“There’s nothing better than seeing an athlete progress in their sport after listening to your advice and feedback,” said Glasgow Eagles basketball coach Barry McFarlane.

Thirty-three-year-old Barry, who has been part of the Special Olympics Great Britain movement for more than 20 years has enjoyed a remarkable basketball career as an athlete, winning three gold medals at National Summer Games and a silver medal in the 2007 Special Olympics World Games in Shanghai.

However, he has also made great progress in coaching after completing his Level 1 qualification in basketball in 2014 at the recommendation of Glasgow Eagles club coaches.

“I still consider myself an athlete first, but I’ve spent a lot more time coaching over the last five to six years, said Barry.

“It felt like a natural progression for me to become a coach when I stopped playing, but the opportunity came sooner than expected and I said yes. Having played the game for so long, I wanted to give back and it’s so rewarding when you do.

“You’re passing on your own experiences and when you see athletes putting into practice your suggestions, it makes it feel so worthwhile.”

Given his incredible journey in basketball, Barry’s experiences would certainly add a lot to any aspiring athlete within the Special Olympics movement.

“It’s been a long, but extremely worthwhile journey with Special Olympics GB,” said Barry.

“I first got involved in Special Olympics GB back in 2003 as my school had connections with Glasgow Eagles. I was playing a lot of basketball and so joining Glasgow Eagles gave me the opportunity to play even more.

“Things accelerated very quickly as the National Summer Games were coming to Glasgow in 2005.

“I was still quite young and had gone from training with my friends at school to playing at a national competition in my home city with a crowd behind us.

“It was quite nerve-wracking, but I relished every moment. We also won the gold medal, which meant so much to us Glaswegians.

“After winning that competition, I wanted more and two years later I was fortunate enough to be selected for the World Games in Shanghai.

“I was still only 17 at the time and I had never been as far away as China before, let alone without my family for two and a half weeks. However, I was in great company, and we had excellent coaches who helped make the experience so enjoyable.

“Each country had their own style of playing and so we developed our own game. That’s something that I quickly took on board, in being able to adapt to different ways of playing.

“We won a silver medal, narrowly missing out to Australia in the final, but we made memories that will last a lifetime. I’m so grateful to have had that experience of representing my country, but to have also met so many different athletes from around the world and experienced a completely different culture at such a young age.

“After Shanghai, I went to the National Summer Games in Leicester in 2009, where we won another gold medal.

“It was eight years before I got to go to another National Summer Games, but I was part of the squad for Sheffield in 2017, where I won my third gold medal.”

During the National Summer Games in Sheffield, Barry got his first experience of working with a team in competition.

“Alongside competing, I helped support the 3x3 women’s basketball team as a coaching assistant.

“It was a new experience, but it made me want to do more. Particularly given that the team went on to win gold! I felt so proud looking on as they were all presented with their medals.”

It was only three years earlier that Barry completed his Level 1 qualification after the recommendation from Glasgow Eagles Secretary, Alec Watt.

“Alec asked me if I would be interested in learning to become a coach. I had always had an interest, but had a chat with my basketball coaches, who were then Alastair Cameron and his Dad, the late Willie Cameron.

“They were also very supportive, so I said yes and I’m so glad that I did.

“I’ve been fortunate to have worked under several great coaches in Alec, Alastair and Willie.

“Alec really is Mr Glasgow Eagles. Calling him a legend would be an understatement and so many athletes have him to thank for the journeys that we’ve been on. But I’ve also got a lot to thank Alastair and Willie for.

“They both had very strong playing careers, with Willie having played for Scotland. I feel very fortunate to have been able to tap into their knowledge over the years as it’s helped me become the coach that I am today.

“All three have helped me learn more about basketball and develop simple drills that I’ve been able to run to help our athletes become better players.”

Having been a qualified coach for more than 10 years, Barry is ambitious but is still very much enjoying his playing days as well.

“I’m 33 now, so whilst I’m keen to keep playing for a few years, I’m delighted to have a pathway into coaching. I’ll always make myself available to coach when there are athletes who are keen to learn.

“I would like to get my level two qualification, but I just need to balance it with my job as a gym instructor, which is also coaching.

“The best advice that I could give an athlete who wants to become a coach is to try it. If you’re wondering, just jump into it as you’ll learn so much more, and there’s every chance you’ll enjoy it if you love your sport.

“It’s just been an amazing experience and a great thing to have on your CV. Showing that you’ve coached different people shows that you’re a leader.

“If it could happen, I would love to coach at national or international events one day and I’ll certain put my name forward if an opportunity were to arise.

Ultimately, whether it’s playing or coaching, I don’t know what I would have done without sport. I would imagine I would have been successful to an extent without sport, but I couldn’t have got to where I am now.”