Steve Cram has pointed the way forward for athletics in Scotland after insisting the sport is on the right path in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Games.
The middle distance idol, who is the voice of the sport on BBC, recently made the presentations at the scottishathletics Annual Awards when Laura Muir was named ‘Athlete of the Year’.
Now Cram has further outlined why he thinks young athletes can follow in the footsteps of top GB internationals and how clubs must change with the times in order to stay relevant and help nurture new talent.
Cram commentated when three Scots competed at the World Cross in China and then he was behind the microphone again in Beijing when seven athletes were at the World Champs. He believes success by elite athletes can rub off on others.
There are 14 Scots currently on World Class Performance Programme funding with British Athletics in the countdown to the Olympics in Rio and the Paralympics – with that figure having been only seven prior to London 2012.
‘Scotland had a great commonwealth Games last year and hopefully athletes took confidence from that – I think it will have been a big inspiration for many,’ said Cram, in an interview with PB magazine, which is issued quarterly to 10,000 scottishathletics members
‘Now there is the Olympics coming up and then a World Champs in London the following year in 2017. After that, of course, the next Commonwealths are looming up in 2018 – and early in that particular year, at that (Gold Coast event takes place in April).
‘So there are a lot of incentives there for your elite athletes: to make their mark in Scotland and also beyond that in a wider context with British teams.
‘You look back and the likes of Rhona Auckland did well in cross country in 2015; that followed on from the type of run Beth Potter had at Hampden in the 10,000m at Glasgow 2014; so they all inspire each other.
‘Yes, the big names like Laura Muir and Lynsey Sharp are on the world stage, and Chris O’Hare has been doing well, it is easier after of that to get a bit of momentum going. Hopefully other people start to look at someone like Laura and think ‘I can train and live in Scotland and still look to get to the Olympics’.
‘There are club scenarios that are good here and that can be a platform for people – as guys like Callum Hawkins and Andrew Butchart have done. With support from the federation and from UK Athletics, then it becomes possible.
‘So I think the upsurge in performance of Scottish athletes at World level has been great; and that is across all sorts of discipline and by both men and women.’
Cram presented Muir with her ‘Athlete of the Year’ prize at Glasgow’s Hilton Hotel last month but his interest extends way beyond the elite.
Central AC took the Off Track Club of the Year title as Aberdeen AAC were rewarded for a fine track and field season, including a first Men’s League win for two decades. North Ayrshire AC took the Impact Club of the Year title.
‘Clubs have to move with the times as well (as athletes and coaches),’ said Cram. ‘I have been a big supporter of that – because clubs and volunteers are the bedrock of athletics in Britain.
‘They should be very proud of athletes who reach a high level and represents Scotland or GB. But they should not want to feel somehow that athlete has been taken away from them. Clubs should be looking for ways to use these people – and many individuals are more than happy to come back and help their club as and when they can to try and offer encouragement or advice to others.
‘We have to get more young coaches involved. We have to nurture young athletes and get them to come through from junior to senior.
‘And we need to have more officials involved. The sport relies on volunteers to function and that must never be forgotten.
‘But, as I say, clubs have to embrace change and I know that’s been happening in Scotland but there is more that can be done.’
All six teenagers who won seven medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games – Alisha Rees, Rachel Alexander, Carys McAulay, Cameron Tindle, Ben Greenwood and George Evans – have now been admitted to the scottishathletics National Academy.
The Academy, led by performance manager Mark Pollard, seeks to support developing athletes, coaches and parents and has a clear target of helping more Scottish youngsters make the leap to Senior success.
‘Support for junior athletes is important and brilliant when you can manage it – because they are only going to get support from within their own sport,’ added Cram.
‘So the National Academy idea is terrific. You have to take a bit of risk. Or a federation should be prepared to. Because one or two of those currently in the National Academy may be the ones who, down the line, may bring in a bit more funding – either for themselves as individuals, or perhaps even for the sport. I mean by winning medals at major championships.
‘You have to be open-minded because a little bit of help at that time might mean an awful lot. A little help for parents can be important and, for some of those at that age, being ‘loved’ a wee bit could be just what is required to keep them in the sport.
‘If you can help the coach, help the parents and educate the athlete then that is great. It could be travel expenses, or a bit of physio, or something even less significant in terms of cost but important in terms of education – yet that could be the catalyst.
‘The transition from promising junior athlete to successful Senior is difficult for so many people. We say that a lot because we often see people struggling.
‘It would be great for scottishathletics to see the fruits of the National Academy further down the line.
‘Also, it is very easy for people to say, ‘Why keep giving money to the better ones as teenagers?’ But it is because they are the ones who have shown they can improve and can inspire others with their effort.’
*National records set in 2015 by Laura Muir for 1500m and by Lynsey Sharp for 800m have been formally ratified by scottishathletics.
*Scottish athletes are currently reigning British champions in women’s track events as follows: 400m H – Eilidh Doyle (Child); 800m – Lynsey Sharp; 1500m – Laura Muir; 3000m Steeplechase – Lennie Waite; 5000m – Steph Twell; 10,000m – Rhona Auckland
*At the British Indoor Champs in Sheffield in February, four Scots won gold in an overall medal tally of eight. This matched the 2014 total with the nine won in 2013 the best achieved by Scots since 1995.
*At the British outdoor Champs in Birmingham in July, five Scots won gold in an overall medal tally of 12.
Among various GB selections for Scots over 2015 across a range of disciplines were the following:
*Four athletes selected for the World Youths (U18) in Cali, Colombia: Ben Greenwood, George Evans, Carys McAulay, Cameron Tindle
*Five athletes selected for the European U20 Champs in Eskilstuna, Sweden: Josh Kerr, Jack Lawrie, Mhairi Hendry, Kathryn Gillespie, Kelsey Stewart
*Six athletes selected for the European U23 Champs in Tallinn, Estonia: Rhona Auckland, Neil Gourley, Cameron Boyek, Kirsten McAslan, Zoey Clark, Rachel Hunter
*Seven athletes selected for the World Champs in Beijing, China: Laura Muir, Lynsey Sharp, Eilidh Child, Mark Dry, Steph Twell, Chris O’Hare, Kirsten McAslan
Scottish athletes medalled at all of the above events and also at the IPC World Champs; the Commonwealth Youth Games; the European Hill Running Champs; the World Hill Running Champs; the European 100k Champs.