England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones and Board Member Tim Soutar visited the North East club to meet the volunteers and find out more about their activities.
Middlesbrough (Mandale) AC was founded in 1975 in and in late 2014 moved to their current venue at Middlesbrough Sports Village.
Chris and Tim were met by club stalwart Andy Ward and another of the committee who has been involved in the club for many years, currently as Coaching Coordinator, Charles Stuart. Prior to being Coaching Coordinator Charles spent 10 years as the Club Chair. This role saw him heavily involved with the development of the track facility at Middlesbrough Sports Village.
The club has a strong history of producing good athletes. Former British record holder at long jump, Chris Tomlinson, spent his formative years at the club and Rio bound sprinter Richard Kilty.
It was the latter that saw one of the coaches Chris met, Cyril Banks, getting involved in the club. Cyril explained, “I got involved in athletics through Richard Kilty as I know his family. His dad and I are very good friends.”
Cyril is involved in a range of sports and when a 10-year-old Richard headed to the athletics club it saw the start of Cyril’s involvement. He has coached many sprinters through the ranks from early years and on to senior competition since. He is clear that being an effective coach is not just about setting the sessions or aiming for short term successes, “It is not just about being a coach, you have got to mentor them. It is about seeing them at 20 or 21."
Cyril explained that he always looked to keep young athletes away from being on their limits in training but rather to keep the training, and the enjoyment, at a level that could be sustained and built upon as they progress through the age groups and potentially find successes at a distance different to that at which they first began.
Charles explained that the club follows Athletics 365 with younger ones. There are groups for Under 11s held each Tuesday (two groups) and Thursday (one group) in addition to the main sessions of the club on these nights. The club also has strong links with local schools. One example of this is through Hayley Richardson who works in a local school as well as being a member of the club. Charles explained that she brings in people from the club to help out when schools’ competitions are being held.
Other coaches in action when Chris visited were jumps and hurdles coach Steve Hay and pole vault coach Chris Boundy. Chris coaches a group which includes Charlie Myers, the England Athletics Under 20 silver medallist at pole vault.
In addition to meeting the coaches at Middlesbrough (Mandale) Chris was able to see some of the facilities that the club is able to benefit from at its new facility.
Chris commented, “Having heard a lot about the activities at the club as well as the new facility it was good to be able to go and see the set up for myself. While the facilities are impressive it is clear that it is the efforts of the volunteers who make the club what it is.
“Hearing the enthusiasm and expertise of Andy and Charles, as well as that which was evident meeting some of the coaches in action on a training night made clear why the club has seen such a good number of athletes coming through the ranks. It was also good to hear about the successes and potential of many of the athletes currently coming through the ranks of the club.
“It’s clear that the club volunteers are doing a good job and the athletes are responding and benefitting from that.”