Inspiring Official volunteer award winner: "I never realised I made a difference"

Our Volunteer Awards for 2023 opened a few days ago 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, or your club or the sport as a whole.

With the County Champs weekend just past and the importance of officials at these events in particular, we thought it appropriate to start with last year's South West Inspiring Official volunteer award winner - Stuart Woodman. Stuart was delighted to win this award.

"Winning the award has been a huge inspiration to me. The recognition has made me feel that “I’m doing something right” and served as a reminder as to why I love officiating."

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

I’m now retired but I worked in health insurance for several years. I’ve always been a keen sportsman and played football to a good level and was part of the Forest Green Rovers side playing in the Western League. I’ve now been involved in athletics for 30 years. My wife Sandra introduced me to athletics (she competed for Bristol & West AC). After spending time helping at events and watching my wife compete, I was encouraged by Derek Morrison, to train as a marksman (starter's assistant). With Derek’s support, I qualified as a starter in 1999 and have been a Level 3 starter for over 15 years.

Who nominated you?

It was a complete surprise to be nominated - Stuart Nunn was the guilty party in submitting my nomination! I was really flattered that Stuart took the time to nominate me, but I didn’t think I had much chance of being successful. This was the first time I’d been nominated for an award within athletics.

What did winning the Regional Volunteer Awards mean to you?

Firstly, I was astonished I had won the award. This was partly because of the achievements of the other officials being recognised and I was pleasantly surprised to be considered in that company. On the evening, I was amazed by the testimonial that Stuart Nunn and other officials had put together.

To see and hear the comments on the video was very special as it was unexpected and gave me a real sense of pride. It made me feel very humble and made me think that I’ve made a difference to the sport. This was the first time I’d considered this.

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

Since winning the award, it has made me reflect and it has re-energised me. It has also made me determined to keep working as an official and supporting athletes.

"My aim has always been to make sure that athletes get to experience the best of what the sport has to offer."

Since the awards, my local club Yate & District AC have recently purchased electronic starting equipment. To showcase how it works, we put on a trial session, and this not only highlighted what the equipment can do but helped us to recruit new officials as well. This has inspired me as it is exciting to see new officials entering the sport.

Why do you think the Regional Volunteer Awards are important?

Until I attended the awards event in 2022, I had never appreciated how important the regional volunteer awards are. Being nominated for an award gives a real sense of pride and going on to get recognition as an official is a really nice way to recognise many years of service.

"Winning an award or being nominated for one, can be a real morale boost. Officials make our sport happen and at times they perhaps don’t get the recognition they deserve. The process of the awards is a great way of saying a big thank you to them. It is also a great way to highlight their professionalism and how they contribute to creating a fantastic competition experience for athletes."

Athletics wouldn’t be the sport it is without all the volunteers involved with in.

Since winning an award, it has made me want to see more officials be recognised and I will be looking to nominate other officials in the region this year. I would also encourage clubs, volunteers and athletes to consider nominating officials as part of the 2023 awards.

Nominate now!