When Ryan Candy got into ice skating by chance, he probably didn’t realise he would go on to become NISA’s youngest judge.
The 20-year-old from Aberdeen started skating over 11 years ago in 2006, having decided to try out new and random activities.
The sense of community and belonging Ryan found in ice skating meant he enjoyed the new sport even more, and he trained regularly into his teens.
Like many busy students, at the age of 16 Ryan found himself able to devote less and less time to his skating.
Unwilling to turn his back on the sport completely, but unable to put in the same time, Ryan looked into volunteering as a judge.
At the time, members had to be 18 years old to become involved in the judges and officials training initiative. He contacted Judy Clinton, NISA Judges and Officials Director, to see if she could help.
Because of young and enthusiastic volunteers like Ryan, Judy forged the development of the Youth Trainee Programme, which aimed to support young people who wanted to contribute to the sport.
Ryan said: “Initially trying out ice skating was totally random for me, but I quickly realised what a social and inclusive sport it is. I was hooked.
“It’s a small community but you really feel part of a bigger picture, it’s a very special and welcoming sport and that’s what I liked the most about it.
“But in my teens, because of university and other commitments, I didn’t have the same time that I used to for ice skating.
“I didn’t want to leave it completely though. So I decided to give back in another way, and I was really interested in judging.
“When I was skating I was lucky enough to be exposed to a brilliant network of experienced judges, and I wanted to help give that same opportunity to other young skaters.
“But I was just 16, and you had to be 18 to train to be a judge at the time. This is why Judy introduced the Youth Trainee programme, to accommodate young people like myself.”
Today Ryan helps mainly with tests and local competitions in Scotland, but attends other events in the UK whenever he is able.
Ryan still skates as well as offering his services as a judge, and is keen to offer support to other young people who want to follow his footsteps.
He added: “I think volunteering is so important for the continuity of the sport. We have a fantastic, strong and skilled judging force and it’s important to keep it going with fresh new faces.
“Getting youth engaged is vital, and it’s actually a brilliant way for students to develop their life skills too.
“I have learned so much as a skater, but as a judge I’ve developed a whole new level of understanding, both in skating and my everyday life.
“Volunteering is a great way to give back and remain involved when circumstances change. But I can understand why youngsters might be hesitant.
“As long as you aren’t afraid to ask for help and go for it, it’s such a rewarding experience. I’m always happy to offer young volunteers help and advice if they have any questions - they’re doing something great just by taking the first step.”
The National Ice Skating Association is supported by a fantastic network of volunteers, including the entire judging and officials team.
We can’t say a big enough "thank you" to all the volunteers who put time and effort into supporting ice skating.
We’re always looking to welcome more on board, if you’re interested in becoming a NISA volunteer please contact firstname.lastname@example.org