Athletics coach Niall Wilkinson has been named Talent Development Coach of the Year at the 2017 Sport Northern Ireland Coaching, Officiating and Volunteering Awards.

Niall was presented with the award in recognition of his achievements with up and coming athletics star Sommer Lecky, whom he coached to Gold medal success this summer at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas. The 16-year-old high jumper also broke the long-standing Ulster Schools Senior and the Northern Ireland Under 20 record in May of this year, with a jump of 1.85m and has achieved the consideration standard for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, taking place in the Gold Coast, Australia, next April.

The Talent Development Coach of the Year award is presented to coaches, working with emerging and young talent, who have demonstrated innovative, player-centred and successful practice. Niall received his trophy at last weekend’s Athletics Northern Ireland Coaching Conference where it was presented to him by Alan Curran (Performance Systems Manager, Sport Northern Ireland).

Congratulating Niall on his award, Sport NI Chair George Lucas said:

“The Sport NI Coaching Officiating and Volunteering Awards acknowledge the work of Northern Ireland’s sporting workforce and highlight outstanding coaches, officials, volunteers and coaching projects which have made a big impact over the last 12 months. Coaches like Niall play a crucial role in making sport happen by nurturing new generations of sporting talent and providing guidance and direction as they develop as people and athletes. The great success that Sommer has enjoyed over the last year is of course testament to her talent and hard work, but I think it is wonderful to be recognising the role that Niall’s technical advice, leadership and good example has also played in her journey to athletic success. On behalf of Sport NI, I would like to congratulate Niall on his award”.

Laura Kerr, Athletics Northern Ireland, added:

“Niall has invested heavily in his own and his athlete’s development and displays the type of leadership that Athletics NI like to see from coaches. He is humble, hard-working, meticulous in his planning and has developed a great working relationship with key support personnel who provide strength and conditioning and physiotherapy.”

Niall will now be put forward by Sport NI for consideration for the UK Coaching Awards which take place next month.

Pictured is Niall Wilkinson (centre) receives his award for Talent Development Coach of the Year from Strabane Academy high jumper Sommer Lecky, and Sport Northern Ireland’s Alan Curran.