Coach appointed to bring volleyball to East Lothian
Volleyball may have reached most parts of Scotland but has still to catch on in East Lothian and Fleming, a Scottish international and now assistant coach to the Scotland senior men's team, is looking to the schools to help her in what amounts to pioneering work.
Seventy-three teams will be in action when the Royal Bank Scottish League opens this weekend but none of those has residence in East Lothian.
"My main task is to raise awareness of the sport in my three-year contract. My aim is to have a volleyball structure within schools as I do not want to finish my work here and then find that the sport collapses in East Lothian," she said.
"I am enthusiastic about the sport. I spend most of my time playing or coaching and I'm sure that will rub off on people here."
There are six secondary schools in the area and 34 primary schools and she will visit them all within her first year in the post. He main emphasis will be on P6-7 and S1-2: "In that way, pupils starting secondary school will already have had a base to work on."
However, there is a lack of qualified volleyball coaches in the area and she admits she will have to rely heavily on the Scottish Volleyball Association (SVA) for support.
East Lothian has appointed six development officers in various sports but Fleming undoubtedly has one of the most difficutl jobs.
"Sports like rugby and football already have clubs to work with and youth development officers and their remit is different from mine in that I have simply to try and get the sport established," she continued.
"But I have had a good response from schools so far and have already set up festivals for schools and the first will take place on November 21."
Though she concedes she is working in the dark, there are a couple of notable shafts of light.
There is a well-established district league team Aberlady Bays which has ambitions to return to the national league and Tranent's Ross High has a strong S1-2 programme.
Fleming will seek to use Aberlady as a feeder club for promising school players but will also hope that other clubs will spring up in the area.
There are decent sports facilities in the area with Meadowmill, Haddington and Musselburgh having come on stream in recent years and exhibition matches have already been played at Meadowmill.
But Fleming admits that the schools hold the key. With the backing of the SVA, she hopes to see the sport adopted on the school curriculum and for volleyball to feature as an option on Standard grade and Higher physical education.
The East Lothian schools are not overladen with volleyball equipment which also poses a potential problem but Fleming has been given a budget to help in this area.
One of her ambitions is to get volleyball taught at after-school clubs in primary schools and will look to enlist support.
"PE teachers already have a lot to do and while I'd hope they'd become involved, I'd also like to see teachers of other subjects, parents and volunteers helping out," she explained. "I need to build up a network of people I can use."
* More than 200 primary pupils in the Borders will take part in an evening of mini-rugby at Gala Rugby Club next Friday evening as part of the BP Primary Schools Challenge.
Around 40 celebrities, including internationalists Craig Chalmers, Bryan Redpath and Jim Hay, will take part. Gary Parker, team sport co-ordinator, said the level of interest in rugby would not be maintained without encouragement to young people.