You might have noticed the running joke (no pun intended) in many of my Try Athlete blog posts.
It is when I get an Olympian (such as Libby Clegg below) or coach to announce me as their Star Pupil. Along with water fountains on Instagram, it has become “my thing”. Plus, it annoys my boys and if that is not my main purpose on earth, I do not know what is.
However, I decided to leave Star Pupil at home today as I was training with some genuine Star Pupils. The boys and girls at the Glasgow School of
Glasgow Life had invited me along to the Emirates Arena to watch the athletics class in action and to find out a little more about the Glasgow School of Sport.
The Glasgow School of Sport, opened in 1999 and located within Bellahouston Academy has approximately 120 students and their academic curriculum is balanced to allow them to develop their sporting talents in athletics, badminton, hockey (no doubt sticking it to the man), gymnastics and swimming. Entry to the school is by application and rarely is a child with promise or drive turned away with children attending from all over the West of Scotland. With around a third of Team GB medalists coming from fee paying schools, establishing the School of Sport within a state school is not only a great thing to do, but also the right thing to do and these kids are shining examples of the positive influence of sport.
While the likes of Michael Jamieson, Kirsty Gilmour and William Marshall have excelled in swimming, badminton and hockey respectively, I was at the Emirates Arena to watch and train with some future stars of track and field.
The School of Sport does not push the students into specialising too early and instead encourages a blended and multisport approach for all of the reasons below.
However, they do permit students to focus on sports that they enjoy and excel in during the second term of school and first up for me was the long jump (or short jump in my case).
I watched in admiration as second year student Harris demonstrated his technique and as first year Cameron did her very best to show the boys that #thisgirlcan. They were all face meltingly good (I promise to keep the School of Rock references to a minimum) and I loved both their aptitude and their attitude. When things went wrong, they did not sulk. They picked themselves up out of the sand, took on board advice from their coach and never gave up.
They made it look so easy and with a little encouragement from coach David, I decided to take centre stage (a la Jack Black).
I had watched how they prepared; how they powerfully strode across the track and how they propelled themselves into the air and onto the sand.
How hard could it possibly be?
Yes, my arms were flailing and yes, despite have marginally longer legs, my strides were shorter, but I did manage to alternate foot landings and I did land in the sand, even if it was face first….
I had completed my first ever long jump (I somehow missed it at school) and the students did not burst out laughing or look at me with sympathy or disgust. And thankfully, there were no School of Rock cries of “you’re a fat loser and have body odour”.
Or maybe they did (but I doubt it), as at this point, I was fully grasping why they sat down after every jump and drank water. I was just a tad breathless. Now, I am not currently in the best of shape, but I do now better appreciate the effort required in the long jump.
I then strolled (still catching my breath) over to watch 12 (maybe 13) year old Connor practicing the high jump and it was a thing of beauty that I felt privileged to see and to now share with you. He is beaming with pride and rightfully so.
For it happened to be a new personal best of 1 metre 65 and only 1 cm from equalling the Scottish Record and once again, he made it look far too easy. Rather than go higher, his coach Eva suggested that he end this session on a high and he showed great maturity in accepting this.
Connor McNally. Remember that name.
I finished off my time with the School of Sport by chatting to a few middle distance runners, Cameron and Forbes, who were far from camera shy and had that little spark of cheekiness and confidence adored in 11 and 12 year olds, but often frowned upon in 45 year old men (or so Teresa, my girlfriend, tells me) before leaving the arena hugely impressed by the athletes and the coaches while also feeling a little bit of regret. Sport was never my thing at school and watching these smiling, confident and talented kids made me momentarily think about my past and missed opportunities.
However, we should instead be looking towards the future and in only seven months, we should be able to see some School of Sport graduates and students rocking onto the stages of the European Championships that are being held in Glasgow from 2nd-12th August. You can buy tickets HERE
Huge thanks to Norrie, David and Eva for allowing me to interrupt their class; to Glasgow Life for making this possible and most of all to all of the Star Pupils of the School of Sport
P.S. Should the School of Sport use my design (and why wouldn’t they?) for their new crest, I will happily accept Glasgow 2018 tickets as compensation.