England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones went to visit the Hertfordshire club along with Club Support Manager John Harris. Stevenage and North Herts is a friendly, community-based club which welcomes members from 9 years old and upwards.
Chris and John were able to see the Thursday night club activities taking place as well as talking to club volunteers including club Chairman Paul Pickard, Club Secretary and Coach Norma Harris, coaches Richard Bruce, Mick Shortland and Len Allbrighton, and Jane Taylor who is the YDL Team Manager.
The club has recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary. It has around 350 members. and runs regular sessions on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Chair of the club, Paul Pickard, explained, “Over recent years individuals and teams have enjoyed success in a range of competitions.
“The youngest competing athletes take part in the Eastern Young Athletes League. Last summer we hosted the plate final for the league where our under 15 boys and under 17 men were age group winners with the team coming third overall.
“At the other end of the age scale the Masters’ team were only formed four years ago but are already enjoying great success with both men’s and women’s teams just missing out on the regional final.
“Over the last year individuals from the club have also competed in the Commonwealth Games, European Para Championships and British Championships. Five club athletes competed in the World Masters Championships last autumn with 2 bringing home medals.”
Chris and John were very interested to hear about how the club are proactive in developing Young Leaders and volunteers. Chris and John spoke to two of the Gamechangers, Alex Pickard and Lizzie Raymont. Lizzie enjoys working with the young children and learning how children understand and learn new skills, particularly through the use of demonstrations.
Another of the volunteers who plays an important role in the club is Norma Harris, Club Secretary, she explained more of the club’s activities, “As a member of the Hertfordshire County Athletic Network, Stevenage & North Herts AC [SNHAC] has taken full advantage over the last 10 years of the opportunities the Network has provided in developing young people in all areas of athletics.
“SNHAC youngsters aged 15-25 have been members of all six Hertfordshire Young Leaders Academies run by the network since 2008. A total of 43 young people from the club have become coaching assistants, officials, team managers and SNHAC committee members while being members of one of the Academies. Eleven of these have gone on to become qualified coaches, coaching at the club, at university and in the community both in Stevenage, across North Hertfordshire and further afield.
“Hertfordshire County Athletic Network joined the Gamechanger initiative in the spring of 2018 and of the 33 young people from across the County who have signed up, 20 are from the club. All have completed a Leading Athletics course, some have become qualified officials, a number are completing coaching assistant courses and all are taking part in the workshops run by the Network, covering other areas of skill and knowledge such as First Aid, Level 1 Child Protection, Event Management and eSafety.
“They volunteer across all aspects of the club’s activities working with the young athlete’s groups on club nights, volunteering with our Disability Squad, officiating at matches and leading and helping at the two Satellite Clubs SNHAC run. Two of our older Academy members lead the Satellite clubs with nine Gamechangers assisting.
“Being pro-active in youth development has allowed the Club to expand and develop, work in schools and in the wider community and never have a waiting list. The Club gains youth, energy and enthusiasm from brilliant role models while the young people enhance their skill set to take into adulthood.
“Our young volunteers have gone on to national governing body youth roles, won County, Regional and National awards – most recently Rebecca Pickard (a member of Academy 4) was awarded England Athletics Young Volunteer of the Year 2018.”
Chris commented on the visit, “It was good to visit the Ridlins Wood Stadium and to reacquaint myself with the great work of the club volunteers at SNHAC. I was well aware of the history and heritage of the club from my time as Regional Manager with England Athletics in the East more than a decade ago and it was great to go back and recall the successes of the club and also hear of the aspirations that they have for the future. I am aware of the work that the club has done in the area of youth volunteering and coaching and athlete development through the efforts of people like Norma Harris and Mick Shortland and this was on full display during my visit.”