Coach of the Year volunteer award winner: "The feeling of giving up your time is special."

Our Volunteer Awards for 2023 opened last month and we thought we'd inspire you all to nominate by sharing the stories of previous winners! To nominate someone for one of our eight award categories can really show them how much their contribution means to you, your club or the sport as a whole.

5 - 11 June is National Coaching Week, so what better time to nominate a coach who has made a difference to you, your child or your club? We spoke with the 2022 England Athletics Coach of the Year Mary Carter.

"Winning meant everything to me as across the West Midlands region there are lots of fantastic coaches. To then go on to be recognised nationally was amazing! On the presentation evening, I saw the video with all the kids I coach thanking me, and I realised how much my efforts meant and it was special."

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you first got involved in athletics?

I started running in year 6 as part of a primary school cross country initiative. I really enjoyed this and then decided to join Leamington Cycling & Athletics Club. I took part in a range of events/disciplines, and these included – cross country, 800m, javelin and the heptathlon!

When I was 18, I qualified as a coach assistant and 6 months later went on to become a qualified Athletics Coach.  I have now been coaching for 10 years and involved in the sport for almost 20 years!

In a professional capacity I work as a Teaching Assistant in a Special Educational Needs School.

Who nominated you?

My club chair, David Ashbourne nominated me. I’ve known David for about 6 years and took over his coach co-ordinating role. We had spoken about the regional volunteer awards briefly before and like many, I had said it is nice seeing coaches be recognised.

What did winning the Regional Volunteer Awards mean to you?

On the evening, it really hit home that I make a difference. When I saw the video with all the kids, I coach thanking me, I realised how much my efforts meant and it was special. It is so rewarding that kids attend because they want to, and they keep coming back for more!

It has made me reflect on what we have achieved and seeing lots of the U11s come through and start to compete in QuadKids is fantastic.

We are also starting to see those who were doing QuadKids progress to compete in the leagues.

It is amazing to be part of this journey and help provide experiences that are fun and inclusive to our members.

Has winning the Regional Volunteer Awards inspired you, or those around you, to become further involved in athletics?

Winning both the regional/national award has really inspired me! It has given me the confidence to try new coaching practices and adapt my sessions.

I’m looking forward to doing some children coaching modules in the future as part of my ongoing coach development.

Winning the coaching award, really reinforced to me why I do it and that I’m proud to be a coach. My life is busy bringing up my little girl, who’s 18 months so combining coaching as well and being successful at it gives me real confidence that I’m doing a good job balancing everything.

Why do you think the Regional Volunteer Awards are important?

It is important we recognise volunteers/coaches who are giving up their time; the importance of volunteers in athletics can’t be underestimated. They are the bread and butter of the sport. Athletics and running wouldn’t exist without volunteers and without people dedicating time for free so many children wouldn’t get the opportunity to experience athletics. The support network for athletes is important and the volunteers involved provide so much more than just coaching.

In a world driven by money, money isn’t everything and time is valuable. The feeling of giving up your time is special and lots of coaches share a wealth of knowledge with others. This should be recognised and without these efforts’ athletics wouldn’t be the same sport.

The regional volunteer awards are a great way to say thank you. In 2023 I want to see more volunteers from my club be recognised, particularly those supporting our youth sessions. Please remember to thank coaches and consider recognising them as part of this year’s regional volunteer awards.

Every athlete, regardless of ability, needs a great coach to provide fun experiences. If we don’t look after coaches, the athletes will miss out.

Nominate now!