Shinty - The Bright Future of Scotland's Community Sport
At the beating heart of the ‘spirit’ of the Highlands and Islands is our communities. From the kindness of strangers to the traditions which shape us - the community spirit of the Highlands and Islands is stronger than ever. There are endless ways to experience this community spirit, wherever you go in the region, but perhaps the best way to appreciate this is on the field watching a game of Scotland’s national and most unique sport - shinty!
As Scotland’s most culturally significant sport, the communities of the Highlands and shinty have an indescribable connection. Generations of families have a strong relationship with the game and, as such, shinty is now a truly indispensable part of Highland culture. The roots of shinty are equally as fascinating as the game itself and can be traced back to the 6th-8th centuries, where the name ‘camanachd’ emerged. Rooted in the Gaidhealtachd, shinty shares the same historic links as hurling and camogie - two of Ireland’s most iconic Gaelic sports - and bando, of Welsh fame. The origins of the name ‘shinty’ are often contested but regardless, what remains crucial is that since its inception shinty has been a sport entirely for the community.
Shinty remains an exciting, fast-paced physical contact sport. The objective of the game, like hockey, is for each team to obtain the most goals using a caman. Unlike hockey, however, the ball can be played in the air and with both sides of the caman which gives shinty a thrilling extra dimension for spectators.
The modern game has been greatly shaped by its shift to a more organised sport, largely due to the increasing industrialisation in the 18th and 19th centuries and the growing availability of transport links. This year will mark the 130th anniversary of the Camanachd Association, the formation of which, on one historic October night in Kingussie's Victoria Hall, would see the development of shinty into the sport we recognise today. Since its foundation the Camanachd Association, the national governing body for shinty, continues to support teams and players across Scotland as well as effectively promote and foster the modern growth and future of the sport.
A BRILLIANT TODAY AND A BRIGHTER TOMORROW
I think stepping out on to the park, you're doing it not just for yourself but for the community.
-Craig Mainland, Captain of Lovat Shinty Club
The present-day game continues to go from strength to strength. It continues to bring people of all ages together in the spirit of friendly competition and in celebration of local sporting excellence at all levels. Each year, the start of the March to November shinty season is highly anticipated and its hard to miss the buzz of excitement in the air.
While historically shinty has been a male-dominated sport, the women's game has grown significantly in the past few years. Governed by the Women's Camanachd Association, women's shinty has received great support from and greater visibility within the wider community. With clear path progressions in both the men's and women's games, the sport is also more accessible than ever for new players. As a result, shinty is growing quickly with more new clubs being formed across Scotland and internationally each year. Also, with the creation of First Shinty and other opportunities to support younger players across Scotland, an ever brighter future of the sport and next generation of players and coaches is being supported.
An expanding network of local Shinty Memories Groups across the Highlands continue to keep fond community memories and the lively past of the game alive. The groups have grown as the result of a collaborative project - 'Sports Scotland Heritage' - which saw the Camanachd Assocation and bodies representing five other sports utilise their archives, alongside additional resources, to support the well-being of people living with dementia, depression, and loneliness as well as other mental health issues. Today, the project has developed a suite of digital resources, including stories, podcasts and Shinty Yearbooks, which celebrate and preserve the rich community heritage of shinty for future generations.
At its core, shinty represents a seamless fusion of land, people, culture and heritage - an ultimate embodiment of the Spirit of the Highlands and Islands. Never forgetting its past but with a constantly forward-thinking approach, Scotland's community sport will undoubtedly continue to evolve and inspire future players and audiences nationwide and all over the world.