England Athletics chief executive Chris Jones headed to see the volunteers and athletes in action at Humberside club Cleethorpes AC.
The club has a membership of 400 with athletes involved in both track and field athletics and road running. While it was the athletics track Chris headed to for his visit the Club Chair, Andrew Gristwood, explained the club uses two venues. He said, “The road section of the club meet in the foyer at the leisure centre to run from there. They use the changing rooms there and that works well for us. The track sessions work well as well. We have large numbers of people who come down.”
While the athletes and coaches gathered to begin training at the track Andrew explained more about the road section. “The road section has grown a lot. One of our runners set up a course called ‘Momentum’ which is an eight or nine-week course with a timed 5K at the end.”
Andrew explained that the club then works to encourage people to continue and progress their running with the club once they have completed the course. The road running side of the club tends to be older athletes, and while in the past it has been mostly men the newcomers have been mostly women as the road section has grown.
The club is active in organising a number of road running events and these form an important part of the club’s fundraising. This money can be used to keep membership fees lower, subsidise the costs of people taking coaching courses and support other activities of the club.
Andrew said, “We don’t see it as road versus track, it’s the same club and some of the people who are now road runners were track athletes.”
The club’s events include a series of races held on the promenade and a New Year’s Day 10K. Andrew elaborated, “We have a winter series of 5Ks and 3Ks. We used to be able to start them both at the same time but the numbers have got too big for us to be able to do that as the promenade is not wide enough. We now start them off 15 minutes apart.”
Younger athletes from the club will go along and run the 3K events in the series which gives them a good opportunity to be part of the same event as the road athletes. The club has also been able to accommodate wheelchair athletes in the 5K meaning these really do showcase all of the club.
The club also has a grand prix series for members and this sees it supporting events put on by other clubs, “We have a road league and we try to put that in the events that are cheaper – they tend to be the ones put on by local clubs – so it doesn’t exclude people.”
As the coaches and athletes started to get sessions underway it became clear that there is a good mix of volunteers involved in the club. Andrew explained the situation involved away from the coaching side, “We have got a very good committee with enough people, some of whom have been there a long time. Like all clubs we could do with more coaches and helpers.”
Among the coaches Chris saw working with athletes were sprints coach Pete Gifford who works with athletes aged from 13 through to the senior athletes.
Around on the back straight Colin Smith was working with a group of young athletes. He first became involved when his eldest son joined the club. “I started bringing him down and I was down every training session sitting in the stand.” Colin was asked to help out with officiating and qualified as a timekeeper. From there is role with the club extended to coaching young athletes.
The athletes Colin works with are mostly aged 8-10 and are involved in a range of run, jump and throw activities. The evening also saw them doing some core work and getting involved in a team competition through a mini assault course which got them all enthusiastically supporting their team mates. As Colin explained, “They like to have a bit of fun.”
The back straight was where Chris also met Margaret Saville, another of those working with the club’s young athletes and Dave Roberts who has been involved at Cleethorpes AC since first coming down as a parent in 1975, the year the club was formed.
A group of middle distance runners were in action with coach Joanna Evans who is on the England Athletics area coach mentoring programme. And another of the club’s coaching who is involved in the England Athletics National Coach Development Programme is Ben Frary who is being mentored for his javelin coaching but also coaches across the Sprints, Hurdles, Jumps, Throws and Combined Events. Away from the normal training nights there is other coaching available to athletes such as high jump coaching sessions with Heidi Bradley.
The club has a strong background in disability athletes as well. One of the athletes training when Chris visited was 2012 Paralympian Jamie Carter. And that night the club were also celebrating the success of Hollie Arnold who claimed Paralympic gold in the F46 javelin where she set a world record of 43.01 which bettered her own previous mark by just under 2.5 metres.
It was clear from seeing the athletes and the parents at the club that there is a strong sociable atmosphere, and this is helped by events held through the year. The club has two presentation nights each year – with one specifically for young athletes. Other events include a Christmas meal that includes both the track and road sections which is attended by 80 to 120 people.
The club is working to develop young volunteers. They are part of a ‘Be Their Hero’ programme. This is about having young leaders who can act as mentors as well as potentially becoming involved in areas such as officiating, coaching, or with leading Sportshall competitions. Those young volunteers who are part of ‘Be their hero’ are being taken through the Athletics Leader course as well as given training on subjects such as using Athletics 365, inclusion and leadership.
Chris commented, “Seeing such a range of activities taking place at the track was very encouraging and it was also good to hear about everything happening with the road running section of the club. Seeing younger and newer coaches working at the track as well as those who have been involved for many years highlights the range of people who can enjoy the volunteering roles that exist within athletics and it is clear that Cleethorpes have some very dedicated and skilled volunteers.”
Andrew commented, “We were delighted that Chris Jones, CEO, visited our club on a typical training night and we were able to demonstrate a full track of athletes of all ages enjoying their sport and learning the skills that will see them develop to their full potential. The visit, was a boost for the hardworking coaches and officials and Chris's interest in their sessions was appreciated.”