“Champions of Scotland” - A blog by Ollie Rae
In October 2013 you would have heard that three senior women squad players (Myself, Samantha Haggo and Abbi Aitken) had been recruited on to the prestigious Champions in Schools (CiS) Programme, which is run by the Winning Scotland Foundation. For Samantha and I, our school visits are underway and have proven to be hugely fulfilling and worthwhile experiences.
The heart of the CiS programme is undoubtedly the young people who we speak to in schools and ultimately aim to inspire. Importantly, as “Champions” we are to remain neutral by highlighting that it doesn’t matter whether they are interested in a particular sport. Instead, the aim is to show them the key values they can apply to achieving success in whatever they want to do. The underlying theme of CiS is that “you will achieve if you work hard at the things that you are interested in and enjoy”. As “Cricket Champions” we can offer something different and open the young people’s minds to the fact that Cricket is a very real option in Scotland to get involved in and enjoy. I spoke to my fellow Wildcat Samantha about her experiences and she touches on this in her reflections;
“I could see that the girls I spoke to took some encouragement, and may even be motivated to give cricket a try. Women's cricket is constantly growing in Scotland and this initiative is another stepping stone to us becoming a stronger cricketing nation. I've thoroughly enjoyed the experience…" (Samantha Haggo)
During my visit, I could see the pupils’ enthusiasm as I talked to them about my goals and my ultimate dream as a Scotland player: to do my part for the women’s team to reach a World Cup for the first time. The class listened intently to my story, they smiled at my achievements, laughed at my attempts of a joke, looked taken aback when I talked about my setbacks and ultimately looked determined after hearing I got through them. The young people told me what their goals were and described how they were setting out to achieve their own dreams. The mutual engagement from me as a “Champion” and the pupils made for an extraordinary experience and one I will never forget. The realisation for the pupils was that we were both the same but that we are just at different stages in the journey to our goals. They too could be a “Champion” one day!
Looking at achieving our goals in terms of a journey is a really important message that I have taken out of the CiS experience. The journey which we go on as “Champions” ourselves through the training and support from the Winning Scotland Foundation has given me the confidence to stand up and be proud of my achievements. Quite often as athletes we get caught up in what we haven’t achieved, or think that what we have achieved isn’t quite good enough, but CiS has taught me to take time to reflect upon what I have achieved and use that as motivation to keep going and continue achieving. This is something I feel we all could relate to (no matter what it is we aspire to do), especially when we are faced with setbacks such as injury or poor form.
In sharing our honest accounts of how it is often difficult and challenging to reach our goals Samantha, Abbi and I can help young people prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. By highlighting our determination and enjoyment of what we do, we can encourage young people to tackle their goals with a positive “winning” attitude. We are intrinsically rewarded for representing our country and achieving our goals but we need to remain committed and work hard. As Samantha puts so well;
“Champions in School is a great means through which we can give an insight into our day-to-day lives as national cricket players, and the sacrifices we have to make as well as the great benefits we receive from it.”
The fact that CiS is a mutually beneficial programme for both the young people we are working with and ourselves as “Champions” really makes it a success. It advocates that as Scottish athletes we should be proud of what we are achieving, which in turn helps us to be more confident and prepared to inspire the future generation. We are indebted to the programme for opening our eyes to what can be achieved and how we can inspire others. The programme also deserves credit for portraying sport in the positive light it deserves, as Samantha says;
"Champions in School is a great initiative and very important in promoting sport to young people. For me personally, sport is one of the greatest things I've discovered and I strongly believe that everyone should experience it somehow.” (Samantha Haggo)
We can all be a “Champion of Scotland” if we work hard to achieve our goals and never forget to enjoy ourselves while we do it.