador Jack Bayram was forced to give up playing rugby following a back injury but is now training to be a referee.

He told us: “One of our aims is to try and introduce sports other than the mainstream ones to the kids and they seem to be really enjoying that.”

Last week, Jack and three of his Kelso High School YA colleagues joined Berwick’s Olympic middle-distance hopeful Guy Learmonth and pupils from Edenside Primary School to promote the Passport Scheme, which was launched on January 5 to celebrate the year of the Games. Every child in the Borders from P4-7 (4,700 in total) were invited to take part, and all have been issued with a passport.

“The Olympic passports are a great idea and hopefully will encourage them to get out there and try different activities,” added Jack.

Each child taking part will receive points for trying each activity. Passports are to be returned to the schools on August 24 when the points will be totalled and bronze, silver or gold medals will be issued.

Since its installation, the ambassadors scheme has proved a huge asset and, working alongside Active Schools, the YA’s have successfully delivered sports clubs in various primary schools, paralympic festivals across all areas and ran an inter-school Olympic hockey event, among many other activities.

Cameron Bryce, who plays rugby and curling, told us: “I have helped coach these age groups in rugby before and doing it on our own like this has a lot more responsibility, but produces great rewards as well.

Cecily Withall and Kate Lesenger both enjoy their hockey and are looking forward to watching their favourite internationals perform in London, but both girls are passionate about learning more of lesser-known sports, as well as some of the disability sports.

“We were at a training session and were learning Boccia from a man in a wheelchair who was an international in the GB team and that was really good,” said Cecily.

“Working with kids is challenging, but really fun as well and has really helped build my confidence,” added Kate.