The Volunteer Awards 2018 are a chance to celebrate and recognise the unsung heroes amongst all of our volunteers in the Athletics and Running community – volunteers across England have been nominated in 10 categories, and the winners in each of the nine Regions will be announced over the next few weeks. WInners are then put forward to our National Volunteer Awards.
The first of the England Athletics regonal Volunteer Awards were presented last weekend during our Age Group championships in Bedford. All 10 East Region winners received their awards on the Sunday in front of their colleagues, athletes, coaches, officials and spectators.
England Athletics Volunteer Manager Kerry Marland said, “Despite the rain, there were smiles all round as we were able to celebrate our wonderful volunteer winners in the East region at this fantastic competition. Our Volunteer Awards are an incredibly important part of our calendar and we are really happy to kick off our award season with our East celebrations.”
The winners are listed here and excerpts from their nominations are below.
- Athletics Coach of the Year – Mike McNeill
- Athletics Official of the Year – Keith Davidson
- Athletics or Running Club of the Year – North Norfolk Harriers
- Inclusion Award – Mike Utting
- RunTogether Group of the Year – Sawtry Walk to Run Club
- RunTogether Leader of the Year – Danielle Guy
- Services to Athletics or Running – Rhona Foster
- Spirit of 2012 Award – Norma Harris
- Volunteer of the Year – Lawrence Wade
- Young Volunteer of the Year (14-25) – Rebecca Pickard
Athletics Coach of the Year – Mike McNeill
Mike has a real energy with all his athletes and inspires confidence within people may it be athlete or coach, He recently took the role of coaching my daughter and not only has she improved as an athlete but she has grown as a person in confidence and maturity. Mike has been my mentor for six years and shares openly all he knows, He does regional visits helping coaches far and wide and spreading his 30 plus years knowledge within our sport. He also runs the regional talent programme which helps athlete coaches at a high level. Mike also helped out at Loughborough when some top athletes lost their coach he did not hesitate to help out, helping Hollie Arnold amongst many others. Mike has had a tough year due to family illness but he has still strived to reflect at all times and push on, He had his first senior team managers role in Australia this year which I know meant a lot to him.
Mike has been a coach and inspiration to many athletes and coaches for over 30 years. In this time he has produced not only many Internationals, Record holders, Olympians, British Champions, he also helps any athlete of any ability and coaches.
Athletics Official of the Year – Keith Davidson
Keith has been involved in Athletics now for many years since his daughters was competing. Keith then agreed to officiate as a field official. Keith has worked his way up the levels to a level 4 on the field, Keith has officiated at many major televised events including the World outdoor championships in London in 2017 and also done a number of UK and England championships, Keith isn’t afraid to get stuck in and always offers to go the extra mile. As well as this, Keith can always be seen a local league meetings and area championships. Keith is also the Officials Secretary for Cambridge and Coleridge A C and again does an amazing job making sure he has enough Officials to cover the league meeting which can at times be a challenge but always makes sure it is a safe environment for all athletes competing. Keith also works full time which again is a demanding job and still manages to put in 110% effort to the officiating world locally, regionally and nationally.
Athletics or Running Club of the Year – North Norfolk Harriers
Formed 3 years ago, North Norfolk Harriers continue to grow & develop junior athletes of all abilities. Hosting the Norfolk QuadKids strengthened relationships across Norfolk & local Clubs, increasing athletic opportunities for youngsters. NNH also supports the Sportshall series. To meet an increasing demand for volunteers, NNH has funded several people to become qualified coaches. The coaching team provides inclusive training & many parents have commented on huge gains in self-confidence which reaches beyond the athletics environment. With a strong infrastructure highlights of the year include; The Under 13 boys cross country team became champions at the South of England Relays, Athletes placed 3rd & 5th at the National Cross Country Champs, with both athletes representing Norfolk at the English Schools Track & Field Championships, with a top 10 finish at English Schools cross-country, one athlete represented England at the Schools International cross-country championships, finishing 6th.
There is a real buzz on training nights & massive enthusiasm from junior athletes with huge smiles on their faces. Each of them giving their all & having fun. North Norfolk Harriers are truly deserving of being recognised as a Club of the Year.
Inclusion Award – Mike Utting
My name is Katie, and I have a learning disability, My memory is poor. I also have Dystonia, EDS I’ve struggled to feel like an equal with others, fit in.
Mike helps me to feel a part of my running group. He explains to other coaches and athletes how difficult and confusing taking part in sport is for me. Mike encourages me every session and when I can’t, he sends inspirational messages. Mike has found different ways to help me remember what to do, using photographs and putting them into a book helps me to warm up and cool down. This gives me independence and helps me feel like the other athletes. On days where I struggle to move, Mike finds ways of including me, helping me find partners to train with, and reminding me I’m good at what I do. I have felt incredibly isolated in the past trying to take part in sport. Not anymore, my coach helps me to make friends and reminds me of their names and what we did on the last session. He never makes me feel stupid or different to anyone else.
Mike inspires me and encourages me to keep trying. He makes me feel like I’m good at sport, and includes me with everyone else. He adapts each session so I can join in and feel part of the team. I’m finally the same as other athletes thanks to Mike.
RunTogether Group of the Year – Sawtry Walk to Run Club
The small running group that started in October 2017 has blossomed into the EA affiliated Sawtry Walk to Run RunTogether club which offers beginner to competitive programmes and has 160+ members. The club participates in local races and community events. Club members are encouraged to volunteer to give back to the running community. The club is connected to RunTogether through free beginners’ programmes managed through the RunTogether website. The club’s focus is inclusion with running programmes aimed at absolute beginners to more competitive runners. To ensure men felt welcome in a club that was predominantly female, the club enlisted male leaders and helpers. The club actively supports England Athletics’ #RunandTalk Campaign promoting mental wellbeing through running and has three Mental Health Champions ready to help anyone in the club who experiences mental health issues. The club has a trained guide runner for visually impaired runners and plans to set up summer camps to get young people into fitness through running.
The Sawtry Walk to Run club is bringing Sawtry together, helping people become fitter and healthier. They pride ourselves on being inclusive and super friendly but also competitive. They continue to grow through social media and RunTogether programmes.
RunTogether Leader of the Year – Danielle Guy
Danni started ‘Let’s Run Girls’ in July 2016 as a social running group of around 10 members paying £1 each for a weekly run organised through Facebook. But rather than keep the money, Danni invested it by funding ladies to become Run Leaders to expand the reach of the group. Two years later, there are 543 members signed up through Facebook, with 5 runs (beginners and 5k) from different locations to maximise accessibility. The group is now free to members, crowdfunded with source match funding again secured by Danni. A committee now organises the group, but Danni continues to be the driving force behind its success; she provides a friendly, supportive and welcoming environment for members, helping keen members prepare for other running events from 5k to full marathons. This approach has helped many ladies back to exercise who may have otherwise not had confidence. Unsurprisingly, in testimonials for Danni, one sentiment is repeated in all as a description of Danni; she is an inspiration.
Danni is the reason why ‘Let’s Run Girls’ exists and thrives. She empowers women to believe in themselves and supports them every step of the way through kindness, compassion and understanding. She significantly impacts many, many lives.
Services to Athletics or Running – Rhona Foster
Starting as a 12-year-old sprinter, Rhona has nearly 60 years of involvement in athletics & with Stevenage AC, representing the club county and county schools teams. Rhona progressed to become a coach, under the British Athletics Board, & has amassed nearly 50 years of coaching during which she has constantly updated her qualifications. Countless athletes have benefitted from her experience. Later Rhona decided to add officiating to her repertoire, initially qualifying as a field official before adding the track events. A highly respected official, Rhona has officiated at many international, and other high level competitions, with the highlight being the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. But Rhona does not keep this wealth of experience to herself and is always willing to support less experienced officials. She has mentored many officials over the years and continues to support all who ask for her help. With detailed technical knowledge, her advice is always accurate and relevant.
Rhona has never lost touch with her roots and is still a member of the Stevenage club she joined in 1961. Her contribution as an athlete, coach, official and committee member is second to none and I hope that it will continue for many years to come.
Spirit of 2012 Award – Norma Harris
Norma is doing an outstanding job with HCAN Game Changers. Norma has made connections with clubs and schools in Hertfordshire, showing how much can be achieved with a strong community partnership. Her Game Changers are making excellent progress, she recruits more every month and the sheer depth of talent she has harnessed through this programme makes me very excited for the future of Athletics and Running within the county! Her efforts have really brought people together, united behind a common cause, and if that isn’t Team Spirit, I don’t know what is!! Her story should be shouted from the rooftops to show the whole community that reaching into schools is doable, and when done correctly, is immensely successful. Her ingenuity is outstanding, and Hertfordshire is really reaping the benefits of her approach. Fantastic.
Norma does not have an easy job, keeping track of so many Game Changers from so many different places, but she does an outstanding job, and I am inspired by the work she does.
Volunteer of the Year – Lawrence Wade
Lawrence is dedicated & reliable. He assists in organising & developing E A Jnr Ath League, supports youth CoNAC runners as pacesetter/encourager, attends UTT Run Together twice weekly supporting Couch to 5K & ‘Improvers’, creates running programmes and organises & regularly volunteers at Eaton Park Run. If Lawrence sees a need he looks to fulfil it. He liaised re ambulance access considering all park users, resulting in signpost system, devised efficient Park Run system & inducted others in use, and established system for matching visually impaired runners to assisters. Lawrence consistently reaches beyond his usual role with positivity & enthusiasm, including rising at 3am to sort clock & route for Run Norwich, driving UTT members to their 1st 10K race giving guidance & encouragement, staffing Park Run weekly when short & encouraging others to give time. Lawrence sees potential in everyone no matter age/ability. UTT is free with many female, older attendees & individuals with mental disabilities.
Lawrence is remarkable in the wide extent of groups & individuals he freely gives his time to without broadcasting involvement, just getting on with it. Everyone benefits from his expertise & input making him the very definition of an unsung hero.
Young Volunteer of the Year (14-25) – Rebecca Pickard
Progressing from assistant coach Rebecca now leads the Combined Events Squad 3 times a week & helps at Satellite and after Schools Athletics. She recently added the Sprints & Hurdles Event Group qualification to her coaching licence & She travels around the country supporting athletes in her coaching role & as women’s team manager. She also willingly steps in to manage when other team managers are unavailable. An expert field & photo finish official & can often be found supporting less experienced officials at Club and County matches. With wisdom beyond her years Rebecca is a valued club committee member who has also joined the Young Persons Panel and the Regional Council. It is a measure of her ability that she has given a presentation to the EA senior management about the work of the youth panel and was one of a group of 3 Youth Panel members who planned & delivered a workshop about recruiting more young volunteers to the National Volunteers Conference and assisted through the day.
Rebecca gives to athletics more than could be expected of anyone, especially of her age. She is positive & finds solutions, not problems. Her energy & enthusiasm are infectious and appreciated by all which makes her a worthy winner of this award.