I write this blog on a Monday morning following a weekend where we hosted our annual England Athletics Hall of Fame and National Awards celebrations in Birmingham. It was fantastic to be able to watch club athletes recognised for their achievements during the domestic season in competitions such as the National Athletics League and of course Commonwealth Games but it was also important to acknowledge the achievements of our hard working volunteers who give their time to benefit others across England week in, week out and year in, year out.
Looking back on a successful 2022
It has been a hugely enjoyable summer season, the first ‘normal’ outdoor season since 2019 and we have witnessed some fine performances on the domestic and international stage from athletes on and off the track and across the age groups.
It was also pleasing that our partnerships with organisations such as the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund and the Lloyd Cowan Bursary Fund go from strength to strength as we work together to recognise young athletes and coaches for their successes during the calendar year.
I feel that our Hall of Fame and Awards Night has a real symmetry about it as those achieving at the top end of our sport are recognised but then openly acknowledge the contribution of our hard working and selfless volunteers in helping them take their first steps on the road to glory. Our current crop of talented younger athletes, including those who were so successful at Birmingham 2022, are afforded the opportunity on such occasions to learn more about the achievements, rich history and heritage of our great sport going back decades to inspire their own journey which in some cases is only just beginning.
The evening is in many ways a microcosm of our focus as a National Governing Body and as clubs locally in promoting all that is positive and good about our sport. As an England Athletics family we all share the same passion and hope for the future of our sport and need to harness the past and present achievements to shape the future for generations to come.
Looking ahead to the future
There are challenges and most importantly opportunities that we face as a sport, but we can only tackle these head on if we are collegiate and joined up in our efforts and in the use of our resources – learning from what is and what isn’t working, particularly in areas such as competition delivery. We know that whilst participation levels are slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels, there are issues in track and field that we need to address, particularly in the number of young people remaining in our sport during their teenage years and into senior competition levels. Remaining tight and together as bodies working in the sport can only serve to enhance our chances of success in combatting the post pandemic effects that will remain with us for a number of years to come, I suspect.
At our Awards night we were also able to provide the 250-strong audience with details of the launch of the new England Athletics Charitable Foundation Personal Best which will be formally launched at an event in London on 18 November at Drapers’ Hall. Personal Best Foundation has been established to remove barriers that prevent young people from enjoying the many physical and wellbeing benefits of track and field athletics and will work to raise funds to invest back into communities to enhance education, training, access to equipment and facilities through grant aid and by working with and through other charities at a national and local level to bring more young people into our sport whatever their background or ability. We will also look to work with and through our member clubs to enhance the services they are able to provide to their existing or future members.
More information on the Personal Best Foundation will be made available in the coming weeks but if you are interested in learning more, or supporting/attending the launch event in some form then please do contact the Personal Best Foundation Manager Amy Weaver-Tyler at email@example.com
In the coming few weeks our Regional Councils will host local regional volunteer celebration events for volunteers across categories such as coaching, officiating and clubs, and we will update you on details of these and the award winners for 2022. If you are a volunteer reading this blog, then thank you for all that you do for our great sport. We are indebted to your contribution, and you serve as a standard bearer for others to follow.
Remembering Mike Leonard
In closing this blog, I also wanted to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our friend and colleague Mike Leonard who sadly passed away in the last week following a recent illness and who was well known to many of you in the England Athletics coaching family.
Mike has been an active and regular presence in the delivery of our sprint’s development work for athletes and coaches on our talent pathway for many years as a coach lead and mentor and was hugely respected for his knowledge and experience. His kindness, modesty, collaborative, and empathetic approach will be missed by us all and specifically by those who worked directly with him and who were impacted through his immense contribution to our sport. Mike had relocated further North in recent years from Milton Keynes where he had coached for many years the likes of international athletes such as Craig Pickering and Joey Duck amongst others. Our sincere condolences and best wishes are with his family during this sad time.
I hope you continue to enjoy what is an exciting period for our sport with a rich calendar of cross country, road and multi terrain events taking place across England before we even start to talk about the indoor track and field season that will begin very shortly.
I would like to wish all those taking part in the forthcoming English National Cross-Country relays at Berryhill Park Mansfield the very best of success. This premier competition has a rich history and heritage and is the “go to” relay event for this discipline across the UK. Thank you to all those volunteer team managers, event organisers, and officials for all their efforts in coordinating what will surely be another fantastic day of competition in an event that continues to go from strength to strength.
Chris Jones, England Athletics CEO, October 2022