More sport the better for Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Scotland shinty star Kirsty Deans
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For Kirsty Deans, life revolves around sport.
A PE teacher in Forres by day, most of Deans’ evenings over the last decade have been spent on a training pitch.
In football, she is Inverness Caledonian Thistle Women’s number seven, while in shinty she is Scotland and Badenoch Ladies captain – and last season she was the top scorer in either the men’s or the women’s game with 68 goals.
It is rare for anyone to play to a high level in two sports at senior level, but as a youngster Deans’ repertoire was even more varied, as hockey was her main sport through university while she also played tennis, as well as sailing and skiing.
The benefits of young people especially taking part in several sports can be debated by coaches, with some preferring specialisation to maximise the possibility of success in a single discipline.
Deans, though, is a big advocate of the advantages of playing anything you can.
“I think it’s really good to do for a couple of reasons, lots of sports have so many transferable skills,” Deans explained.
“You can get reactions from tennis or table tennis coming into shinty or football, and decision-making, things that help in any sporting environment.
“Having the chance to work with different people, mix with different groups, you get a better understanding of the social side of teams and what is expected too.
“Everyone has a range of strengths and weaknesses, so as a sportsperson you can pick up those wee things from all sorts of different contexts, so I think the more sports you can get into the better.
“In my job, with the kids in PE, we try and give them a range so that they can try and find something that they want to take forward, but also we talk a lot about those transferable skills – although the focus might not be on our accuracy in this activity, it was in the last one, and the same principles apply and carry over.
“I think it’s really important, and I think it’s something that has helped me as a sportsperson.”
Trying to play two sports at a high level comes with its own challenges – especially when matches clash.
Thankfully for Deans, training sessions have been on different nights, but matchdays are usually the same, forcing her to pick between shinty and football.
Over the years, more often than not football has won that battle, but in recent seasons that has changed in shinty’s favour as the women’s game has grown.
“There weren’t as many women’s teams, so you didn’t actually get that many games, and I felt that if I did shinty then you can’t just expect to play football the next week having missed the week before,” Deans said.
“The last two years have been the first ones that I’ve chosen shinty over football.
“The difference between when I started in shinty and now is enormous, it’s crazy how much it has come on.
“We’ve had big numbers at the summer camps – obviously this one didn’t go ahead – but I’ve coached there over the last couple of years and the numbers have been really good.
“Last year I think we had over 50 under-18s at it. It’s really encouraging, and that means the competition gets better and it becomes more enjoyable.
“As teams play more they will improve, and then the competition will be even stronger, which is a good motivator for people as well.
“For the likes of me coming back in, if there is more competition it makes you more determined to do well, so it will draw people in. The more numbers and competitiveness we have, the better it is.”
As well as playing in two sports, teaching and coaching, over lockdown this summer, Deans was co-opted on to the board of the Camanachd Association.
Unsurprisingly, it is not something she felt she had the time to dedicate herself to in the past, but she has enjoyed seeing the other side of sport.
“I’m really keen to help drive the game forward, so when they asked I signed up and it has definitely been something to help keep me busy,” she added.
“If a decision is made and as a player that’s all you hear, you sometimes think that can’t be right and you go against it, and you don’t think about all the influences that have gone into that decision.
“This allows me to empathise with the board a little bit more having seen how it works.
“When we’re making any decision, it’s a big process like any other organisation – it goes to the board and a vote, no decision is taken quickly.
“It reminds you as a player or a coach that when it’s not something you would have done, there are actually lots of people behind it that have mused over it and decided what the best thing is.”