IT MAY have been a challenging year in education but school sport across the Kingdom was celebrated recently – and four West Fife nominees were named as winners.

Active Schools Fife, who work to increase the quality and range of opportunities to participate in sport while recruiting and developing volunteers and coaches, held their annual awards ceremony – virtually – on December 9.

A total of 12 prizes were up for grabs and, of those, Dunfermline Reign Basketball Club; Brucehaven Tennis Club coach Alan Russell; Queen Anne High School pupil Hannah Barrowman; and St John's Primary School teacher, Elaine Thomson, were all recognised with prizes.

Alan, who formerly coached at Dunfermline Tennis Club, was named as Coach of the Year; Reign, who are based at St Columba's High School, were feted with the School to Club Link of the Year accolade; Hannah was selected as Young Ambassador of the Year; and Elaine was picked as the Primary School Volunteer of the Year.

They were joined on the winning stage by the Punch Beyond initiative, a partnership between Police Scotland, Dunfermline-based Trench Boxing Club Active Schools Fife, Boxing Scotland and Youth Scotland, who claimed the Changing Lives award.

Speaking to Press Sport, Alan said: "We (Alan and Active Schools) have been working together for 10 years or so so it's really nice to be nominated by people I work with.

"The schools programme has really been hit quite badly because it doesn't usually get really under way until Easter. All the big things we usually do – the competitions, the coaching and events, and P7 transition days – just haven't happened this year. The kids have missed out on a lot.

"It was a great shame but we have been into Queen Anne High School doing sports leader training with their sports leaders. We've trained about 32 young leaders in tennis delivery so they're all geared up and ready to go early next year.

"I'm hoping to meet with Active Schools early in January to talk through the plan – tennis in schools strategy – and get an outline programme in place. The sports leaders will go out to the schools and will deliver things like tennis taster sessions, tennis skills development and some fun, informal competitions and festivals."

With schools closing during lockdown, Dunfermline Reign had to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions, which included organising training sessions outdoors.

James Steel, the club's chairperson, said: "Normally, we'd be offering a number of free, extra curricular sessions in many of the schools in and around the Dunfermline area.

"Unfortunately, the challenges of the last six months has meant we've been unable to do that but we've just had to get a bit more creative about how we can deliver the sport that we love.

"For example, one of our community coaches, Jake Sirrell, has been working with the Active Schools team and has put together a number of online classes that young people can get involved in, either at home or in their garden, which keeps their connection to the game, which has been great."

Elaine, who helped her school win sportscotland's prestigious gold award, presented for innovation and achievement in delivering school sport and physical activity, added: "What I love about physical education is seeing children develop new skills and gain confidence, whether it's catching a ball for the first time or performing a lay-up.

"If we can make PE and physical sport enjoyable learning experiences, then our children are more likely to continue on sporting pathways in the wider community."