Erin Gillen - My YA Journey

How did you first get involved with the Young Ambassador programme?

I wasn’t the sportiest of kids and I really only got involved in sport during high school and found my love for athletics. My teacher (Miss Currie) who was on probation at Turnbull high School took a chance on me at the time and diverted away from the normal process of sending our senior s6 leaders to the conferences and sent myself and a fellow pupil who were only in s4 at the time. Although daunting as I had little idea of what I was stepping into it was in hindsight one of the best steps in my sporting/leadership career as it enabled me from a young age to have my voice heard, implement new ideas and change the status quo.

Being a YA was a stepping stone into my sporting journey not only in high school where it motivated me to start an athletics club, run events and eventually go on to be head girl. But even now into my professional career I still tap into the same principles I learnt as a YA. 

How did it influence your skills development?

I typically lacked confidence when entering into a sporting environment, yet the Young Ambassadors programme enabled me to be a leader in sport. I fell in love with change and trying to make sport better for my school and local community. It taught me overall to be a more punctual organised individual through having to run sport sessions to hosting bigger whole school events. I was able to spread the work of Young Ambassadors throughout the school which allowed me to build great communication and adaptive skills to cater to a wide audience. 

Most importantly to me, it allowed me to build relationships with others such as my Active School coordinator, PE staff, sports council and community partners. This for me has been a vital skill I have learned as a YA that I have utilised in further education and employment. 


After my experience being a YA, I wanted to continue my journey and applied to become part of the Young People’s Sports Panel. I was successful and had the most incredible two years influencing Scottish sport. My main focus on the YPSP was women and girls in sport and after my duration on the panel, I had the opportunity to volunteer as a Fit for Girls tutor. In this role, I’m able to help motivate and inspire more females to participate in sport and physical activity by sharing key consultation tools and building on lived experiences.

Along with this, I became part of the project team in sportscotland for the YPSP where I volunteered to work alongside staff to help mentor the young people and shape the journey for the 5th generation of the panel.

Through my experiences working with YA and YPSP, I went on to volunteer with scottishathletics to lead the first ever Young Peoples Forum (YPF). With the forum, we have been able to recruit 15 young people to come together and focus on bettering mental health and retention of young people in athletics. Now coming to the end of cohort 1 of the YPF we have partnered with Athletics Trust Scotland, and the young people have exceeded expectations by being able to influence athletics across the country, motivate and inspire other young people and better their own skills overall. 

Where are you now?

After 4 years at the University of Strathclyde studying Law, I have recently been appointed as the new National Club Manager at scottishathletics. Steering away from a typical legal route and working in sport development and governance is the best decision I have made. I have followed my passion for sport into my profession and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities I have been given over the years that have helped me build the skills and experience I needed for the job. 

In my new role, I manage around 65 different athletics clubs nationally working with them to support the improvement of their governance and overall development. Alongside this, my role involves leading in planning and executing national projects such as sports hall athletics, the island support networks and the changing lives programme #OnTheRightTrack. 

Any advice for those embarking on their YA journey?

Sport means everything to me, it has given me opportunities, created a community and made me feel incredible when participating, I genuinely would be lost without it. My advice to all YA would be that you are an expert in what you know, being young, you have the power to influence and make a difference to your schools and local communities, give it your all, share your thoughts and build relationships. Being a YA has opened so many doors for me that I could never have imagined, If it wasn’t for taking that stepping stone into the Young Ambassadors leadership programme I don’t know if I would have been as proactive in sport to now have it as a full-time career. 

Date published: 25 July 2023
Date updated: 13 December 2023


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