The Scots driving grassroots sport

Judy Murray, a long-time campaigner for more investment in grassroots tennis, watches her son Andy compete in the Davis Cup. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Judy Murray, a long-time campaigner for more investment in grassroots tennis, watches her son Andy compete in the Davis Cup. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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SCOTLAND may not be competing at this summer’s European Championships, but there’s plenty of other sporting achievements to shout about when it comes to grassroots level.

Some of the country’s biggest stars owe their success to the tireless work of volunteers.

Ross Martin may join the ranks of Scottish F1 stars Allan McNish and David Coulthard in time. Photo: Lee Marshall

Ross Martin may join the ranks of Scottish F1 stars Allan McNish and David Coulthard in time. Photo: Lee Marshall

Dunblane’s Andy and Jamie Murray were encouraged from a young age by their indefatigable mother, Judy.

Her devotion to a sport that once struggled for media coverage north of the border is well-noted.

As well as driving her sons to and from tennis tournaments across the UK, Judy has continued to champion tennis for Scottish youngsters by petitioning for diused courts to be reopened or refurbished across the country via her ‘Tennis on the Road’ programme.

“We’re targeting places where tennis doesn’t exist, or did exist once, and trying to revive it,” she told The Scotsman last year.

“We’ve successfully lobbied North Lanarkshire Council and three new ones will, hopefully, open before the summer ends. We’ve also managed to help resurrect some old courts in one of the Dundee parks.”

Volunteers are the backbone of sport at all levels across Scotland.

Matthew MacDermid, 22, is a football referee from Lanarkshire who has been chasing his dream of becoming a fully-qualified official for six years, as well as encouraging others to follow his path.

He is only one of nine qualified recruits to the Scottish Centre of Refereeing Excellence (SCORE) programme run by the Scottish Football Association (SFA), which sees the SFA and Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University collaborate to improve the prospects of up-and-coming referees.

Matthew said: “My best game so far came last May as the referee for the Youth Cup Final at Hampden Park, between Celtic and Rangers U19s. To get an Old Firm game after only six years was something special.

“Like many others, I got to a stage where I just wasn’t going to make it as a player, but I still wanted to be involved with football. It was my dad who suggested I try a refereeing course. At the start of the season, we had nine university modules on topics such as leadership, public speaking and dealing with aggression.

“It’s more than just a game on a Saturday morning - we’re a family and referees train together. It’s a lifestyle, and I don’t think anyone who’s done it will regret it.”

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Motorsport in Scotland may not enjoy the profile it once did when the likes of David Coulthard was at his peak, but the next generation of drivers are already finding top gear.

Allan McNish, a three-time Le Mans 24 hour winner and ex-Toyota F1 driver, is always willing to pass on his skills.

One of those under his wing is 16-year-old karting success Ross Martin, who aims to take the racing line into Formula 4 single-seater competition.

The teenager from Dunbartonshire has tested a British Racing Drivers’ Club Formula 4 car, after winning the Formula Kart Stars Championship with seven wins out of ten races in 2015.

Martin said: “I was very excited to drive an F4 single-seater for the first time. It was a fantastic experience and I’m now even more determined to make the step up to this category in 2016.

“I’ve enjoyed success in karts but now the time is right for me to make a step up the motor racing ladder and open a new chapter in my career.”

Mentor Allan McNish added: “He’s got the raw ingredients, drive and determination. He’s not coming from a family that has endless financial support and they, like him, have made sacrifices to get here.

“It’s good to see how he stands up to the demands of a team and how he fits in there. He has speed in hand and he’s not at his limit just yet.”

Meanwhile, Gemma Simpson is stretching to inspire young gymnasts in Perth.

She established Perth Adventure Circus, a fitness start-up which sparked interest in aerial acrobatics across Perthshire.

Trainees learn how to wrap, suspend, swing and spiral their bodies into different positions and across different equipment.

Gemma said: “We have more adults than ever participating in our weekly classes and we now have a waiting list for our popular children’s classes.”

The group’s local success has translated to a national scale so far, as Adventure Circus recently reached the final of TestTown UK - a competition where £10,000 of funding was up for the business idea that was best-placed to rejuvenate local communities.

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