Active 2014

Former rugby ace gears up to help Games athletes

SCOTT Forrest doesn't have to think twice when asked to recall the highlight of his sporting career.

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Scott Forrest competed at the last Games where he captained the Rugby sevens team but now works for SportScotland Institute of Sport Picture: Mark Gibson
Scott Forrest competed at the last Games where he captained the Rugby sevens team but now works for SportScotland Institute of Sport Picture: Mark Gibson

The former rugby player has represented Scotland at under-19 and under-21 level but it was captaining his team in rugby sevens at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games that holds particularly special memories.

"At the time it was, and still is, the only opportunity for Scottish athletes to compete in a multi-sport Games as Scotland," he says proudly. "At that stage rugby wasn't in the Olympics, so it was very important.

"A lot of my memories are just being part of that wider Team Scotland.

"Not just the rugby sevens and playing for Scotland at rugby; it was staying in accommodation with the hockey teams, going to watch the boxers win medals, going to watch cycling and gymnastics, then we had them coming to support us.

"It is hard to realise at the time when you're in that environment, we were professional athletes, but looking back it is such a unique experience and you do realise you were lucky to have that opportunity."

When I suggest that it wasn't luck but determined hard work that took him to Delhi, he graciously concedes that might have had something to do with it as well.

We are at the Emirates Arena where 29-year-old Scott, who has been chosen as a baton relay runner when the Queen's Baton Relay comes to Scotland next month, has a key role as a performance lifestyle adviser at the SportScotland Institute of Sport.

As well as working with athletes in everything from gymnastics and men's hockey to boxing and weightlifting, he is a member of the team behind the team, supporting our athletes on their journey to this year's Games.

"The whole of the institute works in a support package around the team," says Scott.

"Take the example of Scottish Boxing, they have named their team for the Games, so we provide strength and conditioning, in terms of leading their gym sessions, and physiotherapy."

Scott works closely with them to support the boxers, arranging time off, working around training programmes, looking for extra funding and, most importantly, thinking about what happens after the Games.

"Everything is pushed towards what happens from July 23 to August 3, but a big role for performance lifestyle will be, what happens after that?" he says.

The vital importance of Scott's role cannot be ignored. Offering advice and guiding athletes, from a gymnast at primary school to a wheelchair curler in their 60s, through life can be pivotal to their performance.

"We look at everything that is going on alongside sport, in fact our tagline just now is 'managing life alongside performance sport'.

"Any athlete will go through changes and that will throw up challenges that mean they have choices to make.

"A lot of the stuff we do with younger athletes - they're maybe leaving school and going to university - is time management, forward planning, trying to give the athletes the tools so they can use their time as well as possible to get the most out of their sport.

"What we don't want to happen is where an athlete is studying or working and it has a negative impact on their training."

Scott admits he would have appreciated the help of this kind of support network when he was competing and then forced to retire due to injury.

"I retired just after the Delhi Commonwealth Games - at that point I had some plans in place but not many and would have appreciated working with a performance lifestyle adviser," he adds.

Scott couldn't do his job without understanding exactly what the athletes he works with are going through.

Armed with a degree in sports science and a wealth of experience, he brings to the Institute of Sport unparalleled knowledge on just what makes a professional athlete tick.

Starting good training patterns as young as possible cannot be under-estimated, he says.

"We're finding more and more now that sports are targeting a younger age group because they are seeing the benefit of teaching them high-performance behaviours, effectively good habits.

"We work with younger age groups, academies and youth programmes. It is all about getting them to think about what is coming up, looking ahead and saying, at some point you're going to move from junior to senior level.

"Normally about that time they're leaving school and going to university or work and the impact that can have on their sporting performance could be huge."

He may have stopped playing rugby but Scott is still involved in the game.

For the past two seasons he has coached the first XV at Cambuslang, the club he started playing for when he was just eight years old, and he will now join the coaching set-up at Premiership side Ayr.

"I always knew I would go back to Cambuslang and I thought maybe play for them at the end of my career but that obviously wasn't able to happen with my injury," says Scott.

"I was keen to give something back to the club. I suppose that comes back to the grassroots level because it is a lower league, it's not quite social rugby but some guys can only train one night and playing on a Saturday is a highlight of the week."

He adds: "Ayr will be a new challenge for me, something I'm looking forward to.

"I find the work I do in terms of performance lifestyle helps with my coaching and vice versa.

"A lot of it comes back to dealing with, even though it's a team sport, an individual. It's all about communication."

His enthusiasm for rugby sevens will have anyone who doesn't already have a ticket for this summer's Games, do all they can to get their hands on one.

In the week when this year's rugby sevens Commonwealth Games team was announced, he says the 14-minute games, which will be watched by a crowd of 50,000 at Ibrox, are some of the most exciting of the 10-day summer sports spectacular.

"It's non-stop action and at the Commonwealth Games you get the top teams in the world. For Scotland to be at home with a sell-out crowd supporting them, I'll really looking forward to being there."

angela.mcmanus@eveningtimes.co.uk

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