East Midlands Regional Volunteer Awards winners and runners-up

We’re approaching the half way mark of this year’s England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards – highlighting the unbelievable contribution of Athletics and Running volunteers across the country and, for 2020, shining a light on the vital role they have played in navigating our sport through the impacts of Covid-19.

On the fourth leg of our virtual regional awards tour of England, we headed to the East Midlands! Broadcast live online, we were delighted to be able to honour the remarkable dedication, enthusiasm and pure graft shown by volunteers throughout the East Midlands who have had such a positive impact on Athletics and Running during such a unique and challenging year.

Our England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards winners and runners-up for the East Midlands are…

Athletics and Running @home Award – East Midlands

Winner: Rushcliffe AC

Congratulations to Rushcliffe Athletic Club for winning the England Athletics Regional Volunteer Athletics & Running @Home award for the East Midlands. Just before the start of lockdown #1, the first leg of the RAC Covid-19 virtual relay began with teams challenged to run as far as they could in 19 minutes. By keeping the club active, both physically and socially, as normal training routines went out of the window, the club’s virtual relay became a welcome lifeboat of fitness-focused fun for the whole club, connecting them as a thriving and supportive community at a time when they couldn’t meet on the track as normal. The virtual relay was just the beginning: the club’s wonderful coaches put together regular training sessions for members of all ages including intervals, strength and conditioning exercises and competitions plus HIIT sessions. The community came together by email, Facebook, on Twitter, via WhatsApp groups and even meeting up for some zoom training seminars. For members, their one permitted daily exercise session was a real lifeline in a very difficult time: their coaches gave this time a real focus and purpose, but most importantly gave them all something fun to look forward to every single day.

Runner-up: Kevin Smith (Newark AC)

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Club of the Year – East Midlands

Winner: Notts Women Runners

The Club of the Year award for the East Midlands goes to Notts Women Runners. With 21 sub-groups across the county, the club is known for the support and friendship it offers to everyone regardless of their age, preferred distance or speed – a totally inclusive women’s running group. The club’s ethos is accessibility with no one ever being left behind. Ladies have the choice to join as members or purely attend social runs once they have completed their beginners programme. Each sub group runs at least one free beginners (couch to 5k) group over a 10 week period culminating with a parkrun graduation. Free improvers groups (5k-10K) are provided culminating in a graduation 10k at Clumber Park National Trust property. Runs are inclusive and social, a time to chat to friends, and no one is made to feel that they are not good enough. During lockdown, members were supported with regular contact ensuring everyone was up-to-date with current guidelines as well as with running activities and challenges. Support and advice, when asked for, is shared on both running and non-running issues which has directly improved member retention because of the assistance they receive on their individual journeys.

Runner-up: Wreake & Soar Valley AC

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Coach of the Year – East Midlands

Winner: Jonathan Wain (Chesterfield & District AC)

Coach of the Year for the East Midlands is Jonathan Wain of Chesterfield & District Athletics Club. Jonathan specialises in throws and his dedication to helping athletes unlock their potential shone through in his nomination. Jo has created his own throws group Facebook page to keep in touch with his athletes and share ideas with them. He is organised and has his sessions planned out in advance of delivery so the athletes he coaches know which disciplines he will be coaching on which days: he makes this available to other coaches to ensure that the cage, circle and runway are available to use by other coaches. He consistently encourages the athletes he coaches and is continually improving his knowledge through England Athletics Coach & Athlete Training Days and attendance at other events so as to better serve them. During lockdown he shared sessions with the athletes he coaches so that they could continue to train and indeed compete through the virtual competitions. He works with other coaches in other disciplines to ensure that athletes who train with more than just his group are at the right sessions with the appropriate coaches. Jo also takes new athletes for ad-hoc sessions to relieve the pressure on other coaches.

Runner-up: Maxine Robbins (Notts AC)

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Run Leader of the Year – East Midlands

Winner: Kristina Cressey (Abington Park Joggers)

Abington Park Joggers’ improvers group is headed up by Kristina (Krissy) Cressey who has won this year’s Run Leader of the Year award for the East Midlands. Her infectious enthusiasm, meticulous planning and encouraging style has enabled her to bring a group of people with a wide range of ability and experience together to have fun and run at the same time. During lockdown she created online challenges and continued to motivate, offer advice and praise everyone. Krissy plans her runs to accommodate all abilities with graded sections that are a challenge but enable everyone to work at their own level. Every session has a ‘cheat option’ i.e. a permitted short cut or fewer reps which also helps to keep the group together. She constantly looks for new ideas and shares new programmes, lockdown suggestions, online courses and sessions in the leaders group with Abington Park Joggers. She knows so many techniques that sessions are always about learning to be better and more efficient runners. Krissy is the RunTogether leader who has taken on designing and tracking everyone’s progress through an online training programme. She also acts as an unofficial pace setter for any member who wants personalised encouragement in parkruns.

Runner-up: Dawn Nadin (Notts Women Runners)

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Official of the Year – East Midlands

Winner: Wendy Kane (Notts AC)

In the nomination form for the Regional Volunteer Official of the Year award, the winner, Wendy Kane of Notts Athletic Club, was described as “the perfect official”. The reason given for this was her ability to make athletes feel welcome at the start line and she calmly and clearly gives instructions which puts nervous competitors at ease. She always does this with a smile on her face and even cracks the occasional joke. Wendy makes athletics happen, but she also makes it fun: this approach may be as a result of her own experience as an athlete being a British Masters walking champion and European medallist. Wendy constantly promotes athletics and officiating to help make our amazing sport happen. She also encourages and supports others to get involved and expand their experience. She is a very supportive individual and is much admired by her officiating peers and athletes. She’s a true role model: an official, but not officious. Whatever the event, from open, league and championship events in Nottinghamshire, further afield at regional and national events such as the British Championships, or Diamond League, Wendy seems to be there, giving up her free time for the benefit of others.

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RunTogether Group of the Year – East Midlands

Winner: Squirrels Running Group

Squirrels Running Group, based in Broughton Astley village in Leicestershire, caters for beginners through to the more established runner and is winner of the Regional Volunteer RunTogether Group of the Year award for the East Midlands. The group prides itself on being all inclusive and encouraging to all its runners regardless of age, gender, sexuality or ability. The group is hugely LGBT friendly. This RunTogether group continues to grow and has 85 regular runners with an average attendance of 50 on a run night. It’s run by a group of seven volunteer run leaders and has just recruited four new leaders to cope with the growth. Through running, they have helped many in the community in different ways including helping with weight loss and post-natal depression as examples. The emphasis of the group is on inclusiveness rather than competitiveness with the demographic mainly being 35 to 55. They ensure all runners, regardless of ability, run and mix together creating a welcoming environment for everyone to enjoy their running. During lockdown they maintained a level of virtual activity to keep people motivated during a challenging time.

Runner-up: Abington Park Joggers

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Services to Athletics or Running – East Midlands

Winner: Ted Grey (Mansfield Harriers & AC)

Hurdles coach Ted Grey of Mansfield Harriers & AC is the winner of the England Athletics Regional Volunteer Services to Athletics award for the East Midlands. Astonishingly, 2020 is Ted’s 60th year of coaching at the very top level including coaching Robert Newton to the Olympic Games and the centenary of Mansfield Harriers as a club! Ted is a nationally esteemed, and highly knowledgeable, coach who is always happy to pass on his vast experience to all the club and school athletes he coaches, whatever their age and ability. Ted views hurdling as a wonderful activity, blending skill, speed, courage and grace which can bring the athlete much satisfaction, thrill the spectator and is enjoyable for the coach too. He has also helped run the renowned Northwood Academy of Hurdles at Stoke for many years. Ted and John Tomlinson together came up with the wonderful idea to start up the Notts Mini League, one of the first in the country and the idea soon spreading to other counties. Ted is described as ‘a real legend of the sport we love’.

Runner-up: Colin Barnes (Charnwood AC)

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Volunteer of the Year – East Midlands

Winner: Jemma Arbon (Mansfield Harriers & AC)

Congratulations go to Mansfield Harriers for a second award with Jemma Arbon collecting the Volunteer of the Year award for the East Midlands. Jemma is a coach, leader, committee member, team manager, Mental Health Champion, role model and regional councillor whilst also being prepared to support others in their volunteer roles. She is also a champion of women in sport – inspiring positive competition and leading by example by putting herself forward for team events. Having set up a beginner’s group she has stayed on to mentor those leaders and continues to offer support to its members. Jemma has a real skill at developing volunteers with a winning smile and a supportive attitude. Her approach is that if she can ‘do-it’ anyone can and she fills volunteers and athletes with self-confidence and the knowledge to excel. Jemma goes out of her way to ensure volunteers and parents from all clubs know their value and instills in the juniors the value of officials. Not shy to ask for assistance, many parents find themselves suddenly ‘helping’ and enjoying the opportunity to be included and involved: whilst spreading her net wide she uses social media to keep in touch with her junior and senior circles.

Runner-up: Shane Proctor (Chesterfield & District AC)

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Young Volunteer of the Year – East Midlands

Winner: Rosie Timlock (Wreake & Soar Valley AC)

Despite being focused upon success on the track as a steeplechaser and achieving her dream of attaining a USA scholarship in 2021, winner of the East Midlands Young Volunteer of the Year award, Rosie Timlock of Wreake and Soar Valley Athletics Club, is always ready and willing to help and support those around her. Her first instinct is not to be asked to help but to offer assistance in any manner. Rosie has an undoubted diligent attention to duty which belies her young years. She has a great understanding of the work that goes into organising events and club activities and is always the first to step in and do whatever needs doing. Her help at schools events is invaluable and she very much sees this as giving back to the structure which helped launch her into a lifetime in the sport. During 2019 she became a qualified official – a job which she undertook with the only breaks in her duties being to warm up and compete! Not known for her shy and retiring manner, she took over announcing at various events. At her first road commentary, she researched every single entrant and shocked many with her in-depth knowledge!

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Click here to find out more about the England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards 2020.