Why Eilidh Doyle is backing Athletics Trust Scotland

Saturday 11th February 2023

Athletics Trust Scotland website

By Susan Egelstaff

Only the most naïve within sport believe success at the top end gives an opportunity to rest on one’s laurels when it comes to the development side.

If anything, elite success should act as a spur to strengthen the grassroots of a sport.

There is no one who is more cognisant of this than Eilidh Doyle, Scotland’s most decorated track and field athlete and someone who has spent the majority of her time since her retirement from competitive action last year ploughing her energies into developing the sport that saw her become one of the very best athletes in the world.

Doyle is a trustee of the Athletics Trust Scotland, a charity that has been established with the purpose of supporting the ongoing development of athletics in Scotland, helping people of all ages and abilities across the country to participate, contribute and excel in all aspects of athletics.

So rather than remain immersed in the elite side of athletics, which is where she’d spent the previous decade of her life, Doyle vowed in her retirement to do what she could to pay back a sport that has given her so much.

Susan Egelstaff’s Herald interview with Eilidh

Eilidh was the Scotland flag-bearer at Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (photo by Team Scotland)

‘When you’re an elite athlete, you’re in your own little bubble at the top end but without the volunteers and the people who work at grassroots and community level, none of us would ever have got to elite level,’ said the 35-year-old.

‘Athletics has been such a huge part of my life, and such a brilliant part of my life, and that’s regardless of any medals or any success.

‘I realise now, even more so since retiring, just how much I love the sport and so to be able to give back in any way has been brilliant.’

Scottish athletics is enjoying what is perhaps the best period in its history in terms of elite success.

In the past couple of years alone, Scottish athletes have won medals at every major championship, ensuring this small nation is seen as a true force in global athletics.

However, wisely, the governing body, scottishathletics, is seeking to ensure this success does not end when this generation of athletes hang up their spikes and instead, is working to ensure this recent global success acts as a platform for future generations at both elite and community level to improve.

Sporting success, Doyle knows, is far wider than merely the silverware garnered by the top few.

While it may be the likes of Jake Wightman, Laura Muir and Eilish McColgan who currently capture the headlines, the benefits of participating in sport trickle down to anyone who dips their toe in.

Which is why Doyle is so enthused by an organisation having been set up to concentrate on the base of the pyramid rather than the tip.

‘I think the Athletics Trust Scotland is important because it’s focused solely on grassroots,’ said Eilidh.

‘It has individuality and gives certain areas of the sport more focus than they might otherwise have got.

‘There’s the Changing Lives programme, which highlights how athletics can really change people’s lives, that gets a good platform whereas that might not have happened quite as much within the scottishathletics channels because it would have been overshadowed by other things.

‘Sometimes, when you’re involved in the elite side, you forget why you first got involved in your sport but that grassroots start is the most important part of your career because that’s where it all stems from and without that, you’ll never reach the top end.’

While the Trust, which is a registered charity and is funded by fundraising, charitable donations and grant funding, is focused on the lower levels of the sport, Doyle is in no doubt as to the effect the recent global success has had on the grassroots.

The advantage track and field has over so many sports is it’s relatively cheap to participate in while the individuals who have achieved such remarkable recent success are wholly relatable people to the man, woman or kid in the street.

Photo by Bobby Gavin

That, believes Doyle, is something money can’t buy.

‘What’s so important when you watch people like Laura and Jake doing so well is you can see that pathway, you can see how they got to that point,’ she said.

‘That makes a difference to people right through the sport.

‘And it’s great to see so many people at the grassroots who are so enthusiastic and so passionate about athletics and it’s very important we recognise and support them.’

Doyle is now 18 months into retirement from a career that saw her win medals at every major championship, indoor and out, and she admits that watching the success of Scottish athletes this summer, from the comfort of her couch and without any of the stress of being a competitive athlete was, she says, nothing less than a joy.

‘It was amazing sitting watching last summer, it was exhausting too though because it was just one championships after another,’ added Eilidh.

‘The sport has moved on since I competed and I don’t feel like I’ve got the same connection. So it’s nice being able to watch it as a fan these days.’



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