Volunteer Week 2021: The Scottish Cycling Young People's Panel

Volunteer Week 2021: The Scottish Cycling Young People's Panel

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In 2019, we set out on a journey of discovery and embarked upon the recruitment of and subsequent engagement with our first ever Scottish Cycling Young People’s Panel. The launch of the panel afforded us, as an organisation, the opportunity to re-frame the role that we saw young people playing in the sport, bringing them closer to the inner workings of Scottish Cycling, and giving them direct opportunities to engage in, influence and develop our work.

At the start of the recruitment process, there were many unknowns. Would anyone apply? Did the offer match up to expectations? Could we deliver on our own expectations? Would the panel have the intended impact? After reflecting on our two years of working with an outstanding group of young people, we can say with certainty that the organisation and the sport as a whole has benefited from their insight, energy, enthusiasm and passion to make a difference.

In a pre-pandemic world, coming together as a group was important in building the strong foundations that the panel needed to achieve its ambitions. We started on a warm summer’s evening in June 2019, as panel members and their Parents/Guardians were invited along to the Emirates Arena to meet each other for the first time. They were welcomed by our Chief Executive Officer, Head of Development, and Development Manager. This was crucial in helping us to signify the value and importance, from the outset, that we as an organisation placed upon this group coming together.

The sportscotland National Centre at Inverclyde provided the perfect environment for our first residential experience – two fantastic days where we focused on building relationships, understanding each other, and starting to get a taste of the work that we would focus on as a panel over the two year term.

The work of the panel has been wide-ranging, but within this article, we wanted to outline a few key areas that the panel has focused on over the last 2 years.

The importance of amplifying the voice and views of young people was outlined as a key part of the vision and purpose of the panel, and from the outset we have sought to give them a platform through our social media channels to express their views and contribute to national conversations. A brilliant channel for this has been through sportscotland’s #SportHour, the monthly Twitter chat which takes place on the first Monday of each month, and explores a different topic on each occasion. From co-hosting the discussion on one date, the panel has continued to contribute answers to this discussion on a monthly basis, linking in with other SGBs and Local Authority partners and raising the profile of work happening across the Scottish Cycling community. More recently, the panel has shared responsibilities with our Women’s Development Group which has provided opportunities for other perspectives to be shared as well.

Personal development was key to the purpose of the panel. We wanted to ensure that come the conclusion of their tenure, our panel members could look back, reflect on their experience and recognise that their skills had been enhanced by virtue of their role on the panel. At our first interaction, we asked panel members to identify their strengths and areas for improvement, and blended this into our regular engagements – combining project development with personal development. A memorable session with Annie Boyd explored Creative Thinking, encouraging panel members to think outside the box with their ideas and innovate. Annie delivered an inspired session that the panel members took a lot from, with all remarking that it had had the intended impact. Many of the panel members also identified public speaking as a key area for development – so the panel also afforded them opportunities to speak publicly, including opening and closing our 2020 Club Coaching and Development Conference.

The panel adapted, as everyone else has, to new ways of working during the pandemic. Of course, while Zoom meetings haven’t been half as fun as meeting in person, they’ve still led to some great ideas and innovation. Our recent focus has been on the development of a new ‘Young Ambassador’ role within clubs. This has been in the workings for a number of years, yet has really come to fore this year. Several of our members recognised the greater need to have young people’s voices heard within clubs, particularly as clubs were returning to activity, and believed that this role could be a positive move in leading to more inclusive decision making. This project will be somewhat of a legacy for panel 1; they’ll be passing the baton onto Panel 2 to proceed with delivering the project. Having said that, if it has the intended impact, it’s a pretty good legacy to leave behind!

Working with our Young People’s Panel for the last two years has been a great privilege, and it would never have been possible without the support of staff from across the organisation in giving up their time to support the development of our young people. We’ve taken some great learnings from this first panel, and hope to implement them in the approach we take to our next panel. For now, however, we thank our current panel for their work over the last two years - Erin, Euan, Sophie, Eilidh, Isobel, Callum and Ryan!

So, to the next panel – watch this space! We will be opening recruitment in July and seeking the next group of young people (aged 14-23) to come forward and be part of it. As we rebuild from Covid-19, and head towards the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, there has never been a more important time to have young people involved in our work – and we’re excited to see who comes forward to be a part of that experience.