As part of a series of club visits England Athletics Chief Executive, Chris Jones, visited Kettering Town Harriers.
Towards the end of last year the club saw a number of changes with a new Chairman and Committee formed and one of the new members, Amanda Marlow, said that while this had brought some challenges there is a real sense that this is an exciting time for the club. When Chris arrived a track session was still on going, but other members were busy redecorating in the club house.
Amanda explained her involvement in the club, “I work with the Under 11s and try to get them involved at an early age so they stay with the club. As they get a bit older we assess their potential and stream them into different event groups. I have been coaching for 3 or 4 years.”
When Chris visited the clocks had not yet changed for British Summertime and as he headed out to trackside the club members were training on the track, as there are not floodlights all around the track in winter months this leaves the back straight, in particular, dark. This is also something the club is working at changing. Amanda explained that while the track is council owned if the club wants to have new lighting put in they are going to have to raise the funds.
One of those out on the track with the athletes was Club Chairman Matt Brown. He explained the club has the planning permission in place for the lights and it is the funding side they are now working on. But the current work is not all about the facilities. Matt said, “We are working to bridge the gap from the younger groups into the seniors.
“We have got some good role models for the youngsters to follow. We get photos on Facebook and on the club website and it gives the younger athletes something to aspire to.”
While lack of lighting may be a challenge in the winter he said generally facilities available work well for the club, “We’re quite lucky here with the facility and a nice environment.”
The club was established back in 1894 and as well as the track section also has a good road running branch as the ‘Harriers’ name would suggest.
England Athletics endurance mentee Shane Smith is one of those working with the distance runners and looking to ensure a thorough approach is taken with the endurance athletes. When Chris visited he had recently been to have some VO2 max testing done for his athletes at Loughborough. He said, “I’ve been coaching here 10 years and for the first 3-4 years I was mentored by Neville Marshall, a hugely experienced and widely respected coach. I’ve worked hard over the last 4-5 years to assemble the current squad together and they’re really starting to come through. We’ve got somewhere between 30 and 45 athletes aged 8 to 18.”
Like many coaches Shane sees the impact of the older ones in this age range going to university. He said the club has had experiences of athletes coming back, and to have limited options other than road running or disappearing. Whereas he wants to ensure that they keep their connection with track running as they mature.
He explained, “I want to make sure that they have the links maintained with the club while they are away. Then when they come back from university that they are still receive structured coaching and are still able do the track work.
“We’ve got a healthy group of Under 20 women who have all remained with the club since they were 11 or 12 years old.
“It is nice to keep hold of them to that age group. It means that they are happy at the club and that we are doing something right.”
The club has seen people taking on new coaching roles. John Cairns is now another of the club’s coaches. He is coaching sprints and working with a range of athletes from all age groups including some U13’s. He explained the club usually take a multi-event approach for Under 13s. He said he has only been doing sprints coaching since September having come from a middle distance background as an athlete but that he has enjoyed getting into the sprints. He is going to link up with Alison Allee who coaches in Northampton to develop his skill set. He said, “I haven’t got a sprints background so to have someone you can look up to is good. It will help me to improve as a coach. I can’t wait to get going on the track season now.”
Chris Jones commented, “Kettering Town Harriers are clearly a club with a very long tradition. To see how the club is combining new committee members with the work of longer serving members was very encouraging. The club clearly has a very good spirit and a lot of good work going on.
“While it was good to talk to them about possible ways in which England Athletics can support them the way the club’s volunteers have the expertise and enthusiasm to take the club forward was really noteworthy. I would like to thank the club for their hospitality and look forward to hearing more about how the club has moved forwards over the coming months and years.”