Although we are now well into February – a new semester fully into its sporting stride – this writer feels some of the recent awards bestowed upon St Andrean coaches for their 2014 work demand acknowledgement in virtue of their sheer prestige. Jamie Carnegie, who since taking up the Hockey Club’s directorial reigns has “totally transformed” it according to President Mike Thompson, recently received Scottish Hockey’s ‘Coach of the Year’ award for his stellar work both on and off the pitch.
Equally worth of note is St Andrews’s Director of Tennis, Mike Aitken, receiving Tennis Scotland’s equivalent ‘Coach of the Year’ award, also in recognition of his 2014 work. Aitken was appointed as part-time Director of Tennis at University of St Andrews in January 2010, and has since taken up the post on a full-time basis; a decision that has naturally coincided with the significant advancement of the Tennis Club since the turn of the decade.
St Andrews remains the sole Scottish University to appoint a Director of Tennis, and taking this fact alongside the recently-announced Sports Centre proposals, the future of student tennis in the Auld Grey Toon appears as well-placed as a Roger Federer backhand winner. Aitken adopted the initial part-time post after 25 years’ worth of experience as a full time Tennis Teaching Professional in Scotland, having also coached Scottish Junior Squads and District Squads during his career, as well as several players who have gone on to represent Scotland and over 30 players who have played at County level. Such an impressive résumé heightens the sense that such an award, if not unsurprising, is hardly unexpected, in spite of its major significance.
Finally, and perhaps most impressively of all, women’s Rugby Club coach Clair Bain received her first cap for Scotland in an international friendly against Italy, in warm up for the Six Nations tournament currently taking place. Bain has since made it into the Six Nations squad, primed and ready to be called upon from the bench in Scotland’s opening two games. To combine her St Andrews coaching role with playing at a level sufficient for international recognition is simply exceptional; something rarely heard of in any sport, let alone one as demanding as rugby. For all three coaches, then, recognition is fully and richly deserved. It is also a timely reminder that St Andrews could hardly be a better place to play sport, regardless of its complementary academic prestige. Truly, as a student sporting community, we in St Andrews are blessed.