SINCE taking on the role of Club Together Officer, Gerry Moss has helped to take athletics club Gala Harriers from strength to strength and has also been the driving force behind the club successfully being granted charitable status this year.

With eight marathons under his belt, this qualified coach, former club president and community campaigner has worked tirelessly to promote athletics in the Borders and enhance the community he lives in.

Jeni Brus talks to Gerry about his role as Club Together Officer and why the Harriers, after 115 years, continues to flourish.

After joining the Gala Harriers a number of years ago, Gerry Moss has become increasing involved in the club, and for many is the first point of contact.

Friendly, down-to-earth and with a strong commitment to the development of the club, Gerry Moss has helped to steer the Harriers through a number of milestones since taking on the role of Club Together Officer in 2013.

It was retiring President David Hunter who introduced the role of Club Together Officer to the club, initially carrying out the role before Gerry’s appointment. The role was developed as part of a Scottish Athletics initiative called the Club Together Partnership Project, aimed at helping clubs develop and improve, ultimately increasing participation and improving athlete performances. It is part-funded by Borders Sport and Leisure Trust (now Live Borders), Scottish Athletics and Gala Harriers.

Gerry put his name forward for the post and was interviewed by Gala Harriers Committee members.

He said: "I felt I wanted to put something back into the club.

"I had been a member for a number of years, had just become an Assistant Coach and had been elected club President in 2012. Following a successful interview, I was appointed Club Together Officer by the committee in 2013.

“One of my first jobs as Club Together Officer was to take the club from a Scottish Athletics Foundation Level Club to a Podium Award Level Club – the top level in terms of affiliated clubs.

“There was a lot of work to put in place. Scottish Athletics needed to see that we had a strong committee, that welfare was a priority, that we had a secretary and treasurer in place, and that we had an up to date constitution.

"I took the lead in taking us towards the Podium Award and we received that the following year.”

Gerry worked hard to develop the club’s website and then introduced online membership.

The club started to promote its junior section – and membership soared.

“We had built up a good foundation – we had lots of coaches and we were in a strong position to cope with the extra members,” he said.

“We had between 80 and 100 junior members and 60 seniors and affiliated members. This has now soared to 152 juniors and 86 active senior members.”

At the time, many of the youngsters at the club stopped training during the winter so it was then decided to introduce an indoor session from September to March.

“We wanted to encourage youngsters to continue training over the winter and introducing the indoor session was a great success,” Gerry revealed.

“I also represented the Gala Harriers on the Borders Cross Country Committee which was a way of giving our juniors the opportunity to compete locally in various cross country events.

"These events have grown from strength to strength and we now see the events full every year."

Buoyed by increased participation, the club decided to hold its first Club Championships for juniors in 2014 – an event which has continued annually since then.

The club also holds a number of events for adult members and families such as the Easter 5k and the Holybush 10k.

They hosted the East District 10k Championships recently and help to organise and run the Rowan Boland Trust fun run and races. The club is also looking at hosting a new flagship race this year to attract runners from all over the country to take part.

2014 was an important year for the club and athletics in Scotland as the country hosted the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Gerry became chairperson of the Tweedbank Sports Hub and worked with Borders Sport and Leisure Trust to bring the Commonwealth Games Baton Relay to Tweedbank, putting on an event at the track involving children from schools throughout the Borders. The event was a great success and athletics clubs throughout the Borders have benefitted from the Commonwealth Games legacy.

The Sports Hub also campaigned for funding to replace the worn track surface at Tweedbank. Following a successful funding bid spearheaded by Gerry, work on laying the new surface was completed in November 2013 with the floodlights being installed in January 2016.

With the new track surface and facilities in place, Gerry then began to work with other Border clubs to organise open graded athletics events at Tweedbank. In the past, athletes had to travel to Edinburgh and further afield to run, jump and throw competitively and try and qualify for events and competitions.

Gerry said: “I work alongside Team Borders Team Manager Gregor Nicholson in holding these events as some are trials for Team Borders in the Forth Valley League and help put a team together for these events.

“From a Gala Harriers point of view, we are making sure we feed our juniors into these events too, giving them opportunities to compete as part of a team.”

Membership has also swelled due to Gerry’s partnership with Active Schools, offering six and eight week blocks of athletics throughout the Borders cluster schools.

“We’ve run sessions for several schools in the area, from Heriot to St Boswells and many schools in between. It’s a non-club environment where kids can try out athletics and then hopefully feed into Gala Harriers if they enjoy it.”

The Club Together Officer post is aimed at boosting participation in athletics and improving athletes’ performances – and Gerry is succeeding in both areas.

Membership numbers are going up and a number of athletes – both junior and senior – have achieved podium places at local, district and national level. For 2016, the club’s highly successful ladies masters team won both Club Sport Ettrick and Lauderdale Team of the Year and the Live Borders Celebration of Sport Team of the Year Award.

The club has grown from strength to strength, and on March 31, led again by Gerry with the support of the Harriers committee, the club was officially granted charitable status.

This allows the club now to attract funding for projects and to claim Gift Aid. It also means that in the event of legal action being taken the club is liable rather than the individual, giving their coaches and volunteers more protection. As a charity, all the money the club makes is also fed straight back into the club for the benefit of its members.

As well as investing much of his time in the development of Gala Harriers, Gerry has also been part of Langlee Residents Association since 2006. The Association has pushed forward a number of improvement projects in the Langlee community. It has provided community gardens and also submitted a successful lottery bid to provide a play park in the area. They are currently working with Langlee Community Council on providing a community trail network running from Langlee to Ladhope, and extending onto Stow.

In his time with Harriers, Gerry has progressed from assistant coach, and now is a fully qualified coach, delivering sessions alongside a number of committed coaches and assistants at the club. He marshalls at races throughout the Borders and helps to organise and run a number of the club’s races and events. In 2016, Gerry took over the running of the Disability athletics sessions, now held at the track on Tuesday nights from 5.10 to 6.10 p.m. He also coaches some of the adult sessions, and as well as the indoor sessions for juniors during the winter, Gerry helps to coach run, jump and throw sessions at the track.

Gerry’s three children, Thomas (24), Darragh (21) and Catriona (18), have been involved in athletics and other sports throughout their lives. Gerry’s involvement with the Harriers was an opportunity to give something back to sport. He said: “It’s a pleasure to see how the kids progress and to see how their involvement in athletics helps them become rounded adults."

With a strong committee, a large number of committed coaches and volunteers, and an ever-increasing membership, the future looks bright for Gala Harriers. So what are Gerry’s hopes for the future of the club?

“We will build on the club’s charitable status and continue to raise awareness of the club and the opportunities available, as well as fundraising for the club,” Gerry said.

“I hope that the club will continue to blossom and that members will continue to reach their full potential, whether they’re competing or non-competing members.”

And with the incredible commitment and time Gerry invests in the club, backed by an enthusiastic committee, coaches, volunteers and members, Gala Harriers will undoubtedly continue to flourish.