Ben Robbins revels in his sporting life

GIVE him a ball of any size or shape, or a field of fellow athletes to be beaten in a sprint, and there's no doubt Ben Robbins can do some damage.

The budding Edinburgh sportsman, 13, can certainly claim "all-rounder" status with some justification, and can be found on most days of the week excelling in track and field, at the crease of a cricket ground, or on one of the Capital's rugby and football pitches.

Ben is a pupil at George Watson's school near his Craiglockhart home and, from a rounded sporting education, has graduated to such a high level of performance that he counts among his achievements a 200m national record, a regular place in the youth team of an SPL club, and recognition as a member of the "firsts" of Watson's cricket and rugby hierarchy.

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"My favourite sports are rugby and athletics," says Ben, a member of both North Merchiston Football Club and Edinburgh Athletics Club. "The time will come quite soon that I'll have to narrow down and cut back to one or two sports.

"The two sprints (100m and 200m) and shot putt are my strongest events, although I don't concentrate as much on shot putt. My athletics background helps my general fitness, and the other sports help me understand more about teamwork."

The symbiotic relationship among Ben's chosen disciplines and the gains each offers both mentally and physically are undoubtedly beneficial to his overall performance. It is in his time management and stealing enough hours of the week to practise and compete that the former Livingston FC youth player may experience more problems, were it not for the understanding of his coaches.

"David, my athletics coach, looks at the bigger picture," says Ben. "He knows I do different sports and if, for example, he knows I have a game on the Saturday, he'll take that into account and my training won't be too hard.

"Andrew Young, the head coach at North Merchiston, is also great. If we have training or a match on a day I've got something else on, he'll let me off. In a season, I probably miss too many games, but I enjoy playing football when I can.

"Towards the start of my second season at Livingston, I decided I didn't want to concentrate on football.

"It was quite time-consuming training in Livingston, and because we played in the SPL youth leagues I sometimes had to travel as far as Aberdeen for games at the weekend. I hadn't really played much rugby before leaving Livingston, but the people at school really enjoyed it. I was just training and played for the seconds when I didn't have a game with Livingston. One time, when a rugby game was cancelled, the firsts played the seconds in a friendly, and afterwards the coaches asked me to come along to training with the firsts."

Now free to turn his talented hand to the oval ball game, Ben averages three tries a game from the wing for the free-scoring Watson's firsts rugby team, a side unbeaten during the past three years. On the football field as a central defender, his style is in the mould of a young Christophe Berra, but Ben is more Usain Bolt in his sporting ambitions.

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At the recent Edinburgh Schools Athletics Championship, he won the 150m event, adding another string to an already-impressive bow that sees him compete in the 100m, 200m, 400m and shot putt at meets around the country.

His crowning moment of 2009, though, came at Birmingham, with a new Scottish record time of 25.26 secs and gold in the 200m sprint at under-13 level. And it looks like the accolades won't stop there for Edinburgh's ultimate young all-rounder.


Monday: Strength and conditioning at Meadowbank indoor running track.

• Tuesday: Rugby training after school, then running training.

• Wednesday: Ben's only free day!

• Thursday: Rugby training after school, then running training.

• Friday: Football training.

• Saturday: Morning rugby match.

• Sunday: Morning football match.