National recognition for Fort William judo coach

Rebecca, far left, with a group of her students at a competition last year.

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Clocking up more than 650 miles in her car every week to coach judo, Rebecca Maclean’s commitment to the sport has earned her a nomination for a national award.

The 26-year-old from Fort William travels to Glasgow three days a week to coach in Springburn, Whiteinch and the east end of the city as part of the Judo Girls Rock programme and says it is her love of the sport that makes her arduous commutes worthwhile.

Her incredible dedication to the sport and the girls she coaches means she has been named as a finalist in the Young Coach of the Year category at the sportscotland Year of Young People Awards 2018.

The awards showcase how sport can be used for positive social change and to celebrate the incredible dedication of the young people who give selflessly to sport in their local communities.

The five hours of travel time and near 14-hour days Rebecca puts in for each coaching day, as well her professional preparation and delivery of each session, is the perfect example of that.

And the modest coach insists she doesn’t think twice about continuing to make the long journeys from home, saying the bond she has built with the girls she coaches and her passion for the Judo Girls Rock programme would be too much of a wrench to break.

She said: ‘I love Judo Girls Rock and I’ve noticed a big difference in myself since I started it. The sessions are being delivered in areas of deprivation and the programme is so good for the girls. I’ve seen such a massive difference in all of them.

‘I absolutely love it, that’s why I keep doing it. I’ve grown such a bond with the girls and the project.

‘To see the difference in the girls while I’ve been working with them is so satisfying. That is the key to it.

‘To see other girls enjoying judo like I did when I was younger is brilliant. I’ve gained so much experience out of the programme as well. I think the programme will continue to grow.

‘We have girls who are talking about doing competitions and I did a session where all the mums and the sisters of the girls took part. Now we have mums talking about trying judo with their daughters.’

Rebecca was a skilled judoka herself and competed for Scotland up until the age of 20. But having moved to Edinburgh to compete, she became homesick and niggling injuries led her to return to Fort William.

After taking the decision to compete less and keen to remain involved in judo in some capacity, Rebecca started at Judo Girls Rock three years ago.

Rebecca added: ‘I started judo when I was 10. I left Fort William to live in Edinburgh to compete, then when I started competing less I got myself into coaching, I love the sport so I wanted to stay involved in it.

‘I got a bit homesick when I was living in Edinburgh and wanted to come home. I picked up a few injuries and missed my family. It was a culmination of those things that helped me decide to move home.

‘When I started coaching, I didn’t really have any youth work experience. But in the last few months I’ve got a job as a youth development officer.

‘I applied for that position after delivering Judo Girls Rock and looking at the connection between sport and youth work. I always thought sport would be the career path I would take.’ Rebecca is in no doubt that her volunteering work has set her on the right path for a career in sport, with her new role in the community testament to that.

Rebecca will be attending the sportscotland Year of Young People Awards 2018 which take place on Friday January 26 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow.