A primary school teacher has been nominated for one of Aberdeen’s Sports Awards for his efforts in creating an inclusive running club for kids.
Nigel O’Neill coaches Westpark Athletics Club, which is based at the school of the same name in Northfield, giving pupils the chance to have fun and get active, regardless of circumstance.
He has been put forward for the Community/Participation Coach of the Year prize at this year’s annual celebration of Granite City sporting success.
Irishman Nigel described the nod as a “nice surprise”, adding: “Westpark AC has absolutely snowballed over the past two years.
“I knew we had something special from early on but the continued commitment from the children has made me the proudest I’ve been in my life. Rain, cold, wind haven’t stopped 30 plus children each week wanting to train.
“It peaked at 55 at one session – practically a quarter of the school.
“It’s gone from Mrs Atkinson, Mr Watson, Mrs Zebedee and myself wanting to get the school children more active, to many parents out running with their children every week.
“The club has been at the heart of the wider community living better.”
Nigel coaches two weekly sessions at Sheddocksley Playing Fields for kids p3-7. There are usually speed sessions and a stamina session, which take place in all weathers and are open to all, regardless of ability.
He also runs a Monday morning mile before school, while helping club members who choose to take part in junior parkruns at Aberdeen beach and Duthie Park.
The teacher has also found innovative ways to boost participation – organising loans of running vests and finding funding for transport – as well as linking up with Active Schools and other local running clubs.
His success in this is obvious, with around 50 Westpark AC members at Run Balmoral in April, while runners from the club have shown improved speed and stamina in parkruns and other events, with regular finishers in the top 10s.
Nigel has also come in for praise for “empowering” his growing crop of runners by giving them the responsibility to lead warm-ups, cool downs and publishing his training schedule in advance of the sessions.
At the moment, Westpark AC are fundraising to build their own running track as the club continues to build.
Nigel said: “We are in the middle of fundraising for our own 300m track and are still a few grand shy of getting to that point.
“At the moment some of our runners are with Metro and AAAC (Aberdeen Amateur Athletics Club) – who have been brilliant to us since we started.
“I envision our own running club in Northfield to compete with the best in the city as time goes on if we do get the facilities.
“Seeing how committed and enthusiastic the children are, I don’t see why we shouldn’t aim high.”
Aberdeen’s Sports Awards will be held at P&J Live on Thursday October 3.
To nominate an individual or club, visit aberdeenssports awards.co.uk
Full list of categories and criteria below: