England Athletics is always looking to bring new ideas to the table to enhance the experience of everyone involved in our sport and 2023 has been a particularly creative year. Take a look at some of the innovative work that has taken place and helped us make huge positive strides forward in all key focus areas of the England Athletics strategy:
England Athletics is committed to helping clubs grow their coaching volunteer numbers and, to this end, has introduced an innovative new U11 registration scheme. Whilst it is not compulsory for U11s to register in order to compete, there are now benefits for clubs who do choose to register their U11s. For every 30 x U11s registered, England Athletics provides a free place on a Coaching Assistant course. The club can choose who to send on the course and embark on a coaching journey.
England Athletics has been working hard this year to enhance customer service and by introducing the innovative phone system Freshcaller we can now see every call we receive. This allows us to act proactively and return calls which were not dealt with immediately by our small three-person team. Few organisations take this trouble and we have received fantastic feedback for reaching out and helping all our callers.
A major new initiative for England Athletics this year was the introduction of the PB Awards/ Pathfinder Awards. We completed a soft launch of these awards at the Indoor Age Group Championships in February with a full launch in April.
The PB Awards expand upon the old AAAs Awards and are fully inclusive. Some key features of the new awards include:
- 9 Levels of progression per age group
- Male and female awards
- Para Awards
The scheme is still progressing, and we shall shortly be introducing U11s and Masters Awards. England Athletics is extremely proud of this initiative which has seen over 5,000 certificates sold this year.
The Shrewsbury AC festival
Held for children aged 8-14, the pilot festival at Shrewsbury AC- supported by England Athletics - was all about introducing young people to an adapted and inclusive version of athletics in a fun, relaxed festival environment. The organisers had three clear goals for the day:
- Focus on enjoyment and remove the little stresses of a traditional competition format – in the long jump children’s jumps were measured from where they took off as opposed to the traditional board. Similarly, kids could run the 60m dash on their own, or with a parent or friend.
- Immerse the family experience – parents were able to get up close and the infield was a supporting and carnival zone, something the likes of Highgate Harriers’ Night of the 10,000m PBs event have become renowned for.
- Make the day rewarding for all – the focus was very much on fun and all children received a certificate and a sticker medal for taking part, whilst the parents and family members had lots of entertainment opportunities and even a prize draw.
Sustainable events in Gateshead
The North Eastern Counties Athletics Association (NECAA) has been highly innovative this year by choosing to place sustainability at the forefront of its winter indoor series. Held next door to the prestigious Gateshead Stadium, this series includes a range of field events and a 60m competition for track athletes. Look at some of the great ideas introduced:
- Reduction of paper numbers – all athletes are given one number for the series and, if they lose it, pay a £3 replacement fee.
- Online start lists – athletes include their PB when registering enabling online seeding and start lists to be published on the Roster app on the night.
- No paper results – organisers and officials use the Roster app to input distances, heights and times. This allows crucial time and paper savings and means results appear almost instantaneously on the app.
- Quick turnaround – the series offers a condensed back-to-back schedule which is exciting for spectators and ensures that the facility is being used for less time which benefits the environment. Last month, the organisers ran pole vault, shot put, high jump, long jump and 44 x 60m races in 2.5 hours, with a 60m race every 3.5 minutes!
England Athletics has developed an innovative partnership with Roster Athletics to help transform the competition experience for our sport. We’ve seen a 150% increase in the number of competitions using the Roster Athletics platform during 2023 compared with 2022 and more affiliated organisations are starting to benefit from the wide range of features offered through the platform. More recently, the introduction of para-athlete classifications to the platform has been a welcome step forward in ensuring that it is more inclusive for all athletes. We shall continue to work with the team at Roster Athletics to enhance the platform and help competition organisers to innovate whilst reducing the administration burden associated with running their competitions.
YTP delivery model
In 2023 England Athletics introduced a brand-new delivery model for the Youth Talent Programme that merged the athletics and educational components of the scheme. This led to a reduction in the requirement for travel by athletes, coaches and parents, something which was crucial to our goal of making the programme more sustainable. The new method of delivery was made possible thanks to be implementation of a new online learning portal with our partners at Loughborough college. Alongside this we have introduced Sportshoes.com Jog on boxes at all activity days. Feedback from parents, athletes and coaches has been massively positive.
Coaches and officials
Milestone emails and graphics
This year England Athletics has introduced a series of emails for coaches when they have completed 1, 5 and 10 years of service with an additional email for lifetime service. We are so grateful to our volunteers and consider it vitally important to thank them for their great work and the vast contribution that they make to our sport.
This year, England Athletics look on the licensing of all coaches and levels 1-3 officials in England. From now on, all communication in relation to these roles will come from us. We are extremely proud to be able to offer this service and support volunteers as they give up their time, expertise and dedication to help athletes and runners across our member clubs.
Clubs, Club Leaders and facilities
Continued growth of Club Hub
We were extremely proud to launch Club Hub, our digital support area designed specifically for athletics and running club volunteers, just over two years ago. Since the launch, we have been adding to the site on a regular basis to help volunteers learn, develop and grow in their own time. Here are just a few of the items added this year: volunteer recruitment collection, managing club disputes guide, effective club committee collection and setting up a junior section resource.
Launch of the upcoming Club Leadership programme
Only recently, England Athletics launched its latest Club Leadership Programme to help enable affiliated clubs to be safe, sustainable and welcoming. The programme consists of online webinars, networking opportunities and access to resources. This innovative and interactive personal development initiative aims to benefit both the individuals and their clubs.