Winners and runners-up for our West Midlands Regional Volunteer Awards

The 2020 England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards are underway – rewarding the invaluable contribution of Athletics and Running volunteers across the country and, this year, highlighting the vital role they have played in navigating our sport through the impacts of Covid-19.

We kick off the second week of our virtual awards nights by heading to the West Midlands. Broadcast live online, we were delighted to be able to recognise the outstanding work, passion and dedication of volunteers across the West Midlands region 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 West Midlands are…

Athletics and Running @home Award – West Midlands

Winner: Kellie Green (Wolverhampton & Bilston AC)

Kellie Green of Wolverhampton & Bilston AC is the winner of the Athletics & Running @ Home Regional Volunteer Award for the West Midlands. The road runners from Wolverhampton & Bilston A.C are a special bunch of runners always supporting each other and people in the community. They wanted to support the NHS staff workers at the New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton by raising funds for the staff working tirelessly around the clock fighting the pandemic. Kellie’s idea was to create a 48 hour runathon and runners could choose to run, walk or cycle 5k with each runner donating £5 and then nominating a further 5 people to take on the challenge and pass the virtual baton on to the next athlete. The aim was a target of £5,000 but this was surpassed with a fantastic total of £10,156.66 being raised. Kellie helped get the fundraising activity set up in a short space of time and all the runners enjoyed getting out and running for this wonderful cause and raising money – it helped them maintain their wellbeing and fitness levels and share their efforts. The money raised has already come in good use and has already been spent to buy equipment for the hospital with further items planned, which will help the hospital cope with extra demands.

Runner-up: Gavin Harrison (Sneyd Striders RC)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Club of the Year – West Midlands

Winner: Nuneaton Harriers AC

Congratulations to Nuneaton Harriers on winning the Club of the Year Regional Volunteer Award for the West Midlands. The club is extremely welcoming to athletes, coaches, supporters, officials and everyone who arrives there. They have a variety of training groups and endeavour to ensure everyone is placed in the right group to develop. The club has invested in its facilities and created an outstanding environment for both training and competition including a cabled photo finish system giving athletes the opportunity to benefit from electronic timing. What really makes this club special is that it is run by a very dedicated, yet small team of local volunteers. It is this dedication and commitment that has driven Nuneaton to provide competitions for athletes – navigating the very difficult landscape of the coronavirus pandemic and working within guidelines and restrictions. The club has pioneered Covid-safe competition this year which has enabled not only their own athletes but also athletes from other clubs to experience competition in a very difficult year. Furthermore, officials have been welcomed to these events and have had the chance to test Covid-safe measures, before using them at other events. Nuneaton Harries really has put athletes, volunteers and supporters first this year.

Runner-up: Northbrook AC

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Coach of the Year – West Midlands

Winner: Sam Cater (Bromsgrove and Redditch AC)

Well done to Sam Cater of Bromsgrove and Redditch AC who has won the Coach of the Year Regional Volunteer Award for the region. He started coaching after taking a Level 1 course in 2001 when he was 19 and he built on this with his throws coach award. In 2004, Sam set up the throws group and his desire to pass his enthusiasm onto others is clear. Sam grows his group from the ground up, often taking young athletes who are quite ambivalent about throwing and moulding them into great competitors (Lewis Byng began his journey into throws with Sam!). Sam has also helped veteran athletes who have done well at age group competitions. Sam is kind, thoughtful and considers how athletes feel after both good and bad training sessions and competitions. A member of the club for over 25 years, Sam is passionate about the development of his skills, his throws group and the club. Sam is incredibly patient and understands that development of technique can take time. He continues to develop his skills and passes on new ideas and methods to his athletes and the people he mentors to become assistant coaches, throws coaches and athletics coaches.

Runner-up: Chris Jackson (Leamington C&AC)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Run Leader of the Year – West Midlands

Winner: Graham Lamb (Burton AC)

Graham Lamb of Burton Athletics Club is the winner of the England Athletics Leader of the Year Regional Volunteer Award for the West Midlands. He is passionate about athletics and wants people of all ages to get the same pleasure he does from the sport. At Burton AC he fills many leadership roles – where there is a gap he helps fill it: he is vice chairman, club coach, chief timekeeper, he writes the press reports, runs the cross country team and the masters team. Graham has built up a young distance running group from scratch and last season, five girls were selected to represent their county at either the English Schools Championships or the Inter Counties. Graham builds good relationships with parents who recognise the amount of time he gives to their children’s coaching and supporting them at events. Each member of the group gets the same level of attention and support. During lockdown he ran Zoom coaching sessions and encouraged the group to create a virtual relay video and got them to create Strava art, running an NHS tribute. He facilited one-to-one training and smaller group training when permitted during the pandemic, with up to 10 sessions per day, and he has also started coaching a master dual blade runner who had never run on the track before and just got his blades.

Runner-up: Martin Swan (Nuneaton Harriers AC)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Official of the Year – West Midlands

Winner: Mary Hodges (Leamington C&AC)

Mary Hodges of Leamington C&AC is an extremely experienced official having attended the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games in London and the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia to list but a few. She is highly respected among UK officials for her knowledge, her attention to detail and her approachability. She has consistently shown that she can work comfortably at a high level right down to bringing on new officials and supporting them on their journey. Her real skill is working with new officials – being a mentor and a fantastic motivator. At club level Mary has been incredibly supportive especially towards the team of officials she has developed and nurtured: she has doubled the number of officials from 15 to 30 covering track and field and endurance. During a season it is very likely that Mary typically attends more events than the athletes! At a more regional level, Mary is Chair of the Midland Women’s Cross Country League and also the Officials Secretary for Division 1 of the League. She has instigated the appointment of Assistant Referees at this league in the last couple of years to give endurance officials the opportunity to develop – enabling an endurance official to reach Level 3 and six others to Level 2.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

RunTogether Group of the Year – West Midlands

Winner: Penkridge Runners

Members of RunTogether group Penkridge Runners become friends because of the safe and welcoming environment created by Martin Leek and the other run leaders. Winner of the RunTogether Group of the Year for the West Midlands, the group is known for the welcome, encouragement and support the members receive regardless of their experience. Martin and the other run leaders are always on hand to give advice and nothing is ever too much trouble which keeps the feeling of camaraderie going even when the groups can’t meet up. During the pandemic, the group was given weekly running and fitness challenges to complete as well as fun challenges so that no one was left out. Sessions are adapted for those with physical or mental health struggles so that everyone can achieve their goals for everyone to celebrate with them. Martin is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about Penkridge Runners and makes all the sessions different every week – working on different aspects of fitness and helping the group to become the best they can be at running. He inspires them all to believe they can, cheers them loudly when they do and picks them up if they don’t and encourages them to try again.

Runner-up: Run Talk Run Redditch

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Services to Athletics or Running – West Midlands

Winner: Paul Sanderson (Telford AC)

Congratulations to Paul Sanderson of Telford Athletics Club for winning the Services to Athletics Award for the West Midlands. A founder of the club, Paul has been the club secretary since the club started in 1976 and he has been key in securing improvements to the track. Paul has been a driving force locally in promoting the sport and bringing people who share his passion for athletics to the club. His tireless work has not only impacted the sport and left a legacy at the club and in the community, but it has touched and improved people’s lives in many ways. As a product of his dedication to his work, people have had the opportunity to get involved, make friends, try new things, compete, with some even making it to the national team and becoming Olympians. Paul has encouraged and supported many volunteers to get involved and always made sure that their contribution is recognised and appreciated. If there is a problem that needs sorting, Paul would do his best to sort it, however big or small. He does this in his own special quiet way, never talking about the hard work he does and always putting the club first.

Runner-up: Ray Morgan (Leamington C&AC)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Volunteer of the Year – West Midlands

Winner: Clark Roberts (Coventry Godiva Harriers)

Clark Roberts of Coventry Godiva Harriers is the winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award for the West Midlands. Committed to making sure everyone in the group reaches their potential and more importantly enjoying the process, he offers advice and coaching to everyone no matter their age, ability or experience. He has selflessly given his time around a full time job to consistently run live stream sessions allowing those in lockdown to get involved and have social interaction. Clark has adapted sessions to not only be virtual or completed individually, but to also be inclusive to everyone, offer alternatives to usual gym sessions and include specific posture exercises for those working from home with limited equipment. He makes sure to celebrate everyone’s personal achievements, including those at the back who sometimes feel forgotten, offering support, encouragement and advice. Clark has encouraged so many people to get involved in virtual races, many of whom have not competed at this level before, but now have the confidence to do so. Clark’s inclusive attitude has allowed his virtual group to grow, with his positivity encouraging partners and parents to also get involved. His incredibly inclusive, positive and cheerful attitude allows everyone to flourish.

Runner-up: Euan Balmer (Shropshire Shufflers)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Young Volunteer of the Year – West Midlands

Winner: Zara Buchanan (Royal Sutton Coldfield AC)

Teenager Zara Buchanan of Royal Sutton Coldfield Athletics Club is the winner of the Young Volunteer of the Year Award for the West Midlands. She coaches the club’s taster athletics session aimed at 7-9 year olds consisting of up to 40 lively athletes. Regardless of the weather or her schoolwork (she is taking her GCSEs next year), she turns up full of enthusiasm with a huge smile on her face. Described as a credit to the club, Zara has a lovely empathetic nature which really helps when it comes to coaching. The group that she volunteers with has a wide range of abilities and personalities. There has been times where children who have just started the group get upset, nervous or just tired from the session and Zara really encourages them to carry on. She has so many lovely ideas for games which keep the children entertained and wanting to do more so that they have a sense of achievement. At the end of the session the children all go home with smiles on their faces wanting to come back. She is a positive cheerleader who supports her athletes, many of whom have gone on to compete at high levels.

Runner-up: Hollie Simpson (Coventry Godiva Harriers)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Click here for more information about our 2020 England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards.