International sports leadership opportunity beckons for Ailsa Martin

Heather Gaunt
Monday 29 March 2021

Rowing Club President, Ailsa Martin, has been chosen as the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) candidate for the International University Sports Federation (FISU) Volunteer Leaders Academy (FVLA). The University of St Andrews 3rd year International Relations student has risen to the occasion following her volunteering experiences with Saints Sport.   

The FVLA is an educational event that serves to create a global volunteering community where participants can share the best global practices in volunteer projects across all sports. The Academy is due to take place during the summer in the city of Kazan, Russia, and is usually attended by over 100 students from over 90 countries around the world. The initiative is comprised of a series of conferences, workshops, experience exchange, cultural exchange and group projects, and is endorsed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisations (UNESCO).  

Ailsa has been chosen at the BUCS candidate, following an invitation by the Regional Development Manager of Scottish Rowing. The Academy excited Ailsa as it was comprised of a chance to travel, meet new people from around the world and learn a lot more about sports around the world.  

This isn’t the first time Ailsa is involved with volunteering. Over the course of the last year, Ailsa has actively been involved in the Junior Saints programme by leading various sport sessions, helping the children stay active and teaching tennis. Ailsa believes that it is not only a fantastic way too give back to the community and enjoy the enthusiasm of sport with children but is equally a great chance to gain more confidence, knowledge in leadership, and other transferable skills. 

Ailsa has been volunteering since she was 15. What originally started as a volunteering position at a timing hut in the middle of Strathclyde Park has turned into a Race Official for the World Rowing Indoor Championships, among many other assistant coach positions and committee roles. Ailsa has admitted to being a “yes person”, as she’s always keen to help where possible, and added “you never know where you might end up”.  

Director of Sport, Stephen Stewart, also commented on Ailsa’s dedication;  

“It has been great working with Ailsa in our combined efforts to deliver better solutions for our student Boat Club. Ailsa is a great leader, she possesses an engaging personality, is extremely capable and also displays a calmness and maturity beyond her years. She has undoubtedly helped us move the Boat House further forward and is also closely involved with another developing but hugely exciting project. Congratulations Ailsa on being selected for this fantastic opportunity.” 

Having learnt to row at Glasgow Schools’ Rowing Club 8 years ago, Ailsa has become a prominent member of the University’s Rowing Club. In her first year Ailsa achieved first place at Scottish Championships in her single and double races. Following this, Ailsa went on to become the Club’s Secretary and earned a place in the top boat at the Women’s Head of the River in London just before the first coronavirus pandemic. This year, she has served as the Club’s President.  

While admitting that the pandemic has certainly required a lot of patience and slower progress towards club goals, Ailsa is overcome with how the Club has managed during the pandemic. The majority of members remained engaged with training despite not having a single opportunity to row on the water at Loch Ore. Likewise, Ailsa is delighted with the bigger progress that has been made behind-the-scenes and is excited for the future.  

Ailsa’s teammates have described her as a very dedicated and efficient individual, who is always putting the team first. One teammate said that there would be “no other person I trust in a boat with me and to run the club”.  

For anyone inspired by Ailsa’s journey, the avid-volunteer says that if there’s an opportunity that excites you, “go for it!”.  She adds that there are so many opportunities that arise from getting involved and that she doesn’t share a single regret from any, even those that have left her outside in the pouring rain!  


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