We meet one of the Young People’s Sports Panelists

Image: @YOYP2018 Twitter

2018 marks the Year of Young People in Scotland with special events, panels, and festivals taking place throughout the country to celebrate just how great youngsters are. As part of the celebrations, the Young People’s Sport Panel was set up as a platform for Scotland’s young people so that they can help to influence the future of sport. In 2016, Sam Butler from Larkhall was chosen as a panelist. Sam’s a student at Edinburgh University. She plays basketball and was recently elected as her team’s Vice President. Impressively, the team play in the BUCS Scottish 1A Division and in the Senior Women’s Scottish National League. We caught up with Sam about being on the Young People’s Sports Panel, why she wants to encourage more young women to play sport, and how playing basketball helps with her mental health.

You’re on the Young People’s Sports Panel, which sounds really cool! What does this involve for you personally? 

Being involved in the sport panel is a unique experience. For me, it has meant I have been able to meet many inspirational young people and go to events I never dreamed of attending and built up a huge network of contacts. I’ve met my hero Katherine Grainger! All of this has further inspired me to move into a future career in sport and teaching.  

Over the last two years we have worked on three main areas: disability sport, LGBTQ+ sport and women and girls in sport. I have really enjoyed being part of the disability and LGBTQ+ groups. We did a lot of work with Scottish Disability Sport to promote the opportunities for young people with disabilities, encouraging them to get involved in sport. We also worked with LEAP Sports to look at their charter for LGBTQ+ inclusive P.E. in schools. I’ve also been involved in adapting and creating various sporting policy, and was part of the interview panel for the South Lanarkshire sport panel application process – everything has been great!  

How has being involved with Sports Scotland helped you to get to where you are now? 

The sport panel has given me so many opportunities and experiences I would not have experienced otherwise. It has helped me understand myself in greater depth, improved my communication skills and allowed me to become a better person. During my time on the panel, I developed the confidence to apply for holiday jobs I just would not have gone anywhere near before. The panel has let me understand how crucial time management is and the importance of  commitment.   

Image: Sam Butler

Sports Scotland celebrates Women in Sports Week. Why do you think such a week is important? Have you had any experiences as a woman in sport that have highlighted the need for such a week? 

Fortunately, I haven’t had any negative experiences as a cisgender female when participating in sport, as I have mainly been in female clubs. However, I was bullied a lot when I was younger in school for being sporty and a ‘tomboy’ (a label which I have learned to love). I often got called gay daily, especially in P.E. classes. I remember one P.E. lesson specifically – it was an all-girl class and we were playing dodgeball. I was taller and stronger than all the girls in my year group but would always be cautious to not hurt anyone and for some reason this wound a group of girls up. I ended up being pulled from the class as they complained so much and was sent to guidance for being too violent, with the girls had claiming I had verbally abused them. P.E. was the only place in school I felt like I was good at something so to find myself in trouble for being good at something hit me quite hard. That’s why I think celebrating women in sport is such an important thing. No one is the same and that needs to be celebrated. Some of us are taller, shorter, more muscular, gay, straight, faster, older, younger… the list goes on! These differences shouldn’t mean we are singled out, it should mean that we are able to participate in the sport or activity that suits us as individually and plays to our physical, mental and emotional strengths. Women in Sport Week shows everyone that women from every background can and should participate in sport if they want too. Funny now that the girls who bullied me in school are all keen gym goers, obsessed with building muscle and becoming stronger…  

What do you think is the main challenge facing young people today and how do you think playing sports can help?

I think mental health is a really big challenge at the moment. 10% of young people in the UK suffer from mental health problems and 75% of young people receive no help. I have seen first hand how sport can help young people with mental health problems. The ability to get all your emotions out in a safe environment and completely detach from everything else happening in your own world is something which I think is truly special about sport. Not many other things allow you to completely escape. Sport aids physical, mental, social and emotional health. It allows people to make new friends, learn more about themselves and channel anger and frustration to create something positive. I know for me that if I didn’t have sport, especially over the past few years, I would have struggled a lot. University is stressful, and I am not the best at coping with stress and anxiety. Being part of the sport panel and also playing basketball really has saved me from getting into a negative headspace.  

Finally, what’s the main goal you’d love to achieve in your sports career?  

I am about to graduate and go into a career in PE teaching so for me, being able to provide inclusive physical education for all is one the main things I would like to achieve. I also know how important PE is for other aspects of the curriculum and also personal development, so being able to engage every student in my lessons is a big goal. I would also love to teach abroad for a few years to see more of the world and experience different types of schools.  

I don’t think I will stay in teaching forever and would really like to work for sportscotland or another big sports organisation. Ultimately, I just want to enjoy and be happy in my career and continue to work in the world of sport – my true passion! 

To find out more about the Year of Young People, visit their website and keep up to date with events on their Twitter. To find out more about the Young People’s Sports Panel, visit sportscotland’s website and keep up to date on their Twitter

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