A coach at Rathgael Gymnastics Club, Bangor, has been named Disability Coach of the Year at the 2017 Sport Northern Ireland Coaching, Officiating and Volunteering (COV) Awards.

Stephanie Martin was awarded for her achievements in developing a strong and successful Disability Gymnastics group at Rathgael. In 2016, with the backing of British Gymnastics, Stephanie ran two successful open days, inviting 40-50 participants to try Disability Gymnastics for the first time, and is now engaging and encouraging over 50 participants on a weekly basis.

She has also succeeded in supporting 30 gymnasts through their first proficiency award and 20 got through a second stage of the awards in 2016.

Stephanie has also forged strong links with local schools, supporting inclusive gymnastics in their after schools programme and worked closely with Autism NI, ADD NI, Downs Syndrome Association, Special Olympics Ireland and the local gateway club.

The Disability Coach of the Year award is awarded to coaches who have made an impact in widening access to sport and developing athletic performance among athletes or teams with a disability. It was presented to Stephanie on Friday (26th January) by David Smyth, Coaching Consultant at Sport Northern Ireland, during a training session at Rathgael Gymnastics Club.

Johanne Gilbert, a fellow coach at Rathgael Gymnastics Club, said “Stephanie has a passion to break down barriers to ensure that we can deliver gymnastics to those who need just a little bit more time or a quieter place. As Stephanie gains confidence in herself and her team, she will continue to highlight how truly accessible are beloved sport can be to everyone within Rathgael Gymnastics Club and in Northern Ireland”.

Congratulating Stephanie on her award, Sport NI Chair George Lucas said:

“The Sport NI Coaching, Officiating and Volunteering Awards are designed to highlight the outstanding talent that exists across Northern Ireland’s sporting workforce, and celebrate the great work local sportmakers are doing to help communities enjoy, engage and excel in sport. Stephanie is an outstanding example of this, and through her excellent work and dedication to coaching, she is helping ensure that the many benefits of sport and physical activity can be enjoyed by more people of different abilities. On behalf of Sport NI, I would like to congratulate Stephanie on her richly deserved award.”

Stephanie’s success at the COV Awards, is just the latest in a long line of awards and recognition of her work, she was announced as winner of British Gymnastics National Inclusive Gymnastics Awards 2016-17 as well as winning the British Gymnastics Northern Ireland Inclusive Gymnastics Awards 2016-17.

Photographed: Sport Northern Ireland Disability Coach of the Year 2017 Stephanie Martin receives her award from David Smyth, Sport Northern Ireland and Holly Mason, British Gymnastics. Also pictured are Stephanie’s fellow coaches and young gymnasts from Rathgael.