North East volunteer award winners

North East volunteer award winners

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.

Our England Athletics regional Volunteer Awards presentation evenings are now well underway and Washington was the venue for the North East awards on 19 September. Nine North East Region winners received their awards and eight worthy runners up were presented with certificates and a bottle of bubbly. Local elite athlete, Olympian, European medallist and Commonwealth silver medallist Laura Weightman was there to present the awards and compere the evening.  She said "I wanted to support the awards - volunteers are so important.  It's nice to meet those volunteers in the North East that have been there throughout my athletic career and continue to inspire and make events work."

The winners are listed here and excerpts from their nominations are below.

  • Athletics Coach of the Year – Janice Kaufman (Gateshead Harriers)
  • Athletics Official of the Year – Lynne Marr
  • Athletics or Running Club of the Year – North Shields Polytechnic Club
  • Inclusion Award – Gateshead Harriers
  • RunTogether Group of the Year – Mind & Sole (Christine Smith)
  • RunTogether Leader of the Year – Holly Kelleher (Prudhoe Plodders)
  • Services to Athletics or Running – Tony Livingstone (Blaydon Harriers & AC)
  • Spirit of 2012 Award – Hemant Desai (Northumberland Athletics Network)
  • Volunteer of the Year - David Dowson (Middlesbrough AC (Mandale))
  • Young Volunteer of the Year (14-25) – Jared Flannery (Gateshead Harriers)

Click here or scroll right down to see Runners up.

All the North East winners group shot

Athletics Coach of the Year – Janice Kaufman (Gateshead Harriers)

Athletics Coach of the Year – Janice KaufmanAt an elite level, Janice has taken hurdler Jason Nicholson from an early age through to the very top of global junior athletics. Her nominator writes:" Having seen snippets of this journey has been a joy to watch and Janice's coaching skills are truly fantastic. Janice is happy to help other coaches, and I've been lucky enough to be on workshops that she has delivered in the past. She often gives me advice and tips, and I respect her knowledge hugely. I get the impression that Janice is always keen to learn and improve, and is very humble about her abilities and communicates with all on the same level."

Janice has played a hugely important role in developing disability athletics in the North East, through various initiatives, and both Janice as a coach and Gateshead Harriers as a club very much lead the way. Janice's contribution not only as a coach, but also in her other roles, is hard to put into words. Whenever I have a grievance or issue, Janice is the first person I go to as I know she will be fair and provide a balanced response.

Upon receiveing her award, Janice said, "Thank you to all the athletes that I've coached for making me look good!"

Athletics Official of the Year – Lynne Marr

Lynne Marr with Laura Weightman

Nearly every weekend of the year and summer midweek, indoor and out Lynne is supporting events as a Track Judge and Endurance Official.  She recognises the need for a track judge team to work as a team. She is the NEMAA Officials' league and championship coordinator and also mentors non qualified officials when nominated by their clubs at league events as well as being the North East Endurance officials mentor. Due to an increase in interest in masters race walking locally, she is currently a trainee Race Walking judge.

She prepares paperwork, lap charts etc. and if working as Chief Judge, makes sure any possible future officials get the necessary duty experiences. She has even prepared innovative visual cards for lapped deaf runners. plus ahs had extensive experience with wheelchair racing and the transplant games.

As an experienced athlete, she now focusses her knowledge as a Level 4 Track Judge, Level 3 Endurance, and was recently Chief Judge at the National Road Relays. Her efficient progress was due to a willingness to officiate outside the area.

Lynne said, "It's an honour to be nominated and even more to win.  I love the sport as I get to meet like-minded people and travel - I was GB team manager recently at the World Masters in Malaga.  I'm just putting back into the sport after over 30 years of running."

Athletics or Running Club of the Year – North Shields Polytechnic Club

Club of the Year – North Shields Polytechnic ClubNSPC membership has increased over the years. They are now one of the largest athletics clubs in the North East with over 750 current members from around 600 in 2016. The club has a great number of existing volunteers, however they are still looking to continue to improve their volunteers' experience by working with England Athletics.

The club’s performances have been steadily improving across the club; for example their junior T&F teams were promoted last year from division 2 to division 1, the seniors were promoted last year from division 4 to division 3 Northern league, and junior T&F and cross-country athletes have attended English Schools' championships.

The club are currently accessing England Athletics' “Track Night” programme to develop their coaches and athletes, as well as developing a new coaching structure to improve members' experience. The club has recently become a charitable organisation, which a lot of time and effort has gone into achieving this status. The club are doing some brilliant work - it shows by the amount of members they have increased over the past couple of years, strong club performances and wanting to improve even more.

Club President Ian Morgan and coach Lee Morgan accepted the award for the club. "We're honoured to receive this on behalf of all the volunteers at the club who all work really hard."

Inclusion Award – Gateshead Harriers

Iona Sweeney from Gateshead HarriersGateshead Harriers and their coaches are leading the way in the North East for inclusivity, particularly in terms of disability athletics. In the North East no other large club is doing more to be inclusive to all athletes regardless or ability or background - based on the nominator's observations.

They run a number of high profile projects to support other clubs in pursuing more inclusivity. Particular athletes/coaches within the club who deserve a mention are Janice and Richard Kaufman, Georgia Whitfield, Iona Sweeney, Ros Miller, Stephen Miller and Martin Ferguson.

Iona Sweeney collected the award on behalf of the club.  She said, "We are all very proud of everyone at Gateshead Harriers - all the coaches and athletes who make it possible to be an inclusive club."

RunTogether Group of the Year – Mind & Sole (Christine Smith)

Christine is totally dedicated to reaching out to people with low self esteem, anxiety, and depression. Having suffered and recovered herself she understands first hand the obstacles to participating in sport. She is so dedicated to helping others in a similar situation herself, she formed a Facebook group called Mind & Sole and over the space of just a year she has 200+ people in her group - all with mild mental health issues and all people who previously lacked the confidence to take part in any form of exercise.

Along with two volunteers who also give up their time freely to the benefit of others Christine now has three running groups which meet up every Monday and Wednesday, she has a walk/run group for absolute beginners, a couch to 5k group and an intermediate group (up to 10k). She also has a walking group on a Wednesday.

Her nominator says, "It's Christine's purely altruistic approach and her understanding (empathetic/sympathetic) nature that gives people the confidence to believe in themselves and give exercise a go. She dedicates so much of her free time she deserves recognition."

Christine was unable to attend the presentation evening but England Athletics will ensure she receives her award soon.

RunTogether Leader of the Year – Holly Kelleher (Prudhoe Plodders)

Holly Kelleher Holly helps runners from all backgrounds, all shapes and sizes, all abilities, tirelessly. She was instrumental in getting a park run started in our town, she runs couch to 5k programmes back to back and she's a qualified running coach, and runs Prudhoe Plodders which she set up just over a year ago, which now has over 140 members and very popular C25k programme,

Holly uses her knowledge and experience to provide the group with weekly speed and strength sessions, as well as easier social runs. Holly has encouraged and inspired countless people, of all abilities, to get off the sofa and get out running and she's made them laugh and grow to love running, along the way. She is also the Event Director of the local Prudhoe Riverside parkrun, and is in the process of setting up a children's running club, all voluntarily.

She has a family, a full-time job and she still manages to give up her time to help and encourage the runners of her group and in fact other groups too. Her nominator said, " I have a social run group for people who have been affected by depression, which I organise once a week in a nearby city, and Holly kindly came along to demonstrate drills to my group and talk about their benefits."

Other people who have been inspired by Holly comment, "Holly is an amazing and inspiring lady, having completed Ironman and now training for the Wall, a local ultrathon along the beautiful Hadrian's Wall." "She is a force of nature but with a very gentle and kind heart." "Holly proves that we all have time in our lives to help others to better themselves." "She is highly passionate about inclusion and participation both in sport and in the wider community, and donates long hours of time for anyone in need without ever asking for anything in return. And she does all of this with a beaming smile on her face." "Her enthusiasm and selflessness is beyond amazing, she is always there for everyone. "

A lot of what she does goes unseen and she needs to be acknowledged for this. - in reply to this on the evening Holly commented, "There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes that no one sees but to get an award at this level reassures you that it does really make a difference."

Services to Athletics or Running – Tony Livingstone (Blaydon Harriers and AC)

Tony Livingstone with wife EileenTony is approaching 20 years as a coach, and has coached 23 athletes to win NOrth East county championships with the number of wins alongside -  totalling 116 altogether. Several of those athletes won Northern championships and Scottish championships, Tyne Breen is also a National & English Schools' champion, Kirsty Hutton English Schools' silver and a schools international, Liane Tucker was 2nd at the National championships and 3rd at the English Schools', Philip Brown was an England U20 international and Kez Greenwood a British, European & world transplant games champion."

Tony never turns away an athlete and has turned many into champions. He is a very humble man who doesn't go looking for praise. He is also a track judge who volunteers so much of has time to local athletics. Blaydon Harriers have been lucky to have him.  

Tony said during the evening, "It was a lovely surprise and the champagne will be for our 52nd wedding anniversary. I couldn't do it without my wife Eileen's support."  He continued, "40 years ago I took my son to athletics and then I was an official for over 30 years and a coach for 25 years." He's also been an officials' mentor to many Level 4 officials including winner Lynne Marr! "If you hang around long enough someone will notice you are there!"

Spirit of 2012 Award – Hemant Desai (Northumberland Athletics Network)

Hemant Desai Hemant has put a lot of time and energy into the Northumberland Athletics Network 'Game Changers' project. He has been the driving force behind the project and has made a difference in the young people's lives through this programme. The project has provided a positive and supportive environment for the young volunteers who initially were lacking in confidence and drive; however this project played an important part in turning this around.

The project has provided diverse opportunities to volunteers including officiating local competitions, marshalling events and coaching club training nights. The group also gained a qualification in officiating and coaching, which is brilliant for their CV. The young volunteers have supported people from under-represented groups at different events and activities.

Hemant has shown a great desire and pride towards this programme. This has been through countless hours from contacting local schools, liaising with local meetings, organising courses and mentoring the young volunteers.    

Volunteer of the Year - David Dowson (Middlesbrough AC (Mandale))

His nominator writes: Dave was recommended to me by a friend of his who delivered my first ever shot put to me. Since then he has got me and several other athletes to a high level of competition, starting with the North East, Northern and English Schools' Championships.

Dave is a patient and hardworking and can spot talent. Dave has had many young athletes come to him over the years to ask to be coached by him. Other coaches and officials watch Dave’s level of commitment and have been impressed with his dedication over such a long period of time. Often coaching sessions 2-3 times a week, whilst balancing a shift pattern with work and his own training sessions.

All of 7 his athletes recently competed in the British throwers decathlon, held in Derby. Dave took the time to teach each athlete the different techniques in each event. Because of Dave’s efforts and time, many of the athletes came away with British records and 8 Gold medals."  Dave and other coaches are trying their hardest to improve throws in the North East an area which has been very under-represented in previous years and this recognition could well help all throws coaches in the area.        

Two of David's athletes collected the award on his behalf.   

Young Volunteer of the Year (14-25) – Jared Flannery (Gateshead Harriers)

Young Volunteer Jared FlanneryJared is now a regular starter/marksmen at North East meetings. His nominator says, "I have watched him develop over the last year and he clearly spends time learning about his sport and role. He is a role model for other young people who potentially may want to become involved in officiating having seen Jared at events. In my experience he always goes out of this way to officiate with common sense, excellent communication, and is willing to show compassion and give the benefit of the doubt where appropriate."

Jared is a stand-out nominee in this category this year, and as a coach/athlete/team manager people have implicit trust in his ability to perform his duties to the highest standard.

Jared told us, "Thanks to all the officials who've helped us, especially Alan Bell.  I got dragged round matches as my older brother Keiran was an athlete. I've enjoyed it since I was very little - I started off doing the flags on the bend when I was just 10 years old!"                           

Runners Up

  • Athletics Official – Toby Jones
  • Athletics or Running Club  – Hartlepool Youth Athletics
  • Inclusion Award – Oliver and Jocasta Williams
  • RunTogether Group  – Weardale Flyers
  • RunTogether Leader  – Kate MacPherson
  • Services to Athletics or Running – Ian Kirtley
  • Volunteer - Laura Gibson
  • Young Volunteer – Emily Stewart

All runners up

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