The winners of the 2016 Sport Northern Ireland Coaching Awards and representatives from local Clubmark accredited clubs were brought together last night (Monday 27th February) at a celebration event in Titanic Belfast recognising their outstanding contribution to local sport.

Throughout the Celebration of Coaching and Club Sport event, awards and certificates were presented by Sport Northern Ireland Chair George Lucas, members of the Sport NI Board and representatives from Sports Coach UK and Sport Ireland Coaching.

Among those recognised at the event, organised by Sport NI, were the winners of 2016 Coaching Awards, which celebrate outstanding coaches and coaching projects which have made a significant impact. The nine winners were selected by an expert judging panel following nominations from members of the public, with the winners coming from an array of different sports and levels of participation impact. They were joined by graduates of the Sport Northern Ireland Coaching Connects Talent Hub and Potential programmes, who were also honoured at the event.

The evening also saw the coaches of Northern Ireland’s three Rio 2016 Paralympic gold medallists (Bethany Firth, Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop) receive special recognition awards in honour of their outstanding contribution to the performances of their athletes. Gold medallists Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop were in attendance to pay tribute to their coaches, Clarence Calender and Patrick McKillop, with Michael presenting his father Patrick with his recognition award during the ceremony. Nelson Lindsay, coach to Paralympic swimming champion Bethany Firth, was also honoured, having been named the Performance Coach of the Year at the Coaching Awards.

Local sports clubs were also honoured at the event, with local sports clubs that successfully attained Clubmark NI accreditation in 2016 being presented with their official certificate of accreditation in recognition of the enthusiasm, dedication and commitment of their volunteers. Clubmark NI is Northern Ireland’s quality standard for junior sports clubs; the programme aims to identify, develop, accredit and recognise high quality junior sports clubs and the contribution that they make to the development of sport in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the event, Sport NI Chair George Lucas said:

“Tonight’s celebration event is all about saying ‘thank you’ to our local coaches, clubs and volunteers, who day-in, day-out, through every season, dedicate their time to make great sport happen. Whether it is introducing us to sport and teaching us the fundamentals, creating inclusive opportunities so that all sections of our community to get active and involved, or developing the skills and mindset needed to win at the very highest levels, coaches and clubs are at the heart of helping people enjoy, engage and excel in sport. On behalf of Sport Northern Ireland, I would like to congratulate and thank all of those who have been recognised this evening, and wish them continued success in their work supporting local sport.”