Celebrating our unsung heroes in Yorkshire and Humberside

It’s that time of year again, where we shine the spotlight on the unsung heroes of our sport. Our inspirational volunteers, who give their time, commitment and incredible energy week in and out.

With 9 regional awards ceremonies, and 9 awards categories, it’s an amazing celebration of the people across our sport. Last night the ceremony took place in Wakefield; a fantastic evening, celebrating volunteers across the region who have made outstanding contributions to athletics and running.

Award categories…

  • Coach of the year
  • Official of the year
  • Athletics or Running Club of the year
  • Inclusion
  • Run Together Group
  • Run Together Leader
  • Services to Athletics or Running
  • Volunteer of the year
  • Young volunteer

Drum roll… and the winners are…

Coach of the year

Keith Whitelam: Keith holds a UKA coaches’ licence for Athletics, and running is his passion. He voluntarily takes 3-4 sessions a week in all weathers, showing his commitment to the sport and to helping his athletes get the most out of training and competing. He’s not been well himself in the past few years, but still gets out there to support his runners at competitions and trials, in addition to his training nights. If there’s ever a reason he can’t attend a session, he thinks ahead and sets training for athletes to follow.

Keith is an excellent coach; he trains a range of runners from youngsters aged 13+ to adults. All runners are treated as individuals, he knows them all personally and tailors’ schedules to suit their needs and aspirations, and it’s down to this his athletes see success.

Keith thinks and plans long-term; he doesn’t want shooting stars who burn brightly then fade. He looks to develop long lasting athletes who enjoy running and who get better over a sustained period, who will hopefully stay in the sport for many years to come. He understands what other coaches are doing and works with them if they have a shared goal.

His training sessions are always enjoyable, tough enough to achieve the right affect, but runners always come away smiling. He creates a welcoming atmosphere for anyone who is keen to run and makes sure new members feel welcome and included. There are no barriers and there is an even mix of men and women within the group, as well as students that are from varied backgrounds and countries. Keith is a great coach, a much deserving winner of Coach of The Year.

Official of the year

Jean Jackson: Jean is a Level 4 Field Official. She has refereed local open meetings and leagues alongside many newly qualified and training officials and has not only run the event but provided guidance to all throughout. She goes above and beyond to assist and encourage officials to progress and develop their knowledge and skills, offering follow up support and reports to help them however she can.

Jean is a very enthusiastic and hardworking senior official, who is also very much involved with Wakefield Harriers. Though she is a senior official and busy in this role, she is passionate about grassroot athletics and supporting the sport at all levels.

Athletics or Running Club of the year

Doncaster Athletic Club: Doncaster Athletic Club is 11 years old. The club has built a reputation of being a family friendly club with a vibrant junior membership through to veteran level, with categories in road running including a unique pacer novice group, track and field, ultra-running, cross country and a fully inclusive disability section. Our site is fully maintained to a high standard by volunteers with a reputation for first class facilities and equipment.

The journey of our club is unique to the world of athletics, at a time when most clubs rent sites from Local Authorities, Doncaster AC has risen to the challenge of asset transfer and sound facility management. Partnerships with local businesses and schools is key to our day to day operations, ensuring maximum benefit is given to the local and wider community. The club is also proud of its inclusive reputation, hosting the annual finals of both cerebral palsy and men-cap games with our high standard disability facility and equipment. Dedicated training in this area has produced two internationally acclaimed athletes under disability classifications. There is also public access to our two racing wheelchairs, purchased with a local community grant. Doncaster AC has a focused development plan in reaching the next level of athletic provision and should be recognised for its growth, achievements and regional reputation.

Inclusion

Barbara Hudson – Rawmarsh Runners: until Barbara and team set up Rawmarsh Runners in July 2017, people had to travel outside of Rawmarsh to take part in a running club. Since its launch the club has gone from strength to strength, due to Barbara’s hard work and determination. Our club motto is Ohana – meaning family in Hawaiian, no one ever gets left behind.

Barbara has set up a committee and together they run sessions on a Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. It’s such an inclusive club, offering opportunity to people of all ages and abilities, to walk and talk, jog or run. She has built strong community connections and is now looking to set up a junior parkrun.

Barbara has created this club that is open to all abilities, to support people in the community to get out, get active and form friendships. She supports and motivates all that join, in all aspects of training, and is a rock to all who run alongside her. At present we have a wide age range, from 2 to 72! Buggy pushers, walkers, first time runners, people training for 5k’s through to marathons – all are welcome! This is all down to Barbara’s dedication and motivation, a lady who goes above and beyond in all she does.

Run Together Group

Trail Snails Bingley: fast approaching the first year, Trail Snails Bingley, have helped over 300 people go from never running, to running 5k weekly and more. The run leaders, Sam and Dan, are amazing! Everyone is encouraged, supported and made to feel included – no snail is left behind.

In big groups the leaders ensure that the faster runners are given markers at which we turn back to regroup; we start together, run together and finish together. Throughout the year group members have taken on challenges of their own, from 5k races to half marathons, raising money for charity along the way. The group is also very supportive of our local parkrun and volunteer every week, when not taking part. We are a community, everyone looks forward to their social runs, where cake is often encouraged too.

The dedication and commitment shown by Sam and Dan is second to none, they go above and beyond to make Trail Snails the group it is, managing such a big group whilst managing their demanding work life, as police officers. Sam is extremely passionate and brings this to the group, she loves to run and challenge us all. Dan is the brains and support. Alongside the runs, they also organise quiz nights, a Christmas meal and awards night and socials too. I don’t know how they do all they do, it’s inspirational.

Selfless, motivated, kind and so giving with their time. This award and recognition would be an honour and much deserved, even more so as we recently celebrated our 200th group run.

Run Together Leader

Paul Whitehurst: Paul is an amazing volunteer leader, who has turned the group from a small Couch to 5k group into a running club, Morley Running Club, that’s attend by hundreds of people each week. In just 2 years, the group has turned into a club, and he has also introduced GO TRI events too, supporting members to give triathlon a go. Both the running and triathlon clubs are growing in strength and numbers all of the time, and this is down to Paul’s inspirational efforts.

His passion and commitment to improving the health, fitness and wellbeing of the local community is incredible. Setting up these clubs, which people can attend for free, has completely changed me. I’ve gone from not exercising for 15 years to running half marathon distance and have been inspired to become a run leader myself.

Paul gives up a lot of his free time to developing the club, encouraging all members and supporting other run initiatives in our local area. MRC is a fabulous friendly club which reflects Paul’s personality, what he has created has changed so many people’s lives in the community, he most certainly deserves the reward and recognition.

Services to Athletics or Running

Steve Gaines: Steve joined RHAC in 1987. In 2007, he became club and cross country secretary, involved in all aspects of the club and acts as event manager for local cross country races. He is a Level 2 Endurance and Field Official and event adjudicator at local road races.

He launched and chairs the Rotherham and South Yorkshire Athletics Networks. Manages the Rotherham Schools Cross Country Champs and inaugurated and runs the South Yorkshire Indoor Track & Field Winter Series. He is also the race director for the Rotherham 10k, working with Age UK and Rotherham MBC.

Alongside South Yorkshire CSP he has set up 5 satellite clubs around Rotherham to offer 5-11’s a route into club athletics.

On the YCAA committee he ran the Yorkshire Cross Country Champs in 2009/11, the Yorkshire Road Relays in 2010 and manages/selects the Yorkshire and Humberside team for the London Mini Marathon.

He is on the Northern Athletics Board and set up the Northern Cross Country Relays, event managed the Northern Cross Country Champs 5 times, ECCA National Champs 3 times and clerk of the course for the ESAA Cross Country Champs in 2018 and 2019.

The above list gives only a fraction of a feel for the time and effort Steve has put in and continues to put in to support athletics at Club, Regional and National Level. His wife says she sees less of him now than she did when he was working! And when buying his last car, he made sure it had sufficient boot space to accommodate all the equipment (tents etc) he hauls round when RHAC teams are competing. The word ‘no’ doesn’t seem to exist in his vocabulary. When someone comes along asking him for help and assistance, he helps out however he can. Put simply, RHAC would not be the successful club it is now without Steve at the centre of it. His seemingly endless patience, enthusiasm and drive to succeed in everything he does is an example to all of us, and he is well respected and liked by all those who know him and work alongside him.

Steve is a modest man believing there are many others in the sport more deserving of this recognition, but at RHAC we disagree, Steve is a true ambassador for the sport of athletics and running.

Volunteer of the year

Dave Paver: Dave is invaluable! He serves his club as an athlete, coach, official, organiser and promoter – he is Mr Athletics for York Schools! Without him the sport simply wouldn’t be what and where it is in Yorkshire and Humberside.

Volunteering is his full-time job; he juggles his time and is super-efficient in all that he does. He is the man that thinks and covers every eventuality, always prepared (at the ESAA Champs he has a box that can provide everything a team manager might need). His enthusiasm and positivity is infectious, he has a can do attitude to everything, there is always a way. He’s innovative and forward thinking, always looking for the best format for athletic competition and new opportunities for young athletes, and most importantly has an all-inclusive approach in everything.

I’m determined Dave should be recognised for his unstinting years of service to club and school athletics. East Riding v York Schools cross country in the early 80’s was our first meeting. He organised the event, built the course, team managed and produced the results, all with very little help, remaining calm and collected throughout. He still operates in the same manor now but has the support of a team. All appreciate his dedication, vision and ambition, and have upmost admiration for the work and effort he puts in, to benefit others. Our sport is volunteer centred, and Dave’s contribution makes it happen, within our club and countrywide as he has many roles in ESAA. It’s time to give him the accolade he deserves for his exceptional enthusiasm and commitment, his ability to make others feel appreciated and the innovations he brings. There isn’t a more deserving winner of Volunteer of the Year!

Young volunteer

2DASH Game Changers: our Game Changer coaching assistants and officials have been turning up to volunteer week in and out since they were recruited. They’ve all taken a course respective to their main role, however, they have and do help out at our club wherever they can, getting stuck into many other roles.

They have all been a real pleasure to work with and have taken a lot of pressure off our existing team. Coming together and working so well as a team, you would’ve thought they had all known each other for a long time, and they only met when they started volunteering with 2DASH. They’ve been keen on sharing their ideas and experiences, as well as asking questions and looking for further opportunities to improve their skills and knowledge. All our Game Changers come from different backgrounds and they treat everyone equally.

2DASH Game Changers should win the award as a team, since each one of them has impressed us from day one. From the way they responded to the first email, through to all they had done performing their volunteer roles, is truly amazing.

Our young Game Changers are not only helping 2DASH, they have been helping the wider athletics community too, by supporting at the club and at local events. We’re extremely proud to send them out volunteering and it has been fantastic to have them in our team. These young people have shown so much commitment, alongside their schoolwork, exams and other things in their daily lives, and are all keen to continue volunteering in athletics for the foreseeable future. They should be recognised for their inspirational efforts, to keep them motivated, and as a shining example to follow.

Chris Jones, England Athletics CEO, said:

“Our sport of athletics and running is built on the selfless and invaluable contribution that our amazing volunteers make. Through our Regional Volunteer Awards, we can put our volunteers in the spotlight, and celebrate the fantastic work that they do in their communities’, week in and out. We hope that the stories of our award winners and nominees can also inspire other people to get involved in our great sport.

“Congratulations and well done to all our award winners and finalists; and thank you to all volunteers across our sport. It can’t happen without you.”

Runners up

Congratulations also to the region’s runners up:

Official: Colin Smith
Club: Leeds City AC and South Leeds Lakers
RT Group: Heckmondwike Striders
RT Leader: Hazel Stones
Services to Athletics and Running: Dave Bennett
Volunteer: Martyn Catwright
Young Volunteer: Sian Kerry


More about our Volunteer Awards

Throughout September and early October, we’re hosting nine regional awards ceremonies across England. Every winner of a Regional Volunteer Award is then put forward to an external panel who will select the finalists for the prestigious National Volunteer Awards. Finalists are then invited to attend the England Athletics National Volunteer Awards & Hall of Fame Ceremony hosted on Saturday 12 October at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole. An event that honours volunteers from across England and inducts some of the stars of athletics and running into the England Athletics’ Hall of Fame. Since its launch in 2008, Hall of Fame inductees have included Sir Roger Bannister, Lord Sebastian Coe, Paula Radcliffe MBE and Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill.

Volunteering in our sport

Volunteering can be extremely rewarding, sharing your knowledge and passion with others to get more people into and enjoying our sport. There are lots of ways that you can get involved, head over to our website to find out more:

Volunteering in athletics and running

Y&H winners