Volunteers from the East Midlands gathered at the Hilton Gateway Hotel in Nottingham for their England Athletics regional Volunteer Awards evening.
The event was hosted by members of the East Midlands Regional Council; Chair Jane Pidgeon, Denise Timmis, Jemma Arbon, Adam Henley and Karl Ponty, plus the regional Club Coaching Lead Paul Gair and runbritain representative Paul Smith. Representing England Athletics were Club Support Manager Heidi Bradley, along with Lynette Smith, Tracey Francis and Emma Davenport from the Senior Leadership Team.
Below, we reproduce a summary of the Volunteer Award nominations which were read out during the evening, plus the recipients' reactions to their awards.
Newcomer to volunteering
Runner up: Louise Rose
This new volunteer has shown both commitment and dedication to developing her personal technical skills enabling her to bring disability athletics to the fore across a range of social media platforms. She has taken care to research and understand all aspects of athletics – training, competition, event management- and has brought new ideas and skills which have transformed the way this group communicates, internally and to the public. As a result of her efforts, Leicestershire Disability Athletics Development Group has been able to reach out to many more parents, carers, schools and people with disabilities than ever before, ensuring continuity, growth and a promising future for the group. Much more than just the ‘group photographer’ Louise Rose is an all round social media and publicity expert whose commitment and unstinting dedication have put Disability Athletics in Leicestershire very much to the fore.
Louise was unable to attend this evening but we'll get her award to her.
Winner: Claire Tomsett
A welcoming face for new young athletes and their families, this new volunteer initially came to the club as a parent of a young athlete and has put that experience to good use. Combining a friendly approach with a real depth of knowledge, they have helped parents become more involved in club activity, with some even taking on volunteer roles themselves. But that’s not all, this athletics powerhouse has taken on the role of U13 Team Manager at the regional Sportshall final and is now also assisting with the coaching of a large U11 group. Her can-do attitude and dedication is appreciated by everyone in the club and at events. There can be no doubt that Claire Tomsett has great organisational skills, a determination to learn and an engaging personality making a real impact on athletics at grass roots level.
Upon receiving her award she said:
"I can't quite believe it. I enjoy doing it and the club have been amazing and so supportive. You can get so much out of giving back - the children do so well, they turn up in all weathers."
Community Project of the year
Winner: Peter Fendley
Having a great idea for a development project is one thing, making that idea a reality, with all the dedication and organisation that entails is quite another. In the case of this volunteer the idea involved finding a way to keep young athletes in our sport by providing them with informal competition, and giving older athletes or road runners the chance to try something new. With an informal structure removing pressure and encouraging participation, the Nottinghamshire County Development League has also encouraged spectators to try getting involved as volunteers as well as building standards across the sport. All this requires officials, timetabling, first aid cover, recording of results and much more. A mammoth task organisational task, successfully taken on by this year’s winner, Peter Fendley.
There were huge cheers in the room when Peter's name was announced and many stood as he walked up to receive the award. He explained why he set up the League.
"We were losing U17 and U20 athletes - the YDL was a long way to travel and in the middle of exams - and many competed on their own in some events. So we decided to run the league for all age groups and mix men and women in the same events. And get officials to watch new officials there to help develop them. It was a real all-county thing."
And his opinion on how to get more people volunteering:
"I think when the audience see people they know helping out they will want to volunteer and get involved. And the athletes are not doing it to just get points, they are doing it because they want to compete at that event. But you've go to look wider than the athletes; you need to develop the coaches and officials."
Winner: Pat Carlan
Taking a club on the brink of closure and making it vibrant, viable and forward thinking again requires a high level of commitment and drive, as well as a willingness to get stuck in wherever your skills are needed. For this club the recruitment of a team of equally committed and forward thinking volunteers was key to their turnaround, with leadership by example being an essential part of the process. From fixing the plumbing to race direction andgrant application, coaching and governance thrown in for good measure, the Chair of Mansfield Harriers, has done all this and more. Pat Carlan has taken his club from near collapse to once again being a thriving, successful organisation with a very bright future.
Amidst more loud celebrations from his club, Pat received his award from Regional Councillor Karl Ponty. And he was very excited after watching his nomination video made by members of his club.
"Oh my goodness - I am going to need a bigger trophy cabinet! The smile on the video was because I was dead pleased with the renovation of the club which is what I thought they were filming for."
When asked what's his favourite role? He says all the roles fit into one - they all help him help the club. If a problem comes up he can fix it. And his secret to success?
"Get a vision and surround yourself with people who can help realise it. I select the people who can do the job. Success breeds success and obviously we're doing something right."
Runner up: Jordan Mitchell
Versatile and dedicated to the success of his club, this coach and official has offered invaluable support to his team during competitions in whatever role required, even though sometimes also competing himself. Alongside this he has shown himself to be an influential communicator, especially with young athletes, helping them improve performances in hammer and jumps. He has also supported other clubs and schools taking part in combined events across Nottinghamshire schools.Sutton in Ashfield Harriers and AC hope that Jordan Mitchell will continue his great work well into the future.
"I don't really see myself a Club Leader, I am just a person who can help people or be a friendly person to talk to. Seeing the work that goes on behind the scenes - what the committee and organisers do. It shows how much people do to help and support others."
Club of the year
Winner: Mansfield Harriers
Inclusivity, an athlete centred approach and dynamic, forward thinking leadership have enabled this once struggling club to become a thriving hub for athletics activity within the local community. As well as working hard to recruit, train and retain volunteers across all aspects of its activities, from administration to athlete development and access to its facilities the club has fine-tuned its governance to enable it to attract funding and ensure financial sustainability. Its athletes flourish across a broad range of disciplines and the club also hosts a good number of track and cross country meetings. This turnaround in its fortune has been put down to the ability of the members to create a positive, nurturing and well organised club. Well done to Mansfield Harriers.
There was a lot of celebratory noise form the club and Chair Pat Carlan spoke on everyone's behalf:
Watching that video gave me goosebumps. The club is doing fantastic - really developing. A combination of everyone working together and the athletes bringing home the goods.
He was asked to explain further about why they work with other sports clubs in the area:
Collaborating with other sports means we can deliver more in the community. Getting everyone involved in sport, keeping healthy and fit.
Runner up: Lincoln Wellington
Working hard to develop an understanding of the complex needs of children within a club environments, as well as embracing all that funetics has to offer, has enabled this club to develop a fully thought out development pathway for its young people. As well as providing accessible and structured training sessions for children, the club has trained members to become funetics leaders meaning they are well equipped to develop and mentor younger athletes. The club has also taken care to recruit new young leaders, thus providing their athletes with a clearly defined pathway into coaching. All in all, the atmosphere at Lincoln Wellington is welcoming, positive, and carefully structured ensuring a great future for club and athletes alike.
The club have also helped with the development of other sports in the community arranging access to the track and equipment to schools, football clubs and ice skaters. These have also generated income which helps the club keep membership low and strengthens bonds in the area improving opportunities for members.
The tireless work of some key Harriers keeps the club at the cutting edge with members qualifying at British Champs and English Schools' AA but also in a wider range of sports beyond the club. They support all athletes of all abilities in a variety of events. They have had people compete at local, county, and national level in a variety of age groups.
The leadership, its committee stewardship and skill set of an excellent team of trustees and volunteers ensures the governance and organisation of the club matches its athlete’s performances and needs of the members.
Tracey asked the questions and asked what difference has funetics made to the club.
"Everything is fun based and there are lots of good ideas and the kids love it."
Contribution to Running
Winner: Sue Summers
Sue is a long standing member of Northampton Road Runners but had to take a break after an injury. When she returned to the club, she began volunteering to help newer runners. Sue is a kind and caring person who runs with a smile. She provides a safe and welcoming environment for newer members to establish themselves within the club. Her running ethos isn't about fast times, it's about giving back so much to the community.
NRR was a club that traditionally asked runners to be able to run 5 miles, but Sue was pinnacle in offering a beginners group and a 5k option in order to bridge that gap.
Sue has excellent organisational skills which has allowed her to create varied routes and has proudly led many groups to complete their first 5k parkrun and become regular members of NRR. Some have also moved onto longer distances of 10k, half marathon and further. The graduation list of Couch to 5k members is ever growing.
Sue has been an essential cog in the club's development. Not only has Sue's leadership helped individuals achieve their goals as new runners, she's also encouraged longer term members to become involved in supporting and leading the sessions and routes for newer members.
An emotional Sue received her award and told us:
"I enjoy watching people progress - the not being able to run to doing a half marathon. It makes me so proud. The club has enabled me to do that - thanks to the committee for giving me that space - I am so lucky to belong to that club... I enjoy running, I enjoy beloinging to a club, it makes me happy."
Runner up: Andy Orme
Andy has been an enthusiastic club member for over ten years and for the last five years, through his role as Men's Club Captain, an active and important member of the club's committee. His main qualities are that he is approachable and the sort of person everyone in the club knows and can relate to. He encourages members of all abilities and has been a major player in the expansion and development of the club.
He has had considerable success in recruiting from the local Parkrun (Conkers) where he himself has taken part in over 400 runs. In addition to encouraging members of all abilities, he is also enthusiastic about the men's and women's teams doing well in the local road running and cross country leagues and is particularly good at encouraging people to turn out. His own running often suffers due to encouraging others. In short, he is so important to the positive way South Derbyshire Road Runners functions. He was asked How difficult is it to convert parkrunners to a running club? He replied:
It's quite easy - and they are all so friendly. And I am getting back to my own running - the Derby 10 this weekend!
Coach of the year
Winner: Richard Massey
Whilst widely being considered an individual sport, Richard brings everyone in the club together which creates an incredible team atmosphere and buzz around the club. The club’s growth and the improvements made by athletes is a testament to Richard and coaching partner Darren's commitment and the way they inspire members as both athletes and people.
Richard has taken the time to find differerent ways to coach juniors and seniors, from track athletes up to marathon runners. At training sessions, Richard doesn’t do a ‘one size fits all’ type of coaching. He urges everyone to encourage each other and takes time out of his days to come to events and races. As an ex-athlete himself he knows what’s important mentally in an athlete's head. It’s the messages before and after every race making sure you're in the right place, it’s him being on the side lines at races no matter where they are in the country, he’ll make the effort to be there.
Richard has spent a significant amount of time over the past year making improvements to the training facilities that the club has recently leased. The facilities are significantly better than previously and Richard has played a large part in improving these for the benefit of all club athletes. Even as a running coach he has regularly tended to facilities such as long jump pits and shot area, benefiting athletes beyond his own coaching group. Richard goes way above what anyone would expect of a coach.
Richard went up to receive his award to loud shouts and cheers from members of his club Mansfield Harriers! He was also a popular winner of the Room to Reward prize!
"What I most enjoy is seeing people being healthy and trying to better themselves - getting the kids at 11, onto the Youth Talent Programme at 16, going to university and still competing in their twenties."
Runner up: Marjolein Templeton
When the club's previous head coach moved away Marjolein stepped up to take on the leadership of the coaches for Retford AC, she has encouraged multiple new coaching assistants and supported them in their journey. As lead coach she has developed a very good understanding of opportunities for disabled athletes, developing an understanding of the para classification system and competition pathway.
There are now training cycles in place, regular meetings, and attendance updates. There is rapidly growing attendance at throws sessions she puts on in addition to regular club sessions. Come rain or shine she is there with a smile and words of encouragement. She facilitates extra sessions during school holidays for specialist training. With limited facilities at the club, she has helped the development of hurdles athletes and rotational throws using facilities at other local clubs.
Above and beyond coaching she has also completed first aid training and is a qualified official so that when the club attends events she can support the officiating team.
She explained how she got involved in para-athletics:
"The para side came about as we had twins join us - one is classified as Cerebral Palsy and the other doesn't fit in a classification, but they both wanted to do athletics. We needed to help find ways to be inclusive and help her enjoy athletics which is the main thing."
Services to Athletics and Running
Winner: Chris Cohen
Initially an athlete, then a coach, Chris started officiating in Derby in 1974. His first event was at Stoke Mandeville Hospital which started his career in disability sport.
He has been secretary of Derby Schools Athletics Association for 20 years, chair of the English Schools Athletics Association since 2000 and honorary secretary, International Technical Official (ITO) to World Athletics for 20 years, head of competition for the London World Championships and competition director and technical delegate for the World Championships in Oregon. Chris spends weeks and months helping the host countries to promote these events and mentors those he works with so that the event will leave a lasting legacy.
It is great for other officials to see Chris on the TV at major meetings, keeping the meetings running to time and sorting out any problems, and then to see him at local meetings working as a technical official giving support and providing mentorship to those officials. He is a role model and gives officials a chance to see where their aspirations can take them. Chris is always willing to undertake any role at these events and you will see him doing anything from raking the sand at the long jump, retrieving a javelin or leading the event. He will even agree to write a report on someone when asked at the event and given no notice.
Chris is the person you want to have at your event with his knowledge and personality, which is always calm and measured, yet will do anything to make it run. Quote from an official "Chris is simply a true expert in his field. He always has time to give and patience with anyone who needs help. He pays great attention to detail and cares passionately about what he does."
Emma Davenport presented Chris with his trophy and took the opportunity to ask a few questions, starting with 'How do you fit it all in?'
"I am very lucky to have an understanding and long-suffering wife. She's known me all the way through from being an athlete to what I do now. I have been involved in all sorts of ways. I gave up coaching because I didn't have the time to commit, and 20 years ago I gave up teaching because I didn't have time to teach."
"Athletics is at the centre of everything I do - a league match to a world championships, the athletes are the same, same stressors - I can treat them all the same way. When I was an athlete myself I never dreamed that I would get to Worlds or Olympics. Being a field judge was a good way to stay involved."
Emma asked what would be his advice to a new official.
"Stick at it. Take all the opportunities to learn and try things."
And he's still getting new opportunities:
"Next year I am Technical Delegate in Paris - my first TD at an Olympics. And the first British official to be TD at an Olympics and a Worlds."
He went to sit down following a round of applause for his wife!
Winner: Ian Anholm
Ian gives hours of his time for the support of athletes in their pursuit of excellence, often at the detriment of his own personal life (often finishing in the early hours of the morning and then officiating all day at an event). Ian always has the athlete at the centre of his thoughts. He always wants them to be able to achieve their potential. In view of this he facilitates meetings so that they can gain qualification standards at Loughborough for National and International events.
Ian has been an athletics official for over 20 years. If not required in photo finish at a National event you will often see him in a management role, but he likes to support his local club whenever possible on either the field or in photo finish. Ian is always willing to help any newcomer to officiating in either role. He is an active member of the Midland Counties Track and Field Advisory Group, the England Athletics Tri-Regional Group for photo finish and is a tutor for the Level 1 photo finish course.
I do it so athletes can acheive what they want. I work to find events that can get a qualifying standard - we always try and ensure Loughborough meetings are organised to a level where standards can be accepted."
30 years as a teacher, and looking after 400 athletes at Loughborough University has driven him to love these age group athletes. "And now I am retired I have more time to officiate at English Schools which has always been close to my heart." He continued by answering a question about developing newer officials:
"Having tutored some Level 1 photofinish courses I try and get them to come to Loughborough and then get to Level 2 - then they can run their own competitions without having to rely on others."
Winner: Cherie D’Silva
Cherie has been a key member of the Leicester & Rutland Athletics Association, with responsibilities that have included the recruitment, training and appointment of technical officials, the development of the Leicestershire Sportshall Athletics League and promoting county athletics.
She has also been responsible for trying to ensure opportunities existed for athletes with a disability, to train and to compete in local clubs and at county championships. Since 2012 the Leicestershire Disabilities Athletics Development Group (LDADG) has gone from strength to strength and has survived the pandemic with numbers at events on the rise. Cherie, as chair of the group, has worked tirelessly to provide opportunities for all age groups and disabilities Her knowledge of athletics, classification and the needs of individual children is huge however she has excellent contacts with others who can help if she is struggling with a request.
Even outside Leicestershire, her name is synonymous with athletics but especially disability. So many have benefitted from her work, all done as a volunteer.
"Ironically, I didn't come into disability athletics in a wheelchair but it has helped me understand that you can still come into athletics with a new disability."
She went on to say: "I feel like I am in the twilight of my athletics, if I should decide to retire this would be a good place to go out." Followed but lots of advice from the audience to not yet retire! She continued, "It was lovely to see the video and recognise everyone."
"The link between mainstream and disabilty athletics that I think I bring helps to improve the standard of the disability athletics. But to see the athletes achieve is the best thing. It's great to see the pleasure of disabled people saying I haven't come last because they don't just have to compete in mainstream events now."
Live streaming - watch again!
You can watch the evening online via youtube and we have set chapter markers so that you don't have to watch the whole event but just your favourite volunteer being awarded!Go to South West streaming watch again