East Region Volunteer Award winners announced

The England Athletics Regional Volunteer Award winner evenings continued with a celebration hosted at the Newmarket Race course. The welcoming address was made by Matthew Dalton – East Regional Council Chair, and awards were presented by various members of the Council. Matthew welcomed all the volunteers who were present, and added that there were thousands of people like themselves throughout the country doing what they did year in year out. “Tonight is a wonderful celebration of what makes the sport great – what it is all bout is that you may be coaching a 10 year old who ends up as an Olympian. You’re instilling the life-long love of athletics and enabling everyone to be the best they can be.”

Club of The Year – winner: Leighton Fun Runners

Leighton Fun Runners welcomes athletes of all standards and make a special effort to welcome them on their first club night visit.  They offer a varied programme of events publicised in advance on their website and newsletter. Club camaraderie is high within the club, “no runner left behind”, particularly encouraged at the monthly 5k Cake night when all members wait for the final runner before heading off for refreshments.” The club have introduced additional run sessions outside of the main club night and include a good mix of fun and social events, such as the cake night, Beer Mile and fancy dress runs such as Halloween and Santa Dash.

The club’s policies have been updated to meet England Athletics Club standards with member welfare a high priority. The club organises a First Aid course designed for runners and have jointly funded a defibrillator with their host sports club, and raised £4,000 for charity. To ensure good quality run leaders the club have encouraged and funded run leaders to take up the LiRF/CiRF qualification.

Club of The Year – runner up: Brentwood Beagles AC

Brentwood Beagles AC was set up in May 2022 with the express aim of being a welcoming, all-inclusive club with none of the politics so common to other athletics clubs.  People of all ages and levels of fitness are welcomed and the club has seen huge levels of interest from the 5-10 age group who are not catered for at the majority of other clubs in the area. The club has already enrolled more than 175 members who are returning week on week due to the friendly, fun, but effective coaching models.

The club has paid for volunteers to attend coaching and officiating courses to improve their qualifications and enable them to deliver a better service to our members.  It offers financial assistance to athletes less able to afford track fees, so that no one needs to miss out through lack of funds.

There are so many smiling faces each club night from athletes – and volunteers are also genuinely happy to be at the club and feel appreciated.

Coach of The Year – winner: Simon Mennell

“Simon Mennell is without doubt, the most dedicated coach I have ever met, or had the pleasure to work with” says his nominator. He goes above and beyond to meet the needs of his athletes, in a variety of events. Notably, he became qualified in pole vault to coach athletes who had requested the event; the club now have a growing team of pole vaulters who turn up regularly.

Even after years of coaching, Simon still develops his own coaching techniques and often shares this with the whole coaching team. He has provided patterning drills for younger athletes unable to fully take part in the event. Often, sessions are adapted, making them more fun, and more beneficial.

He enabled the nominator to stay within the sport after being unable to compete – he invited him to join the coaching team and complete qualifications. Our nominator finishes by saying, “I am honoured to work alongside Simon as a coach, and with him as an athlete.”

Coach of The Year – runner up: Derek Darnell

A great volunteer for Huntingdonshire AC; Derek Darnell competes, coaches and officiates as well as having a full time job. This coach puts in so much time for his middle distance squad – he pushes them but makes it fun and motivating. He is keen to listen to athletes and work to develop them both physically and mentally with goals and training plans.  All arrive at the sessions early and are reluctant to leave, they have fostered meaningful relationships across the teenage age group. If you get a PB or a proud moment you get to choose the music for the next week’s training.

Derek continues to encourage his athletes by continuing his own training and competition at road and track events. Members of his group have achieved impressive PBs, broken club records and achieved regional and national rankings. Derek is not only a Coach but is a pivotal and integral part of Hunts AC.

Inspiring official – winner: Steve Thomas

A field judge who has been involved with all levels of T&F matches from local open meetings to international events over many years – including this summer’s Commonwealth Games. Steve Thomas has a vast amount of experience, expertise and technical knowledge. He offers leadership to club and county field teams and always goes the extra mile to make the meeting go smoothly and efficiently.  His overall approach is very professional but always kind and thoughtful which tends to put those around him at ease.

Steve is a real ambassador for the club and the sport as a whole, providing a fantastic example for others.

Inspiring official – runner up: Diane Wooller

“I first met Diane Wooller in a field on a horrible winter’s morning at a cross country event.” says her nominator. “Her enthusiasm on that day has been matched on every other occasion that I have met her. She inspires others to want to volunteer by sharing her experiences and by positively encouraging good practice.”

Diane has been wrangling officials across Essex for over a decade as County Officials’ Secretary – ensuring that so many meetings have been able to go ahead. She doesn’t seek the limelight and I suspect many in Essex athletics have no idea of the contribution she makes. She is incredibly professional – if someone else is in charge she is quietly supportive and allows them to lead – if she wants to give advice she does so quietly and privately. Essex is very lucky to have Diane.

Newcomer to volunteering – winner: Rose Fairhurst

This Coaching Assistant has been a member of the coaching team for the club’s foundation programme, taking younger athletes through Sportshall and outdoor seasons including performance tracking. Rose Fairhurst has contributed to the organisation, team selection and team management for the County Sportshall team, and provided guidance for parents and children. She has also volunteered at QuadKids and officiated.

She is very enthusiastic and engaging with both parents and children alike. She displays the patience needed when working at foundation level athletics but also brings technical skills she has learned and developed through her own participation in athletics. Rose is seen as someone to aspire to within the club and an example to follow, especially for the younger helpers.

Newcomer to volunteering – runner up: Katie Marsh

A well as being an accomplished athlete, Katie Marsh has helped coach a large group of under 11s, happy to devote an hour before her own training to show them how to warm up properly and keeping them engaged.  She explains and demonstrate skills in an appropriate and fun manner – the young athletes love her.  She is trustworthy and dependable and has a hands-on approach to athletics.

Katie was also involved with the launch of funetics; she spent the day with Katarina Johnson-Thompson helping children learn in this inclusive programme designed to develop athletic skills, and KJT was more than impressed with her abilities and confidence. As a result of the day, she is looking to enrol on a coaching course to try and improve even more.

Clearly, with the right encouragement Katie is very much a coach of the future.

Club Leader of the year – winner: Kate Warboys

As Chair and a Director of Newmarket Joggers Kate Warboys has demonstrated effective leadership throughout. One of her key strengths is recognising the skill sets of others and identifying the best use of those skills, forming subcommittees of the appropriate people to progress the Club or implement changes, whilst always remaining approachable and contactable for support and guidance.

Her leadership has enabled the Club to adopt a new communication portal which has significantly reduced the complexity of the secretary roles and enhanced the members’ experience. Kate has worked hard to establish an environment where everyone feels their voice is heard and valued, and has created routes for communication throughout Newmarket Joggers and that volunteers in club roles are part of a supportive team.

Club Leader of the year – runner up: Paul Forrest

As head coach for Brentwood Beagles AC, Paul Forrest writes detailed session plans and takes the time to go through them with individual coaches. He is diligent in researching the latest in coaching theories and techniques and passing them on to other coaching staff and athletes as appropriate to ensure maximum performance is attained. He was recently responsible for organising a hurdle camp/training session with an ex-GB athlete which was a huge success and attracted athletes and their coaches from all over the country.

Paul is visible during each session and is inspiring in his love of coaching and dedication to ensuring athletes meet their full potential.

Community Project of the Year – winner: Alison Bilyard – Great Yarmouth Road Runners

Alison Bilyard agreed to take on the task of coordinating the support to local charities by Great Yarmouth Road Runners. Projects included supplying Easter eggs (donated by local supermarkets) to a young carers group, a quiz night to prepare a stroke victim’s home for his return, a cake and drink sale and raffle for defibrillator charity heart 2 heart, and working with a local church to supply clothing and food to the homeless.

There is a massive buzz within the club and community; she has helped to thrust the club into the minds of many and increased membership numbers. Alison is currently talking to our other clubs in Norfolk to help roll out our ideas to others to benefit not only their local community but England in general

Community Project of the Year – runner up: Elaine Forrest – Brentwood Beagles AC

Due to her 7-year involvement with the Harrow Lodge Junior parkrun, Elaine Forrest established that there were limited options for U11s to engage in athletics locally. Elaine motivated and engaged fellow parkrun parents and others to train as coaches or officials., The newly established Brentwood Beagles AC provides easy access to more advanced running beyond a weekly junior parkrun, or their schools QuadKids events. She established a partnership with local schools to offer a pathway for people to get into athletics, to further hone their skills.

If you were to attend the track on a Tuesday or Thursday you would witness children running, jumping and throwing – dreaming of being the next Olympic champion. All borne out of Elaine recognising that the local Junior parkrun children did not have a natural outlet to further develop their skills.

Services to Athletics – winner: Tony King

Tony King became involved in athletics when his children joined Peterborough AC in 1984, initially as a parent volunteer taking children to matches but was quickly asked if he would become a starter and marksman at the track and so the journey began! At the same time his employer were lead sponsor for the AAAs and a chance meeting with John Disley lead him to take up course measuring for road races; he has measured over at least 500 different courses for local fun runs, club races, national championships and international events.

He is also always prepared to step in as a road race timekeeper, recorder, race marshal, referee or adjudicator, wherever he is needed. His experience also means he is able to advise, help and mentor newer officials. Tony has a friendly and can-do attitude, is respected by runners and officials alike.

Services to Athletics – winner: Bob Kimber

Bob Kimber came to athletics relatively late in life but has since been involved in the region and specifically Colchester for many years. He was an early member of the Colchester Joggers Club in the mid 80’s, then competing for Colchester and Tendring AC into his 70’s as well as coaching. He has filled many roles across the years – Coach, Coach Mentor, Committee Member, Field Referee, Team Manager and Cross Country Manager-.

He has nurtured many runners over the years and produced a steady stream of talented Juniors. Bob has mentored many a new coach coming into the club and will always support anyone who requests his help or advice.

Services to Athletics – winner: Wally Oliver

Wally Oliver has been part of West Norfolk AC since the club formed in the 1960s and has contributed towards every aspect of the club – holding the position of Chairman for 25 years. Starting out as a competitive athlete with a love for sprinting he still holds many club records in various age groups.

He worked on passing his knowledge on to others and became a sprint coach where he has coached a large variety of athletes of all abilities, including those with an IPC classification.

He has been played an essential role within Norfolk’s officiating community, and has worked alongside developing starters and marksmen. He was a county starter for decades – now retired from that role but continues to coach and be part of the Norfolk community as the Athletics Norfolk President.