In the proud and impressive history of Disability Sport Fife (DSF), 2016 will be remembered for many important events, performances and celebrations. Top of the list of course was the selection of Kieran Steer (boccia), Derek Rae (athletics) and silver medalist Alison Patrick (paratriathlon) for the Paralympic Games in Rio. All three were first time Paralympians and reached the highest level of their sport by hard work, dedication and no shortage of skill and determination. Since its formation in 1977, twenty five Paralympians from Fife have proudly represented Great Britain.
At the 2016 AGM and Awards Evening of DSF, the late David Thomson and swimmers Lucy Walkup and Craig Rodgie were inducted into the DSF Hall of Fame. Throughout the evening athletes, players, coaches, volunteers and administrators were recognised for their immense contribution to the success of DSF during the year past. West Fife CSS was voted member organisation of the year and Maureen McSeveney DSF Ambassador of the Year. Pamela Robson and Alex Bird shared the award of Coach of the Year and Steven Anderson claimed the prestigious award of Volunteer of the Year. Carolyn Clunie received a Service to Sport Award and there were many other members recognised for their achievements in specific sports or to the Association in general. Alex Bird, Paul Noble and Anna Tizzard were recognised by Scottish Disability Sport at the equivalent National Awards Evening later in the year in Stirling.
In their final year as pupils of Buckhaven HS, the school cross country team won their first ever Inter Schools Trophy by lifting the Russell Hogg Cup at the Fife Cross Country Championships at the Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy. Woodmill HS completed the double in swimming and athletics by winning Russell Hogg Inter School Trophies at Lochgelly HS and Pitreavie and Balwearie HS reigned supreme yet again in 7s Inter Schools football. John Fergus School in Glenrothes retained the Anne H Brodie Inter School Swimming Trophy and Fife swimming and athletics teams excelled at the National Championships organised by SDS in Grangemouth and Glasgow. There are now six cross country events organised by SDS, Scottish Athletics or DSF available to junior athletes. Throughout 2016, DSF was well represented in cross country by schools from St Andrews to Dunfermline.
DSF is proud of the achievements of its performance bowlers. World Championships medalists Martin Hunter, Maria Spencer and Michael Simpson join Billy Allan, Barbara McMillan and Eleanor Clark in the National Squad with an impressive programme of International Events at home and overseas planned for the year ahead. Fife Teams were again hugely successful in Scottish carpet, indoor and outdoor bowls Championships during the year past and DSF is particularly proud of the achievement of our leading bowlers with a learning disability who retained the Inter Area Team Trophy. DSF is indebted to the inclusive bowls clubs across Fife that support the Fife bowls programme throughout the year. Mary Wilson joined Team Fife this year and has already made her mark at national level.
Physical activity, including sport features, prominently in the schedule of the staff who work within East, West and Central Fife Community Support Services. West Fife CSS members have had a wonderful year winning the Inter CSS swimming and track and field titles plus the Pat Gemmell Trophy and making considerable progress in the sports of bowls and badminton. East and Central Fife CSS members excelled in bowls at local and national level and were well represented in Inter CSS events throughout the year. The three CSS provided a significant number of athletes for the Fife team that retained the AR Mitchell team trophy at the Scottish Senior Track and Field Championships and finished runners up once again at the Scottish Senior Swimming Championships at Tollcross International Aquatics Centre.
In addition to Derek Rae, Owen Miller, Sam Fernando and Michael Mellon were in outstanding form in 2016 on the track, roads, field and cross country. Susanne McGrath inspired us all with her amazing marathon pushes and youngsters Callum Sloan and Cameron Adam confirmed that DSF has an effective athletics youth policy. The Fife junior athletics squad won the National Sportshall title for the second time in Grangemouth. Youngsters Oliver Carter and Cara Smyth enjoyed their best performance swimming year to date and showing great promise are juniors Stephen McCormick, Cameron Hemphill and Cerys Venters Scott. Brad Stewart (archery) and Stefan Hoggan (Paratriathlon) reached the top in their sports but have yet to find that little bit extra that will take them to the highest level in performance sport. 2017 will be an important year for all Fife performance athletes and players.
DSF continues to grow its weekly programme of sport specific and multi sport sessions and the Association was thrilled to be one of only three SDS Branches and 18 UK agencies to be selected to participate in the Go Out and Get Active (GOGA) programme. The programme is supported by Spirit of 2012 and will run for three years. GOGA in Fife was launched by the Depute Provost of Fife in November and a Walk Leaders Course and Pool Workshop in November have identified potential volunteers for GOGA. Five DSF weekly sessions have attracted GOGA participants in a matter of a few weeks with more to follow. Fife Council and the Fife Sports and Leisure Trust are key partners in GOGA in Fife.
DSF is proud of the quality and commitment of its coaches and volunteers. During the year we have featured on our website parent volunteers who have embarked on very successful coaching careers and have become key members of our coaching workforce. DSF is keen to encourage performance athletes into volunteering and coaching and retired GB international swimmer Lucy Walkup is the major success story of the year and features in a sportscotland article about this unique national inclusive coaching initiative. DSF has a squad of peer mentors with Steven Anderson, Briony Clark, Adam Faulds and Ryan Spearman in particular committing many voluntary hours per week in support of fellow athletes.
DSF depends on a significant number of partners for funding and the Fife Council recurring grant is particularly important to sustaining the DSF Administrator’s post. The DSF Service Level Agreement with the Fife Sports and Leisure Trust provides many benefits and funding from the Scottish FA, Tennis Scotland, Scottish Athletics and Scottish Disability Sport has supported sport specific initiatives including the football and tennis Academy programmes. DSF now offers bursaries funded by the Association of Fife Rotary Clubs, Bill Pullar Trust, Russel Hogg Trust and the St Andrews Kilrymont Rotary Club. Long term partner the Order of St John in Fife continues to support DSF.
The Design Team at the Fife Sports and Leisure Trust has been instrumental in helping DSF reach a much wider audience. The DSF website hosted by the Fife Sports and Leisure Trust is now well established. Early in 2016 DSF secured its own Facebook page with support from the FSLT and in a matter of months it has improved significantly the ability of DSF to communicate with existing and potential members. The DSF monthly newsletter has a considerable circulation and DSF is well supported by the local media in celebrating the achievements of individuals and teams. Celebrating success and inspiring potential participants with physical, sensory and learning disabilities to be active are key priorities of DSF. The advice and expertise of the FSLT Design Team have been invaluable over the last year in particular.
DSF enjoys a very healthy relationship with the three Sports Councils in Fife. DSF members feature prominently at the Awards Evenings of Kirkcaldy and Central Fife Sports Council, East Fife Sports Council and Dunfermline and West Fife Sports Council. Alison Patrick, Martin Hunter, Derek Rae, Lucy Walkup and Michael Simpson were among the main award winners in 2016. Kirkcaldy and Central Fife SC provided a significant grant to DSF to support the development of gymnastics for juniors with Down Syndrome at the Enigma Club in Leven. DSF also enjoys enormous support from the Sports Leaders at Kirkcaldy HS who turned out in significant numbers to officiate at the DSF Swimming, Badminton, Track and Field and Cross Country Championships.
In 2016 DSF said farewell to David Thomson one of our founding members and key volunteer for almost four decades. David represented Fife in athletics, bowls and archery and served the Association as secretary and treasurer. Also we lost John Hick following a lengthy illness. John represented DSF in swimming, badminton ad table tennis and more recently was becoming more involved in coaching. Our thoughts are with their respective families. Parents are most valued volunteers in DSF and last year Bob Donaldson, father of bowler Craig Donaldson passed away after a lengthy illness. Lorraine Russell, mum of Kieran Steer passed away suddenly on the day before she was scheduled to travel with Kieran to a major overseas event. Lorraine’s influence on Kieran was unbelievable and how Kieran coped up to and including the Games in Rio admirable. Our thoughts once again are with the respective families.
2016 has been a spectacular year for Disability Sport Fife. Many thanks to athletes, players, coaches, volunteers, partners and parents who have played such a significant role in that success. Complacency is not a word that features in our vocabulary and plans are well under way for new and innovative projects and programmes in 2017. Happy New Year to all our supporters and friends as we embrace 2017 as our 40th Anniversary Year.
Richard Brickley MBE
President, Disability Sport Fife