CEO club visit - Rushcliffe Athletic Club

Chris Jones was joined by England Athletics’ East Midlands Council Chair Mark Wall for a visit to the Nottinghamshire club.

Rushcliffe AC has seen strong growth in membership over recent years and, as other clubs will know, this has had to be matched and led by growth in the number of volunteers. Club secretary Nazen Smith was able to show Chris and Mark Rushcliffe AC’s club night activities.

As the athletes started to arrive she explained, “We have all the ages separated by school year –Year 3 to 5, then Year 6 to 8 in a different group. Then we have groups for the different events such as endurance and sprints, we all train at the same time.”

The young athletes take a multi-discipline approach that sees them build fundamental skills and fitness before they then go on to join one of the event specific groups. Nazen explained, ““We encourage them to do an Athletics 365 approach.

“When we do an induction session we clearly set out how they are going to be coached.”

This winter the club has also booked the sports hall at the leisure centre adjacent to the track with a booking running from October to Christmas so this is available for indoor work for the coaches who want to make use of it.

As the evening began athletes were reporting to a registration desk where a barcode system is used to help make the process quick and easy for athletes and their parents.

A typical club night sees 100-120 young athletes. And their parents are also an important part of the club.

The club has seven Athletics Coach/ Level 2 qualified people and a total of 20 qualified coaches, leaders and assistants.

Graham Moffatt, who is a coach as well as cross country team manager, explained the approach, “We speak to parents and just encourage them to get involved. We have got about 10-15 members who have come off the sidelines.”

Graham explained that this approach helps the club bring in volunteers as well as new athletes – or perhaps returning athletism, as parents who have enjoyed sport in the past are encouraged to get back to their athletic past.

Graham laughed, “People go back to their youth.
“They go on to be coaches and committee members. It’s about gentle encouragement.”

The Club also has one of the coaches who organises sessions where rather than watching or waiting for their children the parents are taken out for a run.

Rushcliffe also have an approach that means people can be flexible in enjoying membership of the club both as a coach and an athlete. A number of the people training in the groups in action on the track were pointed out to Chris and Mark as also being involved on different nights as coaches. Nazen explained, “A lot of our coaches join in and train on a different night to the one they coach on.”

As well as parents of youngsters becoming involved the club has also seen parkrun becoming a useful way of attracting new members.

One of the club’s coaches who was working with her group was Serena Bignell. She explained that there is an emphasis on fun in the group, “We have lots of fun and work hard.”

Among the 27 athletes she has as part of the group she works with are youngsters who also are involved in other sports such as football and are able enjoy athletics alongside that.

Another involved in coaching is Martin Findlay. Martin also looks after the club’s Sportshall team that has more than 30 youngsters involved. He explained how the set-up of Sportshall, as well as enabling young athletes to develop a range of skills, helps the club to build team spirit. He explained how, because there is a base the youngsters come and go from to take part in the different events, there is a camaraderie and friendships built between those who go along.

Across the age groups and disciplines the club has seen the number of athletes representing the club grow across both the men’s and women’s teams. Chris was told that in the past would have 8-10 athletes going to a winter fixture now it can be 50-60.

This has been a result not only of the growth of the club but also the approach the club has taken to the competitions. Rushcliffe have worked to improve the ways in which they make people aware of the competitions and have also made sure they celebrate the club’s successes. As a result of having won both their cross country and track and field leagues in the past year the decision was made to buy all the athletes a water bottle marking the occasion.

The club has had financial support with grants from Sport England and through doing Sportivate work. The club is currently looking into the possibility of creating a satellite club as well. Nazen said, “The schools and the CSP are very supportive as they know we can provide a service.”

Chris commented, “It was great to see so much activity going on at Rushcliffe. Meeting Nazen, Serena, Graham, Martin, Mac Blackman, Helen Hood, Ian Cresswell, Kevin Bowen, Stephen Dickens, Una Lacey, Mark and James Scott and so many other volunteers who were clearly enjoying their role in a thriving club was very encouraging. There was a great sense of fun and enjoyment that ran through all the training being done. Being a volunteer at the club is clearly a very rewarding and enjoyable experience.

“The club has been very effective in harnessing and building the enthusiasm of both the athletes and the volunteers and that enthusiasm is evidently infectious.

“It is very useful to visit clubs on their normal training nights and for people such as Mark and I to hear, and be able to see for ourselves, how the clubs such as Rushcliffe AC are operating to grow and develop.

"We enjoyed seeing how they work so successfully and learning more about some of the potential ways in which we, as England Athletics, can look to provide more effective support to our clubs.”

Mark Wall is East Midlands council chair and portfolio holder for Clubs. To find out more about the England Athletics Council Portfolio system see