England Athletics’ Chief Executive, Chris Jones, and Facilities & Planning Manager, Jonathan Lee, headed down to the South West to visit the Devon club along with Club Support Manager Richard Ayling.
Conversations around the club’s facilities and how best to ensure that these are suitable for the club’s needs were a key part of the visit. This included a meeting with Plymouth City Councillor Glenn Jordan, lead on Culture and Sport, and David Rose Head of Sport for Plymouth University, which both of which organisations also have a strong interest in ensuring there are is good provision of sports facilities in the City. But the visit was also an opportunity to see the club in action – both in terms of some of the athletes doing their sessions at the Sports Centre and track at the Brickfields Complex – and meeting the volunteers enabling this to happen.
The club has its origins in Devonport YMCA Harriers which may have originated from a much older club called Plymouth Harriers. Devonport YMCA Harriers then separated from the YMCA organisation and was re-established as Devonport AC in the 1950s, before being renamed City of Plymouth AC in the late 1960s.
The club is now involved in a range of activities covering both its harrier heritage, and track and field.
As well as the training sessions provided the club competes in the Southern Athletics League, Youth Development League, South West League, Westward Cross Country League, Devon Open Series, Devon Sportshall League and championship competitions.
Among those there to talk Chris, Jonathan and Richard through the club’s activities, current situation with facilities and ambitions were Chairman Graham Edmonds, Secretary Jeff Walsh, Chairman of Armada Athletics Network Paul Ross, and Keith Reed who is the club’s Schools Liaison Officer and Armada Athletics Network Co-ordinator (as well as being England Athletics National Council Member for the South West and Chairman of the South West Regional Council).
As the group went on to see the training taking place one of the young athletes’ sessions being held in the sports centre was being led by coach Steve Endacott. Steve is also Head Coach and a sprints coach at the club, which may not surprise anyone who knows that his daughter, Katherine Endacott, was 100m silver medallist and 4 x 100m gold medallist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. But it was the youngsters at the start of their involvement in the sport that Steve was working with, alongside other coaches, in his role as coach for the Panthers group. Paul Crutchley then took the lead with coaches putting another group of young athletes through their range of activities in the sports hall. Paul Crutchley is Minors Lead Coach and also the club's Sportshall Team Manager who has taken the Club’s Sportshall Team to the Devon Championship for the last six years .
After the young athletes had completed their training Graham showed Chris, Jonathan and Richard the track area where the senior athletes were getting their sessions underway.
Senior athletes at the club are currently enjoying a range of successes. Victoria Weir, who was coached at the club by Simon Anderson and is now at Birmingham University, has seen success on the endurance scene representing Great Britain at both the World and European Cross Country Championships in 2017.
David King (coach: James Hillier) is British Champion at 110m hurdles having previously been England Athletics U23 champion. He and T46 100m runner James Arnott (Ryan Freckleton) are both part of this year's Commonwealth Games England Athletics team for Gold Coast. And while the club is carrying out some of its throws training away from the track the club is still seeing good results in this event group. Jonathan Edwards (coach: John Edwards) was ranked 15th in the UK at hammer and 19th at discus in 2017. Fifteen of the club's athletes – across the age groups Under 13 to V50 – are ranked in the top ten nationally for their events in the Power of Ten table, and last year the club saw 20 of its Club Records broken.
Chris commented, “We know that our clubs face a range of challenges around facilities and we will continue to work to support them so that the efforts of the volunteers in making provision for their club members can be as effective as possible.
“It was good for Jonathan and I to go to Plymouth with Richard and have that balance of speaking with people at the club, as well as others, about some of the real practicalities of the facilities situation there, and to then see the activities of the club.
"The volunteers at Plymouth are doing a very good job of making the most of the opportunities and facilities available to them. It was very clear to see the enjoyment of the faces not just of the athletes but also of the coaches involved in providing the sessions.
“I wish the club continued success in all of their activities.”