Welcome to Industry Insider by Behind Sport. Callum Imray, Partnership Manager at sportscotland is the latest to share his story with us.
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
I am Callum Imray and I have recently started a new role as a Partnership Manager for sportscotland, the national agency for sport in Scotland.
Prior to sportscotland, I worked within Schools and Education as part of the Active Schools Network, a national programme which provides children with more and higher quality opportunities to take part in sport and physical activity. This gave me the chance to work with young people, community clubs and third sector partners to create sustainable opportunities to participate in sport.
Alongside working in Schools and Education, between 2018 – 2020 I was invited to contribute to Governing Body and Disability Sport as part of the Badminton Scotland Para Advisory Group. In this role I was invited by Badminton Europe to share learning internationally and contributed to the BEC conference in Vienna, Austria.
I’ve always been passionate about making a difference and I believe that sport is one of the easiest and most accessible ways to change and improve people’s lives for the better. I’m incredibly grateful to work in an industry that is so flexible which allows me to support changes which leads to making a difference!
In 2014 I was offered my first role in the sports industry, accepting a maternity cover Active Schools post in Argyll & Bute. I was based in Campbeltown, a remote and beautiful part of Scotland which was 5 hours and 250 miles from my home in Aberdeen!
I returned to Aberdeen for a more permanent post and worked in parts of the city that my mum and dad spent their childhood in; a strange feeling! We had a very close team at Sport Aberdeen, partnerships at its best, and a number of us are still close friends.
In 2017 I relocated to Edinburgh and more recently enjoyed working with Fife Active Schools where I coordinated sport provision for 15 schools on behalf of the Queen Anne school cluster in Dunfermline. I had the pleasure of working with an incredible team who were dedicated, hard-working and progressive.
What do you do in your current role?
Due to Covid–19 and lockdown, I have had the most unique start to a job that I will probably never experience again! Two days in the office then Lockdown! Meeting and learning about a new post virtually was not the original plan!
I started my new role in March, and I have loved every minute so far. sportscotland are a brilliant organisation with people who strive to continually improve the sporting landscape across the country. In a short space of time I have really enjoyed getting to know and working with a very knowledgeable and motivated team.
In my role I support local authority partners to lead and inspire work towards our sportscotland vision of creating a world class sporting system. This includes creating and developing partnerships, maintaining internal relationships and ensuring the development and delivery of appropriate programmes and projects against our sportscotland corporate plan.
At the moment I am trying to ensure that I can continue to support using technology widely to offer guidance and provide information. I am a whizz with virtual meeting platforms now a new skill since lockdown! In addition to this, I support partners with investment at a regional and local level while supporting key staff to deliver school, club and performance sport.
Since starting my new role, the support I have received weekly from my own team, HR and IT services at sportscotland has been fantastic.
What does a normal week look like for you?
Currently my normal week is ever changing due to the current circumstances!
Monday – Friday I would normally be in the gym for 6am however with gyms being shut I’ve replaced this with a run. I use this time to clear my head and prepare my abstract to do list. If I have early meetings I will run through my mental preparation notes.
Weekly, we are supporting each other as colleagues and staying connected as much as possible by hosting regular virtual team and one to one meetings. Each day I will receive and make numerous phone calls to touch base on pieces of work and we also have training opportunities to come together as a group.
Due to lockdown, actual coffee meetings aren’t possible, so, to remedy this, I have organised a Virtual Coffee Club for colleagues to meet and connect in a more informal and fun way!
Externally, I am one of many in our team who are supporting our school and community partners as much as possible during the current public health crisis. This has involved a number of meetings each week to discuss opportunities with key partners, sharing experiences and offering guidance tools to prepare for the ‘’new normal’’.
Each partner has different local needs so each week I have to be adaptable and able to support where necessary.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my role is the variety and how each week is different!
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
When I was younger, I was always interested in sport, but just unsure as to what I wanted to do. I loved PE but didn’t want to teach! I visited Robert Gordon University for an open day (purely to get a day off school!!) and was blown away by the gym and sport facilities on campus.
I graduated with a BA in Applied Social Sciences which focused mainly on Psychology and Sociology, but I still didn’t have a clear direction for my career!
I was introduced to an Active Schools Coordinator in Aberdeenshire and this was the spark for me. Derek and I had a similar path growing up, so when he offered me opportunities to learn about the sports industry, I couldn’t say yes quick enough! I accepted opportunities to volunteer and shadowed him daily to gain a real insight into his work within rural areas. Around the same time, I was introduced to another Coordinator, Magnus, who provided numerous coaching opportunities within Aberdeen City. When the opportunity arose to move to Argyll & Bute, both of them encouraged me to take it.
Both Derek and Magnus were extremely generous with their time and really took a mentoring approach with me as I took the first steps into my career. I still apply aspects of their working approach within my role and I try to support anyone who is trying to enter the sports industry. I think it’s important to offer mentoring, guidance and sharing experience can be really beneficial.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
At sportscotland we have a very close working relationship with the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH). We have a number of exciting initiatives designed to promote the benefits of physical activity to support mental health.
In particular, we are working with key partners to use sport and physical activity to achieve positive individual and community change as part of our Changing Lives approach.During my time outdoors, I have been inspired by seeing the high number of families getting active together during lockdown.
The sports industry in Scotland has a real opportunity to capitalise on the increased interest and attract new families into life-long participation especially in the outdoors. Ensuring that there are sufficient pathways will be crucial to ensuring that the positive habits developed during lockdown continue post Covid-19.
I also believe that lockdown has allowed many to reflect on how they work and meet the needs of vulnerable groups in Scotland. We have a real opportunity to close the attainment gap and reduce inequalities through the provision of sport which the right approach.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Persevere and believe in what you want to achieve. Listen to your mum!! She always said I should work in sport! The Sports Industry is a brilliant environment to work in, but you have to be strong, ready for challenges, be able to deal with criticism positively and have loads of resilience!
I am extremely lucky to have amazing family and friends who have encouraged and motivated me to keep going but you need self-belief and resilience. Don’t be afraid to listen to others and be open to advice. Try to be solution focused, treat everyone with respect and accept that others may have an answer that is better than yours.
Continue to learn and find ways to add to your skillset. Last year I enrolled on a part time MSc Sport Management course at the University of Stirling which has given me a depth of knowledge in data, finance and governance.
How to follow Callum Imray on social media…
You can find me on Twitter!
You can also follow sportscotland on one of the many social media platforms managed by our brilliant communications team!
Thanks for reading our Industry Insider feature with the Partnerships Manager for sportscotland, Callum Imray!