63 delegates attended the 2016 SDS Branch Conference on Sunday 2 October at the new venue of the Stirling Court Hotel on the University of Stirling campus. The conference was able to attract delegates from 12 out of the 13 SDS member branches who were cheerfully welcomed with a hot cup of coffee and breakfast roll on a pleasant but chilly autumn morning to set them up for a productive day ahead.
The delegates were able to share their experiences with each other along with the chance to access up to date information on key topics related to the day-to-day operations of a branch.
The theme of the conference was ‘Looking back to look forward!’ with delegates reflecting on the challenges and opportunities that have faced the membership in the previous year along with celebrating the successes of Scottish athletes in the Rio 2016 paralympics. Much of the content was driven by branch members and featured those in similar roles having the opportunity to discuss key aspects facing branches in the current sporting landscape.
The conference opened with a welcome and introduction from SDS Chairperson Janice Eaglesham MBE who ran through the achievements and progress SDS has made within the last year and the integral role branches play as the lifeblood of the organisation. This was followed by an excellent presentation from Gold Medal winning, World-Record Club Throw holder Jo Butterfield and her coach Shona Malcolm OBE on their Rio experience and the life of a high-performance athlete and coach.
Representatives from four branches presented case studies of recent pieces of good practice their branches had implemented. These were warmly received by other branches and led to some very interesting discussions.
A key component of the day involved delegates splitting into groups of similar roles and taking the opportunity to discuss the key challenges facing branches with plenty examples of good practice being shared. This followed a very successful pilot of these workshops last year. SDS staff and board members chaired the groups and ensured key aspects were covered relevant to the positions.
Last year’s conference saw the inaugural meeting of the Young Persons’ Sports Panel which has been used as a voice for the younger members of our communities. This year the panel met again to ascertain the progress that has been made in the year with many citing the gained confidence and skills they have gained as proof of the benefit of the panel.
The day was concluded with a fascinating presentation from Rio 2016 Derek Rae, ably supported by Richard Brickley MBE, who led us on a whirlwind tour of Derek’s ascension through distance running following his accident. The talk highlighted the critical support role a branch can play in a high-performance athlete’s sporting journey.
A successful branch network ensures athletes and clubs are effectively supported in their development along areas of the sporting pathway so it is critical branches are comprehensively supported in this respect. The presentations from the conference are available on SDS Website at http://www.scottishdisabilitysport.com/about-sds/branch-conferences/