England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones went along to visit Ivanhoe Robins with Club Support Manager Heidi Bradley. Also visiting the club for the evening was international distance runner Gemma Steel. Chris, Heidi and Gemma met young athletes, volunteers, and staff of the school where the club meets. They had the opportunity to find out more about how the club currently operates and plans to develop.
Ivanhoe Robins was formed in 1996 as the junior section of Ivanhoe Runners. Based at Newbridge High School in Coalville in North West Leicestershire it holds training session for young athletes aged seven to 17 and provides them with competition opportunities.
The club now has over 140 members and currently has a waiting list. It is involved in Leicestershire QuadKids League, Leicestershire Primary Schools Cross Country series, and the Leicestershire & Rutland Sportshall League. Other competitions the club’s athletes compete in include the Leicestershire County Championships at Track & Field and Cross Country.
Club Chairman, Colin Morrison, explained the positive relationship that the club has with the school and the facilities it currently uses there. These include the sports hall, outdoor surfaces and playing fields for its sessions on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
On Saturday’s the younger athletes, from seven years old, meet from 9am-10am. Colin explained, “We have three main groups – Cool Runnings, Fast and Furious and Road Runners – with approximately 20 athletes per group. “Our great coaching team provide fun and enjoyable sessions for each different group."
The names of these groups were thought up and chosen by the athletes themselves. Colin continued, “From 10-11 there is a session for these older athletes which is a bit more event specific.”
The club has recently expanded its coaching programme to cater for older athletes up to 17 years old with more event specific coaching. Colin said the increase in numbers and age ranges has been facilitated by more coaches and volunteers becoming involved. “Lots of parents have helped, in addition to the brilliant support we get from the Committee members, who all play a massive part in the club’s success," he said.
Aside from training and participation in competition, the club is also actively involved in hosting events. The Ivanhoe Challenge is an annual Junior Cross Country event attracting over 400 athletes from across the county and further afield. Ivanhoe Robins also partner with Ivanhoe Runners on a number of fixtures, including the delivery of the young athlete aspects. These events include the Worthington Fun Run, Ashby 20 Children’s Races and Mince Pie Run.
The increase in volunteers has helped the club with its holding of events. Keith Merrie MBE is one of those involved in helping at events, “Three years ago at the cross country it was a long hard day. Now there are lots of helpers.”
The events held by the club see money raised that can be ploughed back into its activities and planned developments. But supporting events is not just about fund raising. The club also takes a proactive approach in encouraging people to qualify as officials and help at events. Kathryn Preece, a Parent Rep on the club committee, said, “The club pays for people to train as officials so we are supporting a lot of YDL events and the county championships. The club is known as being supportive of events.”
As well as showing Chris some of the regular training night activities the club and school staff also explained how they are currently working closely together in planning for the creation of improved athletics facilities at the school. Work is already underway in scoping the options and seeking further support from partners in the community, with some funds already raised.
Chris commented, “It was very encouraging to see how Ivanhoe Robins has grown to be in the position it is now, since being created from Ivanhoe Runners. While the club’s continued role in the local endurance scene is clear to see, it was very positive to see how this has grown and evolved to include training and competition being provided for the athletes of the club across all the event groups.
“The success of any club is dependent on its volunteers and it was very good to be able to see how the club’s volunteers are working effectively, and how the club is increasing and upskilling the volunteers it has.
“It was a very positive experience to speak to members of the school staff and see the strong relationship that the club has with the school, as well as their shared vision for the development of the facilities.
“The club and school clearly have a very strong vision for the role that the athletics club has to play in the community and are doing a very good job of providing opportunities for young athletes and volunteers.
“Seeing an athlete such as Gemma Steel taking the time to come along and speak to the athletes, parents and volunteers also underlines how athletics and running has a great sense of community.
"It is fantastic to see how people in the sport of athletics and running recognise the different contributions and successes that there are. Those at Ivanhoe Robins clearly have great pride in having a local athlete achieve successes such as winning a European Cross country title, while she was very supportive and enthusiastic in talking to the young athletes and volunteers at the club.”