Volunteering award for Thurso Football Academy's Alyn Gunn
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Caithness youth football coach Alyn Gunn says he is delighted to have achieved national recognition for his volunteering efforts during the coronavirus crisis.
Alyn, head of coaching at Thurso Football Academy, was named as a Coaching, Officiating and Volunteering (COV) champion in an award scheme run by sportscotland and UK Coaching.
More than 1000 youngsters across Europe benefited from the academy's Tiny Tacklers booklet outlining training drills and football-themed games that could be played in the garden with parents.
The booklet was put together as part of a Keep Scotland Active initiative and won the backing of leading football figures such as Champions League winners Ronald de Boer and Pedro Mendes and the former Rangers and Scotland manager Alex McLeish.
"I was contacted by a member of the UK Coaching team to say that my efforts had been noted and that I had been put forward," Alyn explained. "Sportscotland then got in touch to say that I had been selected as a COV champion for youth football.
"The past year hasn't been great for anyone, so getting recognised at a national level is very rewarding for the work that was put in. Over 1000 children across Europe received this booklet that was put together purely to help kids stay active over lockdown.
"The feedback I've had from this has been through the roof – it has opened doors I didn't think I'd ever get near in terms of contacts and resources."
Alyn added: "Throughout all the youth football clubs in Caithness, a lot of good work goes unnoticed. I am delighted that I have been selected for my efforts, especially when I see what other volunteer coaches in the area do for their clubs – they should also be commended for the time they give up on a weekly basis."
The academy had previously been nominated for an SFA community award for helping to keep local youngsters fit and active. While it didn't receive the SFA accolade, the academy was given a Youth Football Scotland community initiative award for its work throughout the lockdown.
Alyn and fellow coach Richie Campbell specialise in coaching the age group four to six years, although their camps are aimed at children from four up to 15.
Alyn has now begun visiting some of the local schools to deliver football coaching and to give the "players of the day" an opportunity to become mascots for a fundraising challenge match between Thurso firefighters and a team of Rangers legends next August, if guidance allows.
He is at Castletown Primary School this week, with Halkirk, Miller Academy, Mount Pleasant and Pennyland primaries planned for next year.
The Charlie Miller Football Academy is scheduled to come north again in August, while details for Coerver coaching and Rangers soccer schools will be finalised in the early part of 2021 once it is known what restrictions will be in place. These will be for children aged from five to 15.