An 18-year-old rugby coach was named as the country’s top apprentice at Skills Development Scotland’s Modern Apprenticeship Awards.
Thomas Davidson won the non-traditional sector category for those aged 16-19 at the SQA sponsored event in Glasgow. The talented young sportsman was also chosen – from 15 Scottish finalists – as the country’s Modern Apprentice of the Year.
Each year the judges present this special award to the trainee who has shown outstanding achievement during his or her Modern Apprenticeship. Thomas said he was amazed to receive the overall award, adding: “I couldn’t believe it when I heard that I had won. It was a complete shock but really fantastic.”
Glasgow-based Thomas has motivated hundreds of schoolchildren to get into rugby – sometimes using fairly unorthodox coaching methods.
His mentor, Scottish Rugby’s Paul Kesterton, said Thomas was coaching a group of young pupils in the middle of a downpour. “They were pretty fed up. Thomas kicked off the session by asking them to pretend to be different kinds of animals – then he joined in. Within a few minutes they were energised and smiling and having a great time, despite the pouring rain,” explained Paul.
Thomas started playing for Cartha QP when he was in primary school and still plays for the senior team – recently being named their Young Player of the Year.
The former Govan High School pupil got six standard grades and was delighted to be accepted as a Modern Apprentice on the Scottish Rugby’s training scheme in August 2009.
He has had to overcome various challenges during his Modern Apprenticeship including helping his mum look after his disabled dad.
Paul Kesterton said: “Thomas has the ability to go on to become a teacher or coach of the highest quality. He has shown commitment and dedication, a high level of skills and an understanding of children beyond his years. He is an absolute credit to himself and his parents.”
Scrum half Thomas also coaches children who have special needs – including a group of young people who are autistic. “It just involves figures out the best way for everyone to communicate with each other. It could be by using hand signals or keeping the area quieter than usual – whatever works for people. When it does work and they are really enjoying it, that’s the best bit of my job,” said Thomas.
Minutes after Thomas’ name was announced as winner, he made a brief speech to the 250-strong audience – thanking everyone at Table 24, which included his family, his mentor and employers Scottish Rugby.
“I wouldn’t be here without them and they know everything they have done to help me in the last year and I want to thank them very much for it all,” he said.
Skills Development Scotland’s chief executive Damien Yeates said: “Thomas is an impressive young man who has a winning combination of remarkable skills, huge commitment and tremendous enthusiasm. Not only is he a brilliant representative for his sport and his employers, he is also a great ambassador for the Modern Apprenticeship programme. ”