England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones went to visit the Berkshire club along with Club Support Manager John Harris. The club has a range of training and competition opportunities for athletes but has also been very proactive in the development of young volunteers.
Chris and John were able to see the Tuesday night club activities taking place as well as talking to club volunteers including club Chairman Julian Starkey, President Sean Taylor, and committee member Rachel Roberts, who has also previously served as membership secretary for the club.
The club has around 350 members and runs regular sessions on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. In terms of competition the club is involved in the Youth Development League, the Alder Valley League for 11-17 year olds and the Southern Athletics League for athletes who are aged Under 17 and older. It also competes in the Winter Sportshall league and the Border League and Chiltern League at cross country as well as road running events.
One area of work that Chris and John were keen to find out more about was the work that the club has done around volunteering. Bracknell AC has been very active in is in seeking to develop young volunteers, so young athletes are able to also become actively involved in volunteering. The club is part of England Athletics’ Game Changers programme, with Chris and John able to meet a number of club members involved in the Game Changers work.
Among those that Chris and John met were Phoebe Fenwick and Yasmin Bryan, the club’s latest and youngest qualified Athletics Coaches.
Phoebe and Yasmin started helping at the club aged 14 after doing a Leading Athletics course and becoming involved with the Athletics 365 work done by the club. At 16 they did their Assistant Coach qualifications and having assisted with coaching of Year 5, 6 and 7 children on a Saturday morning they also then were key to setting up a Year 6 & 7 entry course to give new joiners to the club a rounded first exposure to club athletics. Supported by England Athletics they then did their Athletics Coach qualifications upon turning 18, and are now working on the launch of a two-week summer athletics camp.
Phoebe said, “Through coaching young athletes you can make a difference and give them a positive ‘can do’ attitude which is fundamental in life generally.
“It's rewarding when you see them achieve something they thought was beyond them, no matter how small that may be.
“Their growth in confidence, from when they start to when first begin to compete is amazing, and the rapport Yasmin and myself have developed with the athletes strengthens the group as a team.”
Yasmin echoed her thoughts, “The best thing about being a coach is seeing people grow.”
Other young volunteers Chris and John met - Becky, Natasha, Josh, and Charlotte - are also among the club’s Game Changers. They are involved in coaching Year 5s on a Tuesday or Thursday, and Year 4 youngsters on a Saturday as part of the Bracknell Junior Coaching programme.
Natasha and Orla have been involved in organising Athletics 365 taster days for Year 3 and Year 4 young athletes in the school holidays. This sees children who are on club’s waiting list invited to a morning where they are coached in four different events and then able to enjoy a QuadKids competition to get a sense of a competition environment.
Chris and John also met Sam, a decathlete at the club who is already involved in officiating and looking at taking the Coaching Assistant qualification.
Aside from the benefits that the young volunteers bring to the club in terms of additional capacity Sean also commented that their involvement as volunteers brings wider benefits away from the sport. As well as being president of the club Sean is also managing director of a technology company and said that the skills and expertise gained from volunteering are recognised by employers. He said, “When hiring, candidates with volunteering experience on their CVs have a real edge. As well as identifying them as team players through their contribution to society they tend to be more advanced in other skills such as leadership and organisation.”
Chris commented, “Athletics and running at all levels, but especially in our clubs, is built on the dedication, expertise and enthusiasm of volunteers.
“It was very good to visit Bracknell and see how volunteers of many years of service are working side-by-side with new volunteers and helping them to develop their skills and widen their involvement in the sport.
“What was also notable was the enjoyment that they are clearly getting from their roles in the sport and it was very useful to see how the Game Changers programme is being put to good effect.”
For more information on Game Changers see https://www.englandathletics.org/gamechangers.