Celebrating our unsung heroes of 2021 in the South West

The penultimate awards night in this year’s Regional Volunteer Awards saw us pay a virtual visit to the South West region to celebrate the outstanding work of athletics and running volunteers. Their contribution has been vital in helping to navigate our sport through such a challenging year.

Broadcast live on our YouTube channel, we honoured the Regional Volunteer Award winners and runners-up for the South West:

Our England Athletics Regional Volunteer Award winners and runners-up for the South West are:

Club of the Year: Yate and District AC

Yate & District Athletic Club were at the forefront of providing local athletics league competitions during Covid restrictions and, thanks to a great effort by club members, were able to do this in a way that was responsible and safe. As a result, they have become the go-to club for competition in their area, and the club as a whole is thriving.

Volunteers receive funded training, be it for coaching or officiating courses, and there is a huge variety of training on offer. This in turn has led to much success amongst the membership, with athletes competing at almost every level. The club is also actively seeking to offer adaptive athletics for those with disabilities.

Runner-up: Yeovil Olympiads AC

Coach of the Year: Bruce Holden, North Somerset AC

The restrictions imposed by lockdown gave North Somerset AC’s throws coach, Bruce Holden, an opportunity to improve and expand his coaching delivery, in turn enabling his group of athletes to achieve even more. His detailed knowledge of movement patterns meant he could develop training programmes for his athletes to work on key areas, despite Covid and this has resulted in impressive progress in performance.
Understated in his approach, Bruce has developed a great rapport with his training group and makes himself available to coach both for small groups and one to one and as a result his group is setting an impressive series of personal bests as well as breaking records.

Runner-up: Sam Hiller Smith

Newcomer to Officiating: Henrietta Anstey, Bristol and West AC

Having done her Timekeeper and Track Judge courses just before lockdown, Henrietta then had to wait more than a year to get her Level 1 qualification. Since then she has more than made up for lost time by taking every opportunity to gain experience, getting stuck in as soon as competitions started again. A great team player and always ready to help athletes understand what is needed, Henrietta spends most weekends on the track as an official and sometimes even finds time to compete too.

Unsung Hero: Ellen Taylor, Membership Secretary, Yate and District AC

Ellen has been Membership Secretary at Yate and District AC for over ten years, and until recently managed the subscription process manually. Now, however, she has created and manages a very successful online membership system, something very much needed as her club enjoys a boom in numbers. Not only this, but she also takes on tasks such as match day commentating, compering the club awards night and sometimes even turning her hand to cleaning

Friendly, outgoing and ready to take on any role, Ellen is the perfect membership manager as she can put everyone at ease and make them feel welcome.

Runner-up: Vicky Bodman

Young Volunteer of the Year: James Viner, Yate and District AC

As well as being a successful throws athlete James is a keen and willing official and coach. He has completed his Level 2 Field Official qualification and has also taken his Coaching Assistant award, all this whilst also achieving a UK top ten ranking in his first year as an U20 athlete. James is always happy to give up time for his club, helping to set up, officiate and clear up at competitions, whilst at the same time being ready to compete in disciplines outside his own, such as long jump and high jump if it will help score points for his club.

Dedicated to his sport and his club, James is a great role model to the athletes around him, young and old.

Runner-up: Jack Gunning

RunTogether Group of the Year: Avon Valley Runners

This group was formed at the height of the pandemic, with the aim being to give a small group of runners an opportunity to get out, start running again within the scope of the restrictions, and enjoy the company of other runners, previously forbidden by the restrictions. Word quickly spread and several small groups were formed to cope with demand, enabling people to support and encourage each other, and, thanks to the efforts of their leaders, enable some to take on their first 5k.

The friendly, relaxed atmosphere has made the group very popular, and members keep in touch through a messenger group known as Chicken Chat. Why Chicken? Because the local fried chicken franchise provided free parking, and the name stuck!

Runner-up: Lady Runners of Cheltenham

Leader of the Year: Tina Watson, Pewsey Plodders

With a relaxed and welcoming approach Tina has inspired those in her group to achieve much more than they thought possible, providing regular opportunities to run combined with a variety of training sessions. Many had not imagined they would be able to take on speed training such as hill repetitions, Fartlek and interval training, but Tina has made them both accessible and enjoyable, enabling her runners to surpass their expectations and exceed their 5k target. To keep the group connected Tina set up a WhatsApp group so they can chat to each other, and also encourages them to use Strava to help them cheer each other on and share their achievements.

Runner-up: Julie Pegoraro

Innovation in athletics and running: Neal Edwards, City of Plymouth AC

As soon as it looked like lockdown had stopped his athletes training, Neal Edwards got things started again with three Zoom sessions a week, ensuring they kept working on fitness and core strength. That was backed up with FaceTime sessions where he could watch them training and provide tips and advice.

Then, when restrictions eased he straight away set up one to one training, keeping everyone in touch and motivated, ready for when they could be back on the track. This dedication to the needs of his athletes meant that they came out of lockdown fitter than when they went in, proved by Neal having nine of his training group achieving ESSA selection, and seven making it to a final.

Runner-up: Sean Price

Services to athletics or running: Geoff Cole, Yeovil Olympiads AC

As Chairman of Yeovil Olympiads AC since 2013 Geoff Cole had always put a great deal of work into ensuring the club operated smoothly, but when Covid struck, along with the associated risks and restrictions, like many other committee members, Geoff found his workload increased dramatically. Undeterred he immediately set about finding ways for athletes to train, competitions to go ahead when allowed, and most impressively, major modernisation work to be carried out which allowed disabled athletes to have access to the clubhouse and its facilities.

All this was achieved, through tenacity, a willingness to listen to those around him and drive work forward despite the very difficult conditions caused by Covid.

Runner-up: Mick Morris


Volunteering

We are incredibly proud of the heritage of volunteering within our sport; from coaches to officials, run leaders to volunteer coordinators, tuck shop organisers to club secretaries. Our sport simply wouldn’t happen without volunteers. Click here to see how you can get involved.