Chris Jones headed to the Shropshire club which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
On arrival at the club’s base at Oakengates Leisure Centre, where the club has spent 25 years, Chris was met by Pete Afford. Pete has held a number of roles in the club over the years, and his current work with the club includes acting as Assistant Track and Field Secretary and editor of the club newsletter ‘Bollard’.
The start of the evening is when the young athletes are in action at the track. They do range of activities and the club has teams in various leagues in the Midlands which cater for Under11, Under13, Under15, Under17 and Under 20 athletes as well as Seniors.
When they first come along the athletes can do two taster sessions free of charge. If they have then decided that they enjoy the sport and want to continue they are expected to join the club after that.
Peter explained the way the junior sections works, “We give them a go at everything. You don’t really know what they are going to do or be good at until they are older.
“We don’t set a precise age for them to go up to the next level, it is done on ability.”
The club has approximately five coaches working with the younger athletes. One of them is Margaret Cooper. Margaret has been involved in the sport for more than 60 years.
She started out with her involvement in athletics in Chesterfield as an 11-year-old. After marrying she ‘moved all over the place’ but when she had children she encouraged them to become involved in athletics. She recalls, “I had to twist my sons’ arm to start. That was when he was 15. I said I wasn’t going to get involved…” Suffice to say Margaret did become involved in the local club and has maintained a long involvement in the sport. In 2013 she was presented with an Award by Telford & Wrekin Council for her Outstanding Contribution to Sport and Physical Activity.
She explained that there are plenty of familiar faces at the track for her, “There are parents that I coached once who are now bringing their children down.”
In total the club has more than 300 members. This includes a big adult section of road runners.
Pete commented, “There are a lot of road runners coming in.”
One of the road runners is club treasurer Steve Jones. The previous weekend there had been one of the club’s events held at Lilleshall which had 360 people taking part. Steve said, “parkrun has done us the world of good. We used to get 10 or so in the group on a training night, now we get 30.”
Steve explained that the road runners tend to do one session a week on the track to work on speed and once a week head out for a longer run on the road.
One of the club’s most successful athletes has been Chris Davies who as well as holding the short leg record for the national 12 stage road relay event also competed internationally at events including the World Cross Country Championships, Commonwealth Games and European Cup.
In addition to its training activities and competing at events the club hosts events such as The Telford 10K, the Sexarathon Series of six events through the summer, the Wrekin Fell Race, Cardington Cracker Fell Race, Caradoc Classic Fell Race and the Stretton Skyline Fell Race.
There was a big group of endurance athletes doing their track session while Chris met another of the club’s committee members. The president is John Bradley. John has now been President for 10 years. He previously was involved in football, and then squash before spending time running around the edge of cricket pitches while recovering from knee troubles. As he got fitter this was spotted and he got roped into doing some athletics.
In time this saw him heading off to a league match to do a number of events for the club – including the pole vault as well as the Long Jump and steeplechase. While this was initially to pick up some points for the club John took to pole vaulting. Now as well as being national M70 pole vault champion and competing internationally on the Masters’ scene he is coaching the club’s pole vaulters.
Chris commented, “It was good to spend time speaking to a number of the volunteers at Telford and seeing the athletes involved in the normal training night activities. Meeting people such as Pete, Steve, Margaret, John and the membership secretary Verone is an important part of understanding the needs, challenges and priorities that are faced by clubs in their local communities.
“It is always great to hear people’s different stories about how they came to be involved in the sport and taking the roles that they now have – whether they have been doing those for many years or have more recently become involved as volunteers. With the club celebrating Its 40th anniversary this year the importance of the work of many volunteers throughout that period in creating the wide range of activities for athletes of such a wide range of ages and interests was very clear.”