ICG Medal aim isn’t child’s play …

Team Lanarkshire’s volleyball squad is in safe hands – those of former Rangers goalkeeping coach Greg Coburn.Greg Coburn

The Carluke High School PE teacher used to put Rangers’ custodians through their paces, but volleyball has always been his first love.

A member of the Scottish national squad before taking up a job at Ibrox, Greg returned to volleyball as a coach at the same time as he took up PE teaching. He went through his coaching badges and was put in charge of the West Scotland team for the UK School Games in 2009. And now he’s been given the task of keeping Lanarkshire’s talented boys’ volleyball team on track for next month’s International Children’s Games (ICG).

Having selected eight players for his final squad, from a pool of 14, Greg is working the players hard with the aim of picking up a medal at the games which are being held in Lanarkshire.

Greg said: “We are aiming to win a medal and it would be disappointing if we didn’t achieve that, considering the amount of hard work the players have all put in. They have been working hard on their playing and conditioning for almost nine months and that is getting obvious results in their level of performance. The full squad of 14 has stayed together even after we selected the final eight for the ICG, so there’s a great team spirit. In the last five weeks before the ICG starts, we will be playing more matches and that will get them ready for the tournament. We are aiming to win a medal and it would be disappointing if we didn’t achieve that.”

Coach Greg Coburn

“They train twice a week here at Carluke High School, but they are all doing their own fitness work every night too. Even though they are all 14 and 15 years old, they are preparing like professional athletes.” It’s that level of professionalism that Greg hopes will carry his squad to a medal at the games.

The eight-boy squad is made up of captain Marc McLaughlin, Andrew McIntyre, Stuart Mackenzie Andrew Murray and Blair Gillies, all 14, and Jordan Scott, Matthew Berry and Andrew McLeod who are all aged 15. But the other six “reserve” players are also of an incredibly high standard. One of the reserves, 13-year-old Conor Walker, has been called up to the Scotland squad and has become the youngest ever player to be given the accolade. He is joined in the Scotland team by Marc McLaughlin and Matthew Berry.

And from the girls’ ICG squad – coached by Nicola James – Aimee Coutts and Elise Rodgers have also made the Scotland team.

Director of Scottish Volleyball, Margaret Ann Fleming, said: “We have been impressed with the progress being made through the Lanarkshire volleyball programme.” It all seems to be going right for Lanarkshire volleyball coaching.

Greg said: “If you look at young athletes in France and Spain, they are doing conditioning programmes from around age 13. Getting used to that level of training at that age is important in developing young, performance-level athletes. There was no official volleyball team in Lanarkshire before it was announced that the ICG was being hosted here. So we have ensured there will be legacy for the sport here after the games as Team Lanarkshire will continue to be a volleyball club into the future.It’s fantastic that this kind of investment has been made in sport. A lot of great work has been done to encourage mass participation in sport, but it’s magnificent to see investment being made in performance-level athletes too.”

Lanarkshire 2011

Lanarkshire’s 78-strong team of athletes have trained like the world’s best for the 2011 ICG. The squad and coaches even prepared at the official training facility of the British Olympic squad at Loughborough University’s School of Sport in a trip sponsored by Asda. Team Lanarkshire organiser Gerry Campbell said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for all the athletes. They’ve all been making tremendous progress since their selections and they are set to do Lanarkshire proud.”

The ICG is an annual event which started in Slovenia in 1968. It was the brainchild of physical education teacher Professor Metod Klemenc, who wanted to create an event fostering a better understanding among children of different cultural backgrounds and to promote peace and harmony. The event is recognised by the International Olympics Committee and believed to be the largest gathering of young people taking part in sport.

Around 1500 competitors aged 12 to 15, with coaches, administrators and delegates from around the world, will travel for competition in athletics, swimming, football, tennis, badminton, judo, golf, volleyball and sailing across Lanarkshire.

The games start on Wednesday, August 3 and run until Monday, August 8. All events are free for spectators.

Visit www.icg-lanarkshire2011.com