Royal Enniskillen Boat Club coach Derek Holland has been awarded the Sport NI SportMaker Club Performance Coach of the Year in recognition of his work with local athletes.

The SportMaker Club Performance Coach of the Year award recognises the achievements of a coach working with athletes at a  high level of domestic club sport.

The former Olympian has been helping athletes achieve their dreams on the water over many years, with two graduates, Irish Rowers Nathan Timoney and Ross Corrigan, recently booking a  spot for the Irish Men’s Pairs boat at Paris 2024 and became the first heavyweight Irish rowers to win sweep World Championship medals.

Sport NI surprised Derek at Royal Enniskillen Boat Club in front of other members. He explained his role at the club: “It’s amazing, it was just sprung on me there. I like to coach all age groups but I mix the coaches around the age groups so that they get experience. I lead that and help to develop the coaches but also developing good athletes who will go on to compete for Ireland or Britain at a senior level.”

Derek has been at the club since 2005, coaching over 100 athletes, and by day is a full-time teacher. Fellow club member Gaye Conway explained why she nominated Derek for the award: “He’s a natural leader. He is an Olympian himself who competed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and he has passed his skills on.

“That wanting to win and to do their best. It really helps the kids because they know he has been there and done it. He goes over and above every day, puts his life and soul into the club and we’re grateful for that.”

Recent achievements for Derek include a win in the Junior Eight at the Irish Championships in 2023 after narrow second place finishes in 2021 and 2022.

Current athletes under Derek’s guidance, Acorn Cassidy and Oran Harty, shared what makes Derek special to them. Acorn said: “Derek is a fantastic coach. He puts his all into every member of the team. He’s been there for me personally with my own personal life and my sporting life as well. He has a very hard job and he does it to the fullest.”

Oran added: “The greatest impact he’s had on me is that he’s been able to keep me in this sport for as long as I have. His dedication and the inspiration he puts onto those he coaches helps you keep going and get the results.”

Derek concluded: “What I get out of it is seeing kids fulfil their potential. When you see them being successful, It gives everybody a great satisfaction around here. It gives me pleasure to have a hand in giving them that success.

Richard Archibald, Interim CEO, Sport NI congratulated Derek on his award: “Our SportMaker Awards celebrate the coaches, officials, volunteers and projects who go that extra mile to make sport happen in their local communities.

“Derek is using his experience as a former Olympian to inspire and coach the next generation of international rowers and is making a huge difference in his club and community.

“He has helped athletes on their journey to Olympic qualification and we look forward to hearing about the next set of athletes to come from the Royal Enniskillen Boat Club under Derek’s guidance.

“Congratulations Derek – You are a SportMaker!” The Sport NI SportMaker Awards give the sporting community the opportunity to showcase their achievements and give special thanks to coaches, officials and volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make sport happen. There are 12 award categories recognising achievement at all levels of sports participation, from grassroots through to high performance.