On the right track: Aberdeen celebrate two Club of Year awards

Friday 2nd December 2022

GB international Nick Percy presented the Track and Field Club of the Year award to Aberdeen AAC’s Eoghan MacNamara and Fiona Davidson (photo by Bobby Gavin)

By Daniel Rees

When Mark Davidson pulled on an Aberdeen Athletics Club vest in the late 1970s, he can hardly have imagined the lifelong impact the club was to have on him . . . and the impact he was to have on the club decades later.

President of Aberdeen AAC since 2015, the now 54-year-old has helped guide the club to the apex of the Scottish athletics club pyramid and success as our Track and Field Club of the Year and the Janice Eaglesham MBE Para Development Club of the Year.

At the 4J Annual Awards Dinner, the efforts of the club’s army of volunteers were recognised on a national stage during a period where Scottish athletes are enjoying an unprecedented level of success.

One ingredient in that success has been the continued strong performances of Aberdeen’s athletes at an elite level, with Scottish 400m sprinter Zoey Clark – who joined the club in her teens whilst she was still a pupil at Aberdeen Grammar School – now an undoubted mainstay in Scotland and GB relay teams.

Keith’s Rebecca Matheson, too, has risen through the ranks wearing the red and white vest, having achieved several Scotland selections and going on to represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this year.

But the Club of the Year award was a testament to how Aberdeen AAC has helped to develop hundreds of athletes – not just the club’s elite competitors – to thrive in a sport which is fast becoming a badge of pride for the granite city.

As is often the case, widescale success does not come by accident. High levels of participation and success in the competitive arena are the fruit of countless hours of organisation, administration, and teamwork behind the scenes.

Zoey Clark in action at Birmingham 2022 – as she made the Women’s 400m final (photo by Bobby Gavin)

Davidson, himself an elite athlete in the late 80s and early 90s – he was part of the Scottish 4x400m relay team which won a silver medal at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games – has been a driving force in helping the club modernise and develop a structure which helps it get the most out of its volunteers and, by extension, offer the best opportunities for its athletes.

‘I think quite early on (when I became President) I recognised that, while the club was quite healthy on an athletics front, behind the scenes it just needed to modernise a little bit,’ said Mark.

‘I nudged the club to get two paid positions set-up and posts filled. We introduced the club manager and the athlete development officer.

‘It was acknowledged the club had operated for umpteen years with the same volunteers and it was getting harder and harder to recruit volunteers in any aspect of the sport.

‘To try and get volunteers to come in and stick around for key roles like club secretary, and do the admin and managing of the club in the background, frankly it was becoming an absolute nightmare.

‘Every year it would be someone different, and everyone would have three to four months of understanding the role, then eight months later it would be somebody else. It was like a revolving door of club secretaries in these role – it wasn’t moving forward and it was affecting the management of the club.’

Aberdeen Sports Village is a huge asset for the club and has staged National Championship events

Aside from his efforts to stabilise the club behind the scenes with a more consistent set of volunteers, Davidson admits there has been the odd stroke of fortune during his tenure.

One was emergence of Janet Nixon, an international photo finish judge who moved to Aberdeen due to her husband’s role in the oil industry shortly after Davidson became club President.

Even the lofty title of international photo finish judge does not quite do Nixon justice – she has served as a photo finish judge at just about every major international championship which the sport has to offer, from the Commonwealth Games, to the World Championships and the Olympics.

With a world class official at an amateur athletics club, Davidson moved to draw on Nixon’s experience to help initiate a photo finish and results system which allows athlete to receive their race results within seconds of having crossed the finish line.

‘Janet came along and helped us with the photo finish and helped us to build the knowledge on how to operate and work it,’ he said.

‘She introduced me to some administration software as well, which was instrumental in helping us modernise what we did for all our matches.

‘Janet was really important, but that’s not to discount people like Bob Masson and Allison Mathieson who have been experienced judges and organisers for many a year at the club.’

Jane Davidson in hurdles action at Aberdeen Sports Village (photo by Bobby Gavin)

And it is not only the efficiency of the competitions hosted by Aberdeen AAC – the regularity of the competitions is equally impressive.

The club hosts four indoor fixtures over the winter months and then an open-graded meeting every month from April to September inclusive. This, on top of Scottish League matches and RAM League competitions.

It makes for a busy schedule for Davidson, who still finds some time to train with his wife, son, and daughter – all talented athletes in their own right.

But the meetings allow development of athletes across the north east, with competition opportunities opened up for athletes across Aberdeenshire, and further afield in Nairn, Inverness, and Orkney.

‘I guess you get an element of satisfaction (from seeing competitions run well),’ said Mark.

‘My wife Fiona will be the first to tell you I get so stressed out, even leading up to our indoor meetings never mind big competitions like the Scottish Championships, which we have hosted a few times in recent years.

‘And you have the satisfaction of knowing how it’s gone when you sit down at the end of the day.

‘You still get complaints here and there because you can’t keep everybody happy, but the majority of people have had a good day, it’s gone smoothly, and everyone has gone home with their times and their performances.

‘You can go there safe in the knowledge that it will start on time, finish on time, you’ll get your performances before you get off the track sometimes.’

As Davidson looks to stay on as President, one expects the former international will negotiate any hurdles the club encounters with his trademark efficiency.

*A version of this article first appeared in the Press and Journal.

Athlete Rebecca Matheson presented the Janice Eaglesham MBE Para Development Club of the Year Award to Aberdeen AAC coach Ruth Watson and President Mark Davidson (photo by Bobby Gavin)

*Also short-listed: Stirling University AC and Team East Lothian.

*A version of this article first appeared in the Press and Journal.



Tags: 4J Annual Awards, Aberdeen AAC, Clubs, Janice Eaglesham MBE Para Development Club of Year, Janice Eaglesham Para Development club of the Year, Mark Davidson

Expand Social Feeds