Community Partnership: Russell Anderson Foundation Q&A

Earlier this year, SCOTGRIP INTERNATIONAL® were proud to partner with local charity the Russell Anderson Foundation as a primary sponsor.


Today, we catch-up with Former Aberdeen captain, and Scotland international football player, Russell Anderson who founded the charity in 2011 to hear more about the amazing work they do in advancing the personal development, health and well-being of young people within recognised socially deprived areas of Aberdeen, by promoting sports and life coaching.

Q: Where did the idea for Russell Anderson Foundation come from?

R.A: The idea actually came from Sir Ian Wood and The Wood Foundation. When I returned to Aberdeen in 2011, after a few years away playing football, Paul Lawrie approached me through Sir Ian Wood with an idea to set-up a football programme in the city, specifically for children who didn’t have access to football for a variety of reasons. The idea was to put an exercise programme in place to get the kids fit and active, and provide them with access to free football sessions. There are plenty of great programmes out there but often they come at a cost - which can be prohibitive for families.

So, I got to start with a blank canvas as to what we did. Myself and Graeme Burnett - now Chief Executive of the foundation - came together to brainstorm and initially we started with an after school club at Riverbank Primary School. We started there for a good reason; there was a weekly active school session that kids were going along to that was stopping, so we had a group of kids who would no longer be getting access to a football session so we thought that would be a great place to start.

Q: Tell us more about the amazing work you do?

R.A: It has evolved and grown massively since the early years. As popularity grew, the primary schools started speaking to us about other ways we could become involved. Primary schools were experiencing issues and challenges, such as staff shortages, which often meant they were struggling to provide the quality 2 hours of physical education that is part of a government recommendation. There was an opportunity for us to support them to deliver this.

What we realised after a while is that we needed to consider what the programme was all about. After a conscious refocus we changed to become more inclusive. Whilst a lot of the work is still around football, we now deliver a wider health and wellbeing programme that appeals to all. We’re embedded across eight primary schools in Aberdeen with coaches in the schools full-time delivering sessions, not just on exercise, but on total health and wellbeing, including diets, sleeping patterns. We try and give the children the opportunity to be the best they can be.

Q: What have been the biggest challenges of the past year to the foundation?

R.A: It’s been hugely challenging - prior to COVID-19 we had coaches in everyday and coaching at different schools to provide variety. As lockdown came along, the majority of children switched to homeschooling. For the children that were still going into school, such as children of key workers etc, we were able to have our staff still go in and deliver sessions but we had to change our working practices massively to ensure we adhere to safety rules and restrictions.

For all the children at home, our coaches were really active at creating 5-10 min exercise videos that could be woven into the child's day to get them active. It provided them ideas of what to do. We had great feedback that the kids were getting their families, brothers and sisters involved and doing the exercises together. So, it has created opportunities to communicate with the children in a different way.

Q: How does the work of the main sponsors help you continue?

R.A: Without the support of our main sponsors SCOTGRIP INTERNATIONAL®, Saltire Energy and The Wood Foundation the work we do would just not be possible. Whilst we don’t have huge overheads in buildings and facilities etc. the majority of our costs go on staff. The long and short of it is that without the support and kindness of main sponsors and all our other sponsors, the charity wouldn’t survive, and this would have a huge knock on effect on the schools and children we’ve supported for the past 10 years.

Our coaches are role-models and consistent touch points. The work we do allows us to build a relationship over a prolonged period to really change behaviour in the long-term. I know there is only so much we can do; but we do help create a positive influence on their lives for school years to shape positive choices and how they go on to live their life after school.

Q: How can others get involved in supporting Russell Anderson Foundation?

R.A: Donations through our website - however small - are greatly appreciated and really help us carry on the work we do. We have an annual fundraising event; last year it was unfortunately cancelled, due to the pandemic, but we are in the process of organising a golf event for later in the year.

It’s also not all about giving us money; we also encourage volunteering opportunities to help us raise our profile of our foundation so would encourage anyone who’s interested with a necessary or required skill set to get in touch.

Q: What does long term success for the foundation look like?

R.A: It’s a difficult question. For the ten years we’ve been doing this it’s evolved and changed considerably. Our overarching idea is to really assess how we can make a proper difference; change behaviour and give the best possible opportunities for the children to deliver on their potential.

One thing we recognised was that all the good work we did finished at Primary 7 and you hoped you had done enough to shape their behaviour and thinking. Secondary school is a different environment with challenging factors, such as peer pressure, so we thought how can we prolong our involvement and continue to help guide the children. As of a few months ago, we now have a coach in St Machar Academy full-time as part of their health and wellbeing hub. The ultimate idea would be to help shape and affect the children’s lives in a positive way from primary one right the way through to secondary school, even through to career opportunities.

We have done work with Aberdeen University, organising field trips and visits to show children what is on their doorstep. Some children won’t have been considering this route. University isn’t for everyone; but for those that would have thought it was outwith their reach it can give them something to strive for and create opportunities for themselves. To have a story like that where we’ve helped a child full circle would be huge for us.

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To hear more about the Russell Anderson Foundation and to support their good work, please visit their website.

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