The weather has been a law unto itself the past few months across England and the night we chose to visit Yeovil Olympiads Athletics Club (YOAC) was certainly no exception. The winds were high and the rain strong but the enthusiasm amongst the athletes and coaches was better than ever.
The evening started with a foundation session for the youngest members where athletes could choose to either focus on running, jumping or throwing. Later in the evening, a second series of sessions took place for the older athletes who again were split up by event group. We caught up with Geoff Cole, Chairman at YOAC to hear his thoughts on the two session and, more generally, on the club as a whole:
Video: Life at Yeovil Olympiads. Watch on YouTube.
The life of a club chair
There is no denying the value that clubs can bring to all athletes and this is mentioned on a regular basis. What is perhaps less spoken about is the club volunteers themselves. Whilst at YOAC, we had the opportunity to ask Geoff about his role as Chairman:
“I’ve been Chairman for several years and I do find it very rewarding. Being a Chair does come with challenges, but we are lucky to have a really good committee here which makes my role so much more enjoyable. I have loved being more involved with the club and putting on events and open meetings. That is something I’ve been really proud of as chair. What is most rewarding though is seeing the athletes improve and really enjoy sport.”
Reward and recognition
This year, the hard work of two of the volunteers at YOAC was recognised at the England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards. Annette Weale won the Services to Athletics award while Paul D’Arcy won the Inspiring Official award.
It was great to be able to recognise the outstanding achievements of these two individuals at the Regional Volunteer Awards but one thing that is particularly exciting about YOAC is that they also have their own reward and recognition programme. Geoff told us a little bit more about how YOAC recognise their volunteers:
“We have annual awards ceremonies at the end of every season where we don’t only acknowledge the achievements of our athletes but we also recognise all the volunteers who have helped throughout the year. That includes coaches, officials and any other volunteers who have helped to make the club a success as they are just as important as the athletes.”
A unique relationship
One of the most exciting parts of the club visit was hearing about the unique relationship YOAC has with the South Somerset District County Council and how they work together to develop and promote athletics in the local community. This includes junior sessions held by the council on Mondays, Holiday Camps when schools aren’t in session and a track pass system which allows members of the community to come and take advantage of the facilities in their spare time. We caught up with Ashley Smalley, Facilities Manager at Yeovil Recreation Centre who told us more about this initiative:
Video: Track pass system at Yeovil Olympiads. Watch on YouTube.
Summing it all up
It was great to see the enthusiasm shown by all the athletes and coaches at both training sessions. Rich Ayling, Club Support Manager at England Athletics summarised his thoughts after visiting YOAC:
“Tonight has been absolutely fantastic. We’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the younger ones doing their foundation sessions as well as some sessions for the more senior athletes. What has really stood out for me this evening is the sense of community at the club. It’s wet and it’s cold tonight but the passion for athletics and running really came through with everyone we spoke to. It’s clear there’s a real family feel at the club.”