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 8 awards categories, it’s an amazing celebration of the people across our sport. Last night the ceremony took place in Leicestershire; a fantastic evening celebrating volunteers across the region who have made outstanding contributions to athletics and running.
- Coach of the year
- Official of the year
- Athletics or Running Club of the year
- 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
Mary Baker: Mary has been our head coach for over 7 years. She first came as a parent to watch her son run, and this unplanned connection with track and field changed her life. She volunteered, caught the athletics bug, and eventually qualified as a licensed athletics coach. Her world now revolves around the club and the athletes in her care.
In this less-affluent inner-city area, everyone's welcome. Whatever your age, gender, ethnicity or ability, Mary has time for you. She created a unique programme for athletes with special needs; when one young hurdler needed special training, Mary did extra training herself so she could work with him 1-2-1. She gives every single athlete her personal attention, leading them to PB after PB.
It's the same with other coaches too, Mary has inspired others to devote time to athletics, and guided them to success, one recently became the county team manager.
Mary instils self-belief in everyone she coaches and comes into contact with. She inspires you to go further than you ever thought possible. She’s not just respected, she's loved. She's much more than the head coach who uses her insights and rigour to bring out the best in people, she's the big-hearted mother to a vast extended family of athletes, coaches and supporters. Nothing is too much for her. She runs three training sessions a week, plans each athlete's development during her spare time, and makes sure that she or another coach attends every competitive event that club members take part in. Wherever they are in the country, Mary gets there by public transport. She even managed to maintain this punishing schedule while her mother was ill in hospital.
Mary has turned our club into a community and here's what some of the parents say:
‘Passionate about her athletes… a life coach and mother figure to them.’
‘Helped my son to become a more confident and more independent young man.’
‘Unique ability to nurture young athletes.’
‘Coaches from the heart.’
‘Eats, sleeps and breathes for her athletes.’
‘An amazing ambassador for sport.’
Official of the year
Barry Holmes: Barry has encouraged and inspired many young people to start officiating. Barry has officiated at a variety of events in the past year, there hasn't been one weekend where he isn't officiating for some event in the Midlands area. At 84 years old, his unwavering dedication has seen him stand for 7hrs at a YDL Derby event in freezing conditions, without a hot drink, just so he didn't need to leave his timekeeping post to go to the toilet.
Barry attends every cross country in all weathers, he attends every sportshall, and in the track season he attends every mini league and junior YDL, and also attends every U20/17 YDL Track at County Championships and the YDLs at places as far as Tipton, Burton and Stoke. He also gives one of our coaches a lift to training and his home is like the Harriers personnel office to athletics.
Barry is far more than just an Official, some would say he is a facilitator and champion of athletics and road running in the East Midlands. This year he has failed to miss a fixture, often being the first to arrive and the last to leave. With over 30 years of dedication to athletics, as well as timekeeping at many events such as Mini League, YDL, cross country, league races and more, he is encouraging a new generation of officials to come through, by guiding them and helping them at Level 1 and supporting their development. He also is Club Secretary for Mansfield Harriers and AC and generally keeps things ticking along. He also keeps all the kit for Notts Mini League Sportshall stored at his house, and delivers it to venues as needed. This Great Man also organises club vests for MH&AC which he personally delivers for members.
Athletics or Running Club of the year
Rushcliffe AC: RAC is a thriving club of 500 members, with half under the age of 15, plus 24 coaches and 7 officials. With ages ranging from 8-74, RAC competes successfully in a range of competitions across the year: Mini League Cross Country (3rd overall), Mini League Sports Hall (3rd overall), Mini League Track and Field (currently 2nd), at the 2019 National Cross Country Relays, RAC fielded at least one team in every single category bar U20, in our 1st season in the North of England League, RAC currently sits an impressive 4th out of 8. The club also competes in the local Cross Country and Summer Leagues. At the 2019 Notts County Track & Field Championships, RAC won a total of 97 medals, and several of the club’s younger members are now receiving national recognition.
Beyond the club’s success in competition in 2019, RAC has made huge strides in reaching out into our community with a Couch to 5k programme, cerebral palsy race running, guide running for visually impaired athletes and runners and an after school coaching club.
This year, RAC achieved success across the board, with many of our athletes performing strongly at County and National level. However, success on the track isn’t the only measure of a club, and RAC believes in inclusion for the whole family and for all levels of ability. We’re proud of the success of our athletes, but success can be defined in many ways, by winning medals and representative honours, but it can also be found in Couch to 5K graduates pulling on their vest and running further than ever before to represent their club. It can be found in the young coaches taking their first steps on the coaching ladder and using those skills to help athletes with cerebral palsy participate in the sport we love. It’s the guide runners helping visually impaired athletes and runners achieve their goals. It’s the joy on the faces of kids and adults alike at one of our famous races, throws or jumps nights where all members are encouraged to compete, regardless of age or ability. At RAC, success is most certainly also measured in smiles.
Run Together Group
Mansfield Runners: Mansfield Runners consists of 3 UKA coaches providing weekly session of dynamic warm up, training sessions and cool downs. They are a RunTogether group who actively participate in the Mental Health #RunAndTalk sessions, providing support and a safe environment for all, and charity MIND feed their runners into the group with the coaches being Mental Health Champions and Ambassadors. Whilst 2 coaches are taking the warm-ups, 1 coach will welcome the runners by using the RunTogether App, buddying up new runners so they don’t feel out of their depth and providing support and information.
They provide monthly awards where the runners nominate each other for ‘Recognition of our Runner' for achievements gained throughout the month. This has worked well, and runners love the support that they receive from the coaches and each other.
Mansfield Runners deserve to win the RunTogether Group of the Year, as they work so hard to be all inclusive and providing so much variety with their sessions. They are always putting on extra social runs and provide so much support and encouragement to all the runners, they just make you feel so welcome each week. They work so hard with the wider community, with MIND and with being Mental Health Champions and Ambassadors, ensuring that support is given where needed. I think the thing that stands out the most is the dedication that they show, working with each other to show fantastic leadership and role modelling, encouraging runners to step outside of their own comfort zone to try new events or challenges, but ensuring that people feel fully supported and safe in doing so. They give up so much of their own time to coach and support everyone, I know that they also provide a huge amount of support on social media and with individual messaging making sure everyone is kept up to date. A superb group and team!
Run Together Leader
Kathryn Hall: Kathryn set up Abington Park Joggers just over 2 years ago, initially just with a Couch to 5km course, with the aim of getting people fitter and able to jog 5km. She has just completed her sixth beginners’ course.
As people completed their courses they wanted to keep running, she has now encouraged 4 previous beginners to complete the LiRF course and the club now has 3 groups – beginners, improvers and run/walkers which is a valuable bridge for those who want to jog but do not yet have the fitness or the confidence.
Kathryn is currently in the process of setting up some mental health training to further support the group. Abington Park Joggers is not exclusively female but has a largely female membership. Many of the members tell you they would not be jogging if it were not for this group.
Over the 2 years Kathryn has transformed her own fitness from a casual jogger to a more serious runner, completing a marathon and several half marathons. She is always on hand to give other joggers advice and has consistently reacted to the needs of the members of the group. She has looked after her fellow leaders making us feel supported and making sure all the important admin jobs behind the scenes always get completed. She has also volunteered and supported our local parkrun, and always has time to give encouragement and advice to members of the group and has supported many reluctant joggers to become confident joggers and runners.
Services to Athletics or Running
Sheila O'Keefe: A Level 4 Track and Photo-Finish Official, and member of anti-drug team, Sheila gave up officiating due to family commitments.
Sheila attends our Notts/Derby Committee meetings, is County Champs Secretary, produces entry forms, takes all entries and until this year money as she introduced electronic entries. With entry details from Derby, produces a two day timetable for track & field over 100 events, produces field cards, registration documents, collates and prints official programme, compiles results, deals with queries, and trouble shoots on the day.
Sheila has served athletics both at National and County level to the highest standard for a great many years. Due to husband's health her future in athletics was in doubt for a while. However, she has triumphed over this adversity despite working, running a home, organising children and looking after Dave. The work she has done in the last 25 years for both Notts and Derby is vast – we are so lucky to have her! Sheila is so knowledgeable, efficient and always pleasant and calm under the most trying of circumstances, she is outstanding and deserves this award.
Volunteer of the year
Sylvia Philps: Sylvia should win this award as she is always so helpful, smiling, kind, supportive of any athlete (young, adult or senior), and when she’s not officiating, she’s volunteering in many roles, helping out however and wherever she can, in all weather conditions. Sylvia has been Membership Secretary and a Committee Member for over seven years, Trophy Secretary for six years, Relays Junior Team Organiser for five years, qualified as an Assistant Coach in 2015 and Coach in 2017. She qualified as a Level 1 Time Keeper in 2013 and Level 2 Time Keeper in 2014.
Sylvia officiates County Track & Field Champs, County Cross Country Champs, Junior Inter-Counties Track & Field competitions, Northern Road and Cross Country Relays, National Road and Cross Country Relays, Northern Cross Country Champs and local open meetings.
She also officiates at schools’ events, including ones for special needs in South Yorkshire. Sylvia is a member of a project working with young people and adults who have additional support needs i.e. social exclusion, disability, disadvantage including autism, mental health, dementia, health related and life limiting conditions. She also volunteers with a local Girl Guides group too.
Sylvia is an exceptional and wonderful woman, such a special person, and I am so privileged to know and work with her. LWAC value her so much.
Nathan Davis: Nathan is a 21 year old who now runs sprint and middle distance sessions 4 times a week. He records all times run in each session, is now an official timekeeper helping out at events all over the country, and when he’s not timekeeping he’s at every other meeting supporting the athletes. He is also our social media expert, keeping all our athletes up to date with results and competitions.
Nathan has benefited massively from being an athletics volunteer, at school and college he found it difficult and was diagnosed with dyspraxia. His social skills were lower than normal, and the confidence boost athletics has given him has been incredible. I think we can say athletics is the reason Nathan is the person he is today, holding down a full-time job and an all-round incredible person. Nathan’s story is all the more incredible and inspirational with him sadly losing his mum last year.
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.”
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: