England Athletics’ Chief Executive, Chris Jones, and Club Support Managers Rich Ayling and Sarah Gardiner, headed down to the South West to visit Bournemouth AC.
Robin James, the Bournemouth AC chair, coordinated the club visit, arranging for England Athletics to meet Bournemouth AC coaches, volunteers and representatives from Dorset County Athletics Association and Team Dorset Athletics Network.
The visit enabled England Athletics to gain a better understanding of the broader athletics & and running set up within the County, meet inspirational volunteers such as William Kearsey who has collected weekly fees at the gates for many years & discuss the potential plans for the athletics stadium to be relocated to a different part of Kings Park.
Tom Cochrane, the club’s veteran Coaching Secretary, was on hand to talk about a doubling in the number of qualified coaches and coaching assistants in the past 5 years. He also outlined the growth of the club’s Wednesday Development Evening, which sees 120 young athletes enjoy training in a full range of disciplines. During the evening, Tony Jones-Pert was delivering a long jump session to the Special Olympics’ group he coaches at the club. For twenty years, Tony has played an instrumental role in providing further opportunities for people with learning disabilities to compete in athletics via the Special Olympics’ pathway.
Tim Hughes, Vice-Chair and BAL Team Manager, outlined the recent success of its BAL team which was promoted from Div 3 to Div 2 in 2016 and its SAL team which saw promotion from Div 3 SW to Div 2 West in 2017. An enthusiastic team of men and women have begun the process of consolidating this success in 2018. Sarah and Rich were introduced to the promising throws group that Bournemouth AC have developed over recent years and it was a pleasure to see such good camaraderie between athletes.
The club visit highlighted the strong and diverse offer that Bournemouth AC provide to the community. Bournemouth AC provide pathways within track & field, road running, junior development and the Special Olympics; they cater for a wide range of ages and abilities. They have also developed strong links with the Parkrun that is based out of King’s Park through their road running offer. The club compete in a range of track & field events including British Athletic League, Southern Athletic League, Youth Development League (upper & lower) and the Wessex League. Road running has been embedded within the club and many of the road runners compete in track fixtures and attend sessions based at King’s Park. A great example of this is Steve Way who recently won the 5,000m British League fixture at Yeovilton and also competed in the London Marathon.
As the club enters 112th year, the future of the track at King's Park is uncertain. Premier League neighbours, AFC Bournemouth, are looking to move to a new larger stadium which is likely to be located where the track is at present. Jonathan Lee (England Athletics Facilities Manager) has been working in partnership with the club, Rich Ayling, Sport England, and the local authority for some time to make the best possible case for a new athletic track elsewhere in King's Park. England Athletics have produced a report highlighting the need for such a facility within the park. Subject to AFC Bournemouth committing to moving their stadium to within King's Park, England Athletics are confident that Bournemouth AC will benefit from a new stadium and continue to provide the local community with a fantastic athletics and running offer.
Following the club visit, Robin James told us, "It was good to meet Chris and the team from EA for an update. It was also a great opportunity to highlight some of the club’s recent successes."
Chris Jones was delighted to have made the visit to Bournemouth, "I was very impressed with Bournemouth AC; the club offers a wide range of opportunities in a range of disciplines. I can’t praise the volunteers and coaches enough who have developed such a welcoming environment at the club and I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone connected with Bournemouth AC the best of luck for the remainder of the season."
For further information about Bournemouth Athletics club please visit their website: www.bournemouthac.co.uk/community