Girls in Scotland inspired to get active

Pentathlon star Maili Mackenzie inspires teenage girls to try out rugby, hockey, zumba and boxercise during the Bank of Scotland's National School Sport Week.

It was a girls-only affair in Dumfries as the latest leg of Bank of Scotland's National School Sports Week rolled into town on Wednesday, with hundreds of school children trying their hand at Olympic-themed sports.

More than 140 female pupils from three schools descended on the King George V leisure complex to take part in the Bank of Scotland's festival of sport, with rugby, hockey, zumba, boxercise and more all on the agenda.

Also in attendance was young modern pentathlon star Maili Mackenzie, one of a number of female role models invited along to inspire the next generation of teenage girls to get active with the Olympic Torch set to arrive in the town on Thursday, June 21.

The 17-year-old, who is preparing for the British Youth Pentathlon Championships, said it was vital teenage girls were encouraged to find a sport to enjoy.

"Everybody here today seems really up for it," said the former Wallace Hall Academy pupil, whose sport needs her to excel in fencing, swimming horse riding, running and shooting.

"I think it's important to get girls out doing sport, as there's a big place for girls within clubs, and it's good to get everybody into something they enjoy.

I train with five different clubs and they are all male-dominated - in fencing I work with men, and it's the same throughout the sports, especially shooting.

This gives girls the opportunity to experience something that will help keep them healthy."

Pupils from Dumfries High School, Dumfries Academy and St Joseph's College took part in the day's festivities as part of Bank of Scotland National School Sport Week, run in partnership with sportscotland, a week-long event that will involve nearly 2,000 schools and over half a million pupils from every local authority area in Scotland.

Among the female coaches at the event was Lee Donaldson, who held Boxercise classes:

"The response has been good," she said. "It's an all over body workout, and it will keep a girl fit. There is more opportunity now for young girls to take part in sport and that's why these events are so important. They make girls more aware of the Olympics and role models like Jessica Ennis or Rebecca Adlington - they realise that could be them competing in the Olympics."

Group coordinator Scott McNeeken helped organise the day, with sports activities targeted at teenage girls:

"Traditionally we have trouble getting girls at this age to participate in sport," he explained.

"We decided to go for a different angle and try and bring in different types of activities on offer in the local community and make them aware of what is out there that isn't a traditional team sport or competitive sport.

Often there are all-male coaches and role models but we have managed to get female coaches and role models here to demonstrate sport is fun and worthwhile doing."

His thoughts were echoed by Mandy Brown, Director's Assistant, Bank of Scotland Dumfries Central office, who said it was important that a variety of sports were available to girls of all ages.

"It's definitely a great year to be involved with National School Sports Week," she said. "Children who are not normally sporty get the chance to be active and hopefully it will encourage them to do more in the future.

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