Jen Downs at Torch Trophy Trust Awards

I was honoured to be nominated by the Scottish Volleyball Association to receive an award from the Torch Trophy Trust in recognition of volunteer work that I have done. The Torch Trophy Trust has an impressive history and dates back to 1962 to a man named Bill Collins who was the organiser of the 1948 Olympic Torch Relay from Greece to London for the 1948 Olympics in London. The symbol of the Torch Trophy Trust is that of the Olympic Torch and I couldn’t help but feel inspired by this in light of what lies ahead for Volleyball in 2012 as the Olympics comes back to Britain.

The award ceremony was held in Pall Mall in London, in the Army and Navy Club. The Head Teacher at the school I teach in was incredibly supportive in allowing me out of school to attend the ceremony – the school have been fantastic in allowing me to take part in the various Scottish and British Volleyball events over the last few years. I am very lucky to have such supportive work colleagues, as it must seem like I am out of school a lot!

My mum accompanied me to London and we travelled down by train – a very relaxing way to travel. After checking into the hotel and getting dressed in our finest clothes, we hopped in a taxi and arrived at the Army and Navy Club. Before the ceremony we were invited to a reception where my mum and I mingled with the other recipients and some of the delegates from the Torch Trophy Trust. I was honoured to meet some famous ex sports people – some of who were heroes of mine (no Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean weren’t there before you ask!!!). Sir Bobby Charlton, who is the President of the Trust, spent time chatting to me about Volleyball and how much he loves Scotland. I also got to meet ex England Rugby player Roger Uttley, ex Tennis champion, Christine Janes and I stopped Dame Mary Peters – the ex Olympic Pentathlete – from falling down the stairs in her heels (I got a lovely hug from her too!). It was also an honour to have Mike Denness, ex Scottish Cricketer, read out my award citation.

The award was presented by the Duchess of Gloucester and it was a pleasure to meet her and chat to her about Volleyball. My award is in the shape of an Olympic Torch and it will take pride of place on my mantelpiece.

I feel quite humbled to have received this award and it really should be dedicated to everyone who volunteers so selflessly at our events.  To the people who give up their time to make these events happen – they deserve this award as much as I do. I would like to dedicate it especially to the BETI’s – you know who you are.

Getting this award made me think about why I get involved in these events, and why I give up my time. I do it because I enjoy it. I love volleyball and I love being backstage at the major events and seeing an event run successfully. My grandpa taught me to love sport – he was a professional footballer and professional athlete and it was him that got me into sport in the first place. He was, and is, my inspiration to continually aspire to improve myself in the world of sport and I sincerely wish that he had been there to see me get this award. He would have told me he was proud and then told me to keep working hard!! And that’s what I intend to do. For me, the Olympics in London are certainly an incentive, but it’s the lead up to and after it – I want to attract more high profile events to Scotland and to make the ones we already run, the very best they can be.

So thank you to Scottish Volleyball for nominating me for this award, and in particular, Sandra Grubb for her hard work in organising for me to get to the award ceremony. Thanks to all the people who work with me at these events – who each deserve an award of their own – my fabulous Special Events Team, the BETI’s (the British Events Team International (!!) of whom there are many of my dearest friends a part of) and all the people who put hard work into Volleyball in Britain.

The Olympic Torch is the symbol of what is good about the Olympics – it is passed from person to person in the spirit of unity and friendship in sport. It is universally known as the symbol of the world’s greatest sporting event and I for one, am proud to have just a small piece of it’s history in my award. I’m looking forward to London 2012 even more now – are you??