Canoeist Hughes receives Great Starts Grant

It started out as a way to keep fit but now hooked on the sport, Royston’s Sophie Hughes intends to repay Huntingdon Canoe Club by furthering her coaching expertise for them.

Hughes is one of just 50 coaches from across the UK to have been awarded a Gillette Great Starts Grant, which aims to support and celebrate those who inspire the next generation at every level.

Hughes, of Carlton Rise, joined Huntingdon Canoe Club’s committee five years ago and has helped out as a volunteer coach for the past two years.

The 30-year-old is currently a level one coach but intends to start her level two early next year thanks to £250 from the Gillette Great Starts Grant scheme.

It will mean Hughes, also treasurer at the club, is able to take sessions on her own and widen her services – a crucial bonus after a rise in interest levels since last year’s Olympics.

“I can already run really basic starter sessions but having that level two qualification means I can run them on my own and put new paddlers on their first-star level, which is the beginners’ certificate,” said Hughes.

“The course is a week-long residential course in Wales and then I will put the practical skills into practice over the summer. It will be great for getting more people into it, the club is overrun and we need more qualified coaches.

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“We had loads and loads of interest after the Olympics, a lot of kids too being brought along by the parents. I wanted a sport that would keep me fit and then I thought I would get involved with the coaching and it has taken over my life in recent years.”

Now in its second year of partnership with Sports Coach UK, the Great Start programme aims to continue nurturing future ambition through qualified coaches in the wake of London 2012.

And Hughes, who coaches twice a week and will see the half of the costs for the course met by the club, revealed unearthing future talent was a reward in itself.

“I’m very fond of it, coaching is very rewarding,” she added. “When you see someone gain those skills on the water it is great.

“It sounds so twee but you go home and feel you’ve accomplished something, it’s a really good mood booster.”

The 2013 Gillette ‘Great Starts’ campaign celebrates community coaches and inspires the next generation of coaches by providing them with grants to fund their next level qualifications.