Throws coach Don McLeod pictured with athlete Shannon Gough (picture via Law and District AAC)
Like so many of the countless dedicated volunteers who make athletics in Scotland happen, Don McLeod’s opening involvement was as a parent of a young athlete.
He was handed the necessary equipment to start as an unofficial official at the (now defunct) Lanark and Lesmahagow club and, almost two decades later, he is a highly respected and qualified throws coach.
Don thus fits perfectly for our #PeopleMakeAthletics series and he’s fulsome in his admiration for those at grassroots level for whom a love of athletics means they keep contributing on a weekly basis.
Even in the midst of restrictive global pandemic (more of which later).
‘I have now been involved in athletics for 19 years,’ said Don, the Event Group Coach – Throws at Law and District AAC.
‘My youngest daughter started athletics with Lanark and Lesmahagow track club at the age of 10. And, like so many parents in athletics in Scotland, I would hang around waiting for the session to finish to take her home.
‘Of course, it wasn’t long before I was given a stopwatch, long jump rake and asked to help out. Subsequently I completed my Level 1 Assistant Coach Licence and was soon involved in coaching.
‘Unfortunately due to lack of qualified coaches and dwindling numbers of members the club folded only a year later. My daughter and myself then joined Law.
‘At that time there was no Throws Coach at the club and I was nominated by the head coach, Pat Kelly, to take up this role.
Don pictured with Thomas Lafferty, Shannon Gough, Ross Ferguson and Coach Graeme Ferguson (Ross’s Dad )
‘I enjoy coaching all the throwing events and the various challenges that these highly technical disciplines demand.
‘Watching over the years, the squad developing and flourishing in their chosen throw is very rewarding and satisfying to not only myself but my athletes too.’
A golfer when he’s not coaching, Don was club captain at Hollandbush in 2005 and also served on the Committee there for several years. That kind of volunteer commitment is something he recognises as hugely important in athletics.
‘Volunteers are the life-blood of our sport,’ he said.
‘That’s what makes things happen at grassroots level and ensures there is a pathway for athletes to progress. Throughout my years of coaching in Scotland, I have witnessed enthusiasm in abundance from so many people involved at our clubs across the country.
‘The over-riding difficulty at the moment is not being able to train as a squad with no venues open. The very nature of throwing curtails any practice outwith a designated throwing area.
‘From the outset of Covid, we quickly realised that group training would not be possible. We as a group started utilising Zoom as a means to stay in touch.
‘I organised through Zoom individual Throws sessions with the squad on a Monday and Wednesday evening. These were all taken up but we were restricted with what the athlete could safely throw in their gardens.
‘At the same time my Assistant Coach, Graeme Ferguson, was delivering Circuit training on a Tuesday and Thursday (also through Zoom). We continued this from late March until early August, when we were able to re-start training at our regular venue at Wishaw.
Don pictured at a Law and District AAC club awards evening (photo by Cameron Newell)
‘Under the present lockdown we are continuing with Circuit training via Zoom.
‘I don’t think anyone envisaged that last March we would still be on lockdown this coming March.
‘Most of the squad managed to participate in throwing events held at the Meadowmill Series and the Autumn Throws competitions at Linwood – and were very grateful to do so.
‘The competitions were great for the morale of the athletes and gave our coaches – Colin Gray, Graeme and myself – a focus to prepare the squad for a return to competitive throwing.’
Alison Grey, Throws Co-ordinator for scottishathletics, said: ‘Don has over the years produced numerous throwers who have gone on to win national medals and representative honours.
‘His enthusiasm to support throws in Scotland is really impressive and he is always friendly, knowledgeable and happy to support new coaches coming through.
‘Hopefully this summer we will be able to see him by a circle or javelin runway offering support to athletes and coaches.’
Don with athletes Hayley Berry and Vivian Duruh at a club awards night (photo by Cameron Newell)
*With thanks to Don, Alison Grey, Cameron Newell and Lesley McNicol for assistance.