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Dual star, Laura lands prestigious Young Coach of the Year award

St Malachy’s OB and Ardoyne Kickhams coach, Laura Vernon picks up her Young Coach of the Year award from Gareth Kirk, GLL, at the recent Belfast City Council Sports Awards at the City Hall St Malachy’s OB and Ardoyne Kickhams coach, Laura Vernon picks up her Young Coach of the Year award from Gareth Kirk, GLL, at the recent Belfast City Council Sports Awards at the City Hall
By Paddy Tierney

A PROMISING young coach from North Belfast has scooped a prestigious honour at the Belfast City Council Sports Awards.

Laura Vernon, who coaches at both St Malachy’s OB soccer club and Ardoyne Kickhams GAA club picked up the Young Coach of the Year award at a gala event at the City Hall last month.

The 17-year-old Aquinas Grammar School student hopes to pursue a career in coaching and is keen on working in disability sport, helping those less fortune reach their potential.

St Malachy’s chairman Gary Vernon, Laura’s uncle, expressed his delight at seeing her talents recognised at the awards.
“It is brilliant and it is a testament to the great work she has done with the kids,” he said.

“It is a great achievement. Laura was involved with our 2012 and 2013 group. Last year, we started a girls only section and we let her run that herself. She is just a natural coach. She also coaches the girls up at Ardoyne GAC.”

Laura joined the coaching team at St Malachy’s two years ago, coaching 30 boys and girls at the 2013 age group as well as helping out with the 2014s.

Laura’s knack for coaching soon prompted St Malachy’s to give her more responsibility.

“Last season, she was tasked with heading up the club’s new girls section and ran a successful summer football programme for female players at the club.

The best coaches never stop learning and, even at the infancy of her own coaching career, Laura has shown a willingness to push herself and has undertook several courses to enable her to reach new heights.

The dedication shown by the North Belfast teenager has been an inspiration to everyone at St Malachy’s according to the club chairman.

“She want to continue coaching and she has a passion for disability coaching. I think that’s what she wants to go on to do,” added Gary Vernon.

“She has already completed her IFA Grassroots Level One coaching and an Autism course to help her with disability training.
“It is great to see someone from North Belfast picking up such an award.

“For someone so young to give up her free time to help kids is fantastic. She pretty much gives up her whole weekend to coaching.”

In their written submission to the Belfast City Council Sports Awards, St Malachy’s OB also noted how Laura has harnessed a welcoming and fun environment for the youngsters.

“As well as coaching, Laura has created a welcoming environment, one based on fun as well as structure.

“There is nothing more inspiring that seeing the young girls under Laura’s tutelage trapping and then passing a football and thoroughly enjoying themselves. That is sporting achievement.”

Every Saturday morning, Laura takes 20 girls for their session with the occasional game on Sundays. She also gives up her Tuesday and Thursday evenings to coaching.

Laura also, somehow, finds time to line out for Ardoyne Kickhams Ladies football team while also coaching their U6 and U8 squads.

Her recent award seems only fitting for the remarkable commitment shown by the talented North Belfast coach.

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