It is with the deepest and most profound sadness that we have learned that our board member and Vice Chair, Janice Eaglesham died suddenly yesterday, Sunday 21st July.
Janice has been involved with the UK Sports Association for over 15 years, driving, guiding and committing to enabling athletes with intellectual disability in sport. From the very outset, her commitment, passion and enthusiasm were at the forefront of all that she did. Her leadership at Board has been exemplary and her vision for the future unwavering. Janice went over and above what could be reasonably expected, not just in her work at UKSA, but her support to the countless volunteers and families involved and the many other organisations, including our colleagues at Scottish Disability Sport, where she also led from the front in her role as Chair.
Over 30 years ago, Janice with her husband Ian set up Red Star Athletics Club in Glasgow, at the time the very first club of its kind for athletes with disabilities. With her exceptional dedication, again alongside Ian the club has gone from strength to strength and is recognised as one of Scotland’s leading clubs. Whilst often visibly leading the way in all that she did with so many, just behind the scenes she was there too, preparing the nuts and bolts to make sure things happened. An athletics coach, mentor, educator, advocate and guide. Quietly, without presumption, or expectation of acknowledgement, she did it all because she loved it.
Janice coached a number of athletes at performance level but equally encouraged many just to get active and enjoy sport as a lifelong hobby. Her coaching roles were many either within Red Star, through UKSA, or through her work and roles with Scottish Disability Sport, British Athletics and Scottish Athletics.
Her educator credentials saw her instrumental in delivering disability awareness training across the UK and she was a driving force behind the development of UKSA’s My Sport, My Voice! Training workshops, readily stepping in to deliver the programme and support our athletes to shine.
Believing passionately that young people with learning disability had the right to the same opportunities in sport and in life, Janice tirelessly worked at every opportunity to see that happen. She represented UKSA wholeheartedly and consistently and passionately advocated for inclusion, equality and parity at every opportunity.
In 2011, with her husband Ian, the couple won the BBC’s Unsung Hero Award at the Sports Personality of the Year and both had the honour of carrying the Olympic/Paralympic Torch in 2012.
In 2016, the couple were honoured in receiving the MBE for Services to Disability Sport, an honour that Janice readily attributed to so many others, in particular all of the athletes she had met and worked with over her career.
As hundreds of memories and tributes flood in, particularly across social media for this incredible lady; she is described as a ‘gem’, ‘one in a million’, ‘a guide and mentor’ ‘an incredible coach’ and her passing leaving a ‘Janice shaped hole that can never be filled’ – it is evident just how many lives she touched over the years.
On a personal note, I describe Janice as a leader, a mentor, a professional and honest lady of a rare calibre, funny, charismatic, intelligent, modest and a woman of great depth. But above all Janice was a friend. A friend to me personally, to UKSA, to young disabled people across the UK and many across the world. A true lady, and one that will always be missed. Her contribution to disability sport in Scotland, across the UK and in many parts of the world cannot be overstated. She has touched many lives. We have lost a true advocate and friend.
We are honoured to have known you, to have learned from you, worked with you and to be able to call you our friend. Rest in peace Janice and rest assured your legacy will go on.
The Board’s and wider UKSA Family’s thoughts and prayers are with her husband Ian and family members.
The funeral will be held on Wednesday 31st July at 11.00am at South Lanarkshire Crematorium, G72 0TL. A reception will be held afterwards at the Parkville Hotel in Blantyre.
In a moving message, Janice’s husband Ian has asked that as a tribute to Janice, those attending wear bright colours, that athletes wear their club or national kit if they wish and he respectfully asks that no cards or flowers are sent.
Tracey McCillen, Chief Executive
UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability