Interview with Derek Keir (CEO of the Camamanach Association)
Firstly, can you give us a bit of your background in relation to shinty and Sport in Scotland. How did you first encounter the sport of shinty?
After four years as Partnership Manager for the National Agency of sport ‘sportscotland’ I spent time working with a number of partners and sports including shinty. Predominantly my time was spent working with Local Authority partners delivering sport and Community Sport Hubs which focus on bringing sports together to share learning, resources and enhance opportunities.
I also spent time leading an International Development charity (Umutima) which supported education through sport for young people in Zambia. With a BSc (Hons) degree in Sport and Exercise Science and a postgraduate Diploma in Physical Education I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to work with the Camanachd Association and meet some of the amazing people that make shinty possible in the office and in so many communities across Scotland and England.
Can you give us a bit of background as to how you first got involved in the Camanachd Association and what first motivated you towards taking on the role of CEO?
My biggest driver is to be part of an organisation that is making a difference to people. Shinty does this in many ways from the volunteers that lead the sport to the communities that support the sport you will always find people helping other people, creating important opportunities to be social, to be physically active and to belong to a community and sport. It is an incredible environment to be part of and it is something I am extremely passionate about supporting and working to try and enhance moving forward.
What do your usual tasks involve as CEO of the Camanach Association and what is your favourite part of the role?
Favourite part is working with our partners in clubs and from organisations across Scotland that support our work. • Core tasks include supporting directors in the development and delivery of our strategy, leading staff in delivery of annual operational plan and targets, Supporting our staff in their work including the delivery of over 1200 fixtures annually, Organise bi monthly board meetings, preparing budgets and implementing financial processes that ensure our compliance with fiscal responsibilities, working with sponsors, Scottish Government, sportscotalnd, local government, media and host of other stakeholders that add value to our sport.
What is your view on how the competitions in shinty have been run this year?
Over 1200 fixtures have been coordinated by the Camanachd Association in 2019. This is an incredible amount of coordination, leadership and planning by the association but also by the clubs and officials attending and completing the fixtures. The Competitions have been so competitive at all levels this year with a good mix of winners which suggests even greater competition in the year to come.
What are your main aims to develop shinty in the years ahead, be that youth shinty, premiership or just shinty in general?
Our core outcomes are firstly and foremost to support the organisations that are currently delivering shinty to help them with good governance and planning which helps with our two additional outcomes of growth and retention.
We have a number of exciting initiatives that have led to increased participation over the past few years including the regionalisation of the Tulloch Trophy which increased participation numbers but also importantly the regularity of participation, we also established two schools of shinty last year to increase the number of hours young people are spending on skill development in shinty as well as engaging even more teachers in our sport, we have also started the Shinty Ambassador programme to engage the next generation of leaders in shinty which has delivered to over 600 new participants.
Moving forward we aim to see these programmes progress alongside our busy schedule delivering events and competitions and a pathway for players, coaches, volunteers and officials to progress in our game.
What are the main problems facing shinty in the coming years and what can / is being to face these problems?
The most obvious challenges facing shinty is also one of our greatest strengths and that is the rural nature of our sport. It is a strength because our sport engages some of the most rural places in the game but its risk is that with rural communities come challenges of participation numbers due to the number of people in any given community. The most important aspect to this challenge is working together to come up with innovative solutions to try and overcome this. Clubs across shinty are doing this with partnerships to clubs in more populated areas providing extra depth to ensure shhinty survives in some of the most isolated communities. This may not be the answer for all but planning ahead and working together solutions do exist. similar to the challenges facing many sports in my opinion – including the
Do you think it’s important / beneficial for club players to also take on some responsibility in organisation the club management?
This is common place in some countries and I as volunteer myself I believe that all clubs are stronger when participants can afford some time to give something back.
What are the best strategies that you have found for clubs to grow successfully? Are there any particular success stories you can bring up?
The best strategy for me is a simple one, plan smartly. Success doesn’t happen by accident. It comes from a plan to invest time, energy and resources into that plan to see it through. There are successes in almost every shinty community, from a participating point of view you could look at a number of communities providing opportunities for not one but sometimes two adult male teams plus adult female teams. Some communities have a full pathway starting at primary school participation and progressing up through the age ranks providing a sustainable flow of players for the first team. These opportunities don’t magically happen, the club have been proactive and planned to recruit coaches and volunteers to provide the opportunity at every level. Other successes exist with a number of shinty clubs planning and concluding major facility developments in 2019.