Success for Three Local Coaches at Sport NI Awards

13 February 2018

Success for Three Local Coaches at Sport NI Awards

Bridgeen Byrne

Athletics NI was delighted to attend Sport NI’s Annual Coaching, Officiating and Volunteering Awards in the Titanic Exhibition Centre where 3 local coaches were honoured for their contribution to Sport in Northern Ireland.

Matt Shields of North Belfast Harriers received the Community Coach of the Year Award for his work promoting and developing running initiatives for his club and the local community.  Matt has worked tirelessly to develop Parkrun across Ireland and still finds the time to coach both recreational and performance runners on a weekly basis for North Belfast Harriers who now have 300+ members.  Speaking on the night to host Denise Watson, Matt spoke of the life changing benefits of engaging in physical activity and explained that he believes broadening the base of participants in the sport will ultimately serve to create a pipeline of talent for the sport.

Up against stiff competition from numerous other sports Bridgeen Byrne from City of Derry Spartans collected the Children’s Coach of The Year Award. Bridgeen oversees the a thriving junior section for eighty 8-12 year olds at City of Derry acting as a lead coach and supervising other volunteers and apprentice coaches.  Bridgeen explained her “love for the sport and satisfaction in seeing children progress not only their athletic performances but also their self-confidence.” The dedicated work of Bridgeen and her team of coaches was clearly seen at the recent Ulster Age Group Championships in Athlone where the club were strongly represented in a range of events picking up multiple medals.

Niall Wilkinson was awarded the Talent Development Coach of the Year award for his  work with Commonwealth Youth Games Gold Medallist and Record Holder Sommer Lecky.  Picking up the award on behalf of Niall Athletics NI’s Coach Development and Physical Preparation Lead Laura Kerr explained; “Niall has worked with Sommer for 6 years and has been impressive in his ability to drive her programme and integrate the services of other experts.” Reflecting on Sommer’s success in the Bahamas and on receiving the accolade Niall said “this is not just an award for me but also for the athlete and for all of the team that we have around us helping us with the various different aspects… strength and conditioning, physio and technical development.”

Speaking to Denise Watson Laura continued “Athletics relies on the work of coaches at all levels and as we look ahead to Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast we recognise that it is the work of coaches in communities, clubs and with talented young people that increases participation, raises the profile of our sport and ultimately nurtures talent for the future.  I am delighted that Athletics coaches could win 3 awards tonight against such stiff competition from other sports and would like to congratulate all 3 winners and thank them for their work. Thank you to Sport NI for continuing to raise the profile of coaching.”

Athletics NI looks forward to incorporating our own Annual Coaching Awards into our 2018 Coaching Conference this coming winter.  Drawing over 120 coaches annually the Coaching Conference will be the perfect place to recognise the essential role of coaches across the development pathway.

Click here for video interviews with the winners;