National Volunteer Awards - winners announced!

Volunteers from across the country were rewarded for their outstanding contribution to athletics and running this evening as we announced the winners of our England Athletics National Volunteer Awards.

Winners and runners-up across nine awards categories were announced in an online broadcast, screened via the England Athletics website, presented by Katharine Merry and which also featured a host of special guest appearances including Jenny Meadows, Kelly Sotherton MBE and Toni Minichiello. England Athletics Chair Myra Nimmo and CEO Chris Jones also contributed to the broadcast along with Elected Board Director Lorna Boothe MBE, Regional Council Chairs Dr. David Lodwick and Julian Starkey, Head of Coaching and Athlete Development Martin Rush and previous award winner Danielle Guy.

The England Athletics National Volunteer Awards follow on from the Regional Volunteer Awards which were held in November and December last year – shining a spotlight on the remarkable contribution of volunteers who have worked tirelessly to help navigate our sport through such a challenging year. Winners from the regional awards were put forward to an external panel which then selected the nominees for the national awards. The awards broadcast also presented the recipient of the Dave Sunderland Coaching Award.

Speaking about the awards, Chris Jones, England Athletics CEO, said: “The importance of volunteers in our sport cannot be highlighted enough. In a normal year, they make amazing sacrifices and show unbelievable commitment, all for the benefit of our sport. However, over the last year they have gone way above and beyond, week in week out, to help people in their groups, clubs and communities to stay active and supported during such a difficult time. It is an honour for us to be able to pay tribute to their efforts through our National Volunteer Awards, and the Dave Sunderland Coaching Award, and to focus on some of the examples of the determination, ingenuity and sheer hard work shown by volunteers in athletics and running across the nation. Congratulations to all our winners and our runners-up and a huge thank you to every single volunteer in the England Athletics family.”

We are delighted to confirm that the winners, and runners-up, of the England Athletics National Volunteer Awards are…

Athletics & Running @home Award

Winner: Ossy Joggers (North West region)

Community running club Ossy Joggers is the winner of the Athletics & Running @Home Award - recognising the contribution they have made to their members and community during the coronavirus pandemic. The club goes above and beyond to improve the community’s mental and physical health and has its own voluntary team of Mental Health Champions, who organise #RunAndTalk nights, which encourages people to open up about their mental wellbeing. Their motto is “the hardest step is out the front door” and throughout lockdown the Run Leaders organised virtual runs and family orientated challenges to help others to get out of the house and complete some exercise. Throughout these challenging times, when many people are no longer in a routine, Ossy Joggers has provided stability. The Run Leaders have taken it in turns to live stream warm-ups on Facebook and also uploaded suggested routes to follow, which occasionally passed the homes of members who were self-isolating so that the runners could wave to them as they passed. The random acts of kindness undertaken by the Ossy Joggers have also provided support to others: packets of sunflower seeds, cakes, toilet rolls, flowers and socks are just some examples of items which were left on the doorsteps of other runners as a gift.

Runner-up: Newcastle Frontrunners (North East region)

A bingo card, relay, online quizzes, private Strava group and a drop-in café were just some of the ideas the team from Newcastle Frontrunners came up with during the first lockdown. A new and diverse group of members created a range of ideas to make sure all club members were able to keep fit and connected during lockdown whatever their location, background or ability. The club is part of the Frontrunners network and describes itself as a ‘friendly northeast running club for LGBT people and friends’. The Athletics & Running @ Home team at the club were incredibly diverse, including coaches, runners from across the region (Morpeth to Birtley), injured runners, ages from 25 to 55, and people identifying as bisexual, straight, and gay. The group deserve thanks for their unceasing efforts, even when they were injured or anxious themselves, in using all forms of communication to keep in touch including visiting homes for socially-distanced chats, delivering S&C equipment, checking in with isolated members or delivering home-baked cakes to sheltering families. They gave the members a social lifeline and kept them active throughout with their innovative ideas while mental health practitioners gave tips to deal with anxiety and coaches delivered online strength sessions. A true team effort.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Club of the Year Award

Winner: Blackheath & Bromley Harriers AC (London region)

150 years young, Blackheath and Bromley Harriers AC remains forward-looking and is a well-deserved winner of the National Volunteer Awards Club of the Year Award. With 800+ members, the club has incorporated, become a charity and modernised its constitution and policies. Communication with members is a priority through an expansion of its website and social media platforms (weekly President’s briefings, interviews with notable members, lockdown updates and sharing athletes’ activities). Current members include Dina Asher-Smith and her coach John Blackie, Adam Gemili, Hollie Arnold and Helen Godsell. The club aids the governance of our sport by member involvement on the Regional Council, County Associations and England Athletics Board. The club also provides seminars on topics such as nutrition and mental health. Members established the BEES Academy for U11s and many then join the club as U13s. The club hosts annual development days for aspiring athletes of all abilities, and its coaches offer training for a full range of disciplines and ability levels, allowing newcomers to decide where they feel most comfortable. There is something for everyone from U13s to Masters. The club also holds regular social events and encourages parents to socialise and become involved - many go on to volunteer as officials, committee members and supporters. The club gives financial support to its volunteers to enable them to improve their skills.

Runner-up: West Cheshire AC (North West region)

West Cheshire AC is renowned for the voluntary help and support it provides for the local community. The club caters for anyone aged eight and a half years old upwards who enjoy training sessions and competitions coordinated and supervised by 40 qualified coaches and 43 qualified officials as well as many volunteers throughout the year. West Cheshire AC teaches members who want to compete in track and field, cross country, road running, hill running, and indoor Sportshall athletics fixtures. The club prides itself on the friendly and accommodating atmosphere its volunteers create at training sessions and competitions, as well as the variety of events it offers to the local community throughout the year. West Cheshire AC also partners with local primary and secondary schools to help deliver training sessions as well as running hugely popular indoor and outdoor competitions throughout the year which play an active part in their lives – promoting our sport and providing an important link into club athletics. The club has also developed a strong link with the local college and university and offers students an opportunity to train, compete, and learn how to become a coach or club official.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Coach of the Year Award

Winner: Mike Utting – City of Norwich AC (East region)

Sprints coach Mike Utting of City of Norwich AC is the Coach of the Year winner. Described as an incredible, kind-hearted person, he makes athletics fun and engaging. Mike is encouraging, extremely patient and goes the extra mile to help his athletes – he always has equipment and kit on hand to lend out. He reads up on injuries and is constantly sharing articles and information about athletics and how athletes can improve. Mike lives and breathes athletics and keeps his sessions enjoyable by creating new sessions and drills every week. He is heavily invested in para-athletes as well – an example of his caring nature was when an athlete was in hospital having an operation and Mike was the person she called at 1am for a chat. Mike has coached at two Paralympic cycles, coaching for GB at London 2012 and Rio 2016. He is currently helping a para-athlete who is due to race at the British championships. He gives his time freely to athletes, other coaches, parents and anyone who needs his help and support, including driving athletes to events when necessary and running one-to-one sessions if an athlete needs special attention.

Runner-up: Paul Wilson – City of York AC (Yorkshire & Humber region)

Paul goes above and beyond as a coach and has also raised thousands of pounds during lockdown, organising a virtual shot put competition with competitors from all over the world! Paul has a very large group of athletes for all disciplines and he manages to make sure that everyone is well taken care of, given essential feedback and is happy with their training. Paul is always ready to give advice and share his experiences with other coaches and is always open to learning and listening to others on how his own athletes can improve. He finds a way to ensure that everyone continues to love our sport and creates an amazing and productive environment to train in. Most importantly, he cares deeply about each and every athlete encouraging them with face-to-face coaching when possible, but also calling or texting between sessions. Paul sets individual plans for each athlete that are tailored to their discipline, their age, their experience and their time to complete the training as well as providing support in different ways for his athletes.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Run Leader of the Year Award

Winner: Julie Smith – Quarrington Hill Runners (North East region)

The England Athletics National Volunteer Awards Run Leader of the Year goes to Julie Smith of Quarrington Hill Runners. Since starting her RunTogether group in January 2019, she has gone on to build a team of run leaders who share her passion for running and ethos of making the group a safe place for people to get some time for themselves, make new friends and get fitter at the same time. Her qualities of being empathetic, non-judgmental and understanding have helped her to develop a close-knit group of runners, who support one another to achieve their individual running goals. As well as providing support by breaking down barriers to encourage runners to join her group, she ensures that all runners receive a friendly welcome and try different, fun and inclusive sessions to help increase their fitness. Julie goes the extra mile for her runners and leaders and has provided a much-needed community activity for people living in remote and isolated parts of County Durham. She has since gone on to complete her CiRF qualification so that she is able to focus on a broader range of running fitness activities and provides tailored support to individuals.

Runner-up: Jane Vongvorachoti – Run Higher Collective (London region)

Jane Vongvorachoti helped set up a new group, Run Higher Collective, when the New Balance Run Club shut down as a result of the pandemic. Jane’s passion for running, helping others succeed with their goals (both in and outside of running), and care for the team’s mental health really helped keep a community together. Her ability to motivate people and willingness to share knowledge with everyone, no matter their experience level in running, is unmatched. She launched Zoom sessions online for the RHC community to continue learning and keeping running safely with the idea to meet in person again once safe to do so. A Thai Olympian marathoner in the 2016 Rio Olympics, personal trainer at Equinox and, most amazingly, a new mother who gave birth to her first baby in 2020, Jane is also working on her career goals to compete in the 2021 Olympics at an elite level. Coming from a Thai background she inspires runners from all backgrounds to come together and be represented within the community. She also mentors other run leaders and coaches, offering guidance about the personal training, fitness and running industry and helping them develop their goals to succeed.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Official of the Year Award

Winner: Mary Hodges – Leamington C&AC (West Midlands region)

Mary Hodges of Leamington C&AC is an extremely experienced official having attended the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games in London and the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia to list but a few. She is highly respected among UK officials for her knowledge, her attention to detail and her approachability and is a deserving winner of the Official of the Year Award. She has consistently shown that she can work comfortably at a high level right down to bringing on new officials and supporting them on their journey. Her real skill is working with new officials – being a mentor and a fantastic motivator. At club level, Mary has been incredibly supportive especially towards the team of officials she has developed and nurtured: she has doubled the number of officials from 15 to 30 covering track and field and endurance. During a season, it is very likely that Mary typically attends more events than the athletes! At a more regional level, Mary is Chair of the Midland Women’s Cross Country League and also the Officials Secretary for Division 1 of the League. She has instigated the appointment of Assistant Referees at this league in the last couple of years to give endurance officials the opportunity to develop – enabling an endurance official to reach Level 3 and six others to Level 2.

Runner-up: Christopher Parkinson – Wycombe Phoenix Harriers & AC (South East region)

Christopher Parkinson of Wycombe Phoenix Harriers & AC has made continuous and substantial contributions to all levels of athletics for many years as a timekeeper and photo finish judge, both at Level 4, and as a pole vault coach. He is regularly involved with all levels and aspects of our sport including: disability athletics at Stoke Mandeville; schools meetings including area championships for the state and private sectors and the English Schools’ Athletic Association championships; indoor sprint open meetings at Eton and middle distance open meetings at Watford to name but a few. He is always willing to give advice and training to developing officials, especially young officials, and has inspired many by introducing them to these disciplines and giving them continuous encouragement and mentoring to progress to the highest levels. Many have achieved national, and some international, level appointments as a result of his continued interest and inspiration. He has made a constant and ongoing commitment to BUCS and Masters athletics in the UK as an invaluable resource and supporter, single-handedly owning and overseeing seeding and results for all their major competitions for many years.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

RunTogether Group of the Year Award

Winner: Team Caterpillar (Yorkshire & Humberside region)

Team Caterpillar is a true RunTogether group because equal emphasis is placed on being together and on the running. Winner of the national RunTogether Group of the Year award, the group fosters a supportive atmosphere that transcends running and spills over into the everyday lives of its members. At Team Caterpillar there is always someone there to listen, advise, console or celebrate, which gives its members the confidence to chase running goals they may otherwise never have dreamed possible. The group has members who are starting out on their Couch to 5k journey right through to members preparing for marathons and every member and their goals are valued equally. All group runs operate a loop back system where faster runners turn and run to the back of the pack so no one is ever left behind. Even though everyone has their own individual goals set for a run or event, everyone is there for one another by motivating, cheering and being positive towards one another. It’s a fun group which accepts any challenge with enthusiasm. It’s renowned as a special group of people who make everyone feel welcome and helps teach people to have self-belief.

Runner-up: Lions Running Community (North West region)

Lions Running Community is supportive, accessible and diverse and sees itself as sitting at the heart of the community, providing the benefits of running and wider social inclusion. They support the ethos of removing barriers to access running and provide a variety of inclusive sessions, which enable people to train together. Members receive personal coaching plans enabling the leaders and coaches to support and monitor performance in order to tailor the support they provide. The friendly environment within the group shines through in its buddy system for new members, the caring support for members with their mental wellbeing and its social activities. As a group, they support children through funetics, who may struggle to access sport for a variety of reasons, giving them an opportunity to enjoy athletics and running in a safe environment. The club’s army of volunteers are trained as leaders, coaches, mental health champions, guide runners, fitness instructors and nutritional advisors allowing them to provide motivational sessions, guidance and encouragement for all members. The Lions also support a local children’s hospice and have raised funds for a community defibrillator.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Services to Athletics or Running Award

Winner: Paul Sanderson – Telford AC (West Midlands region)

Paul Sanderson of Telford Athletics Club is the winner of the National Volunteer Awards Services to Athletics Award. A founder of the club, Paul has been the club secretary since the club started in 1976 and he has been key in securing improvements to the track. Paul has been a driving force locally in promoting the sport and bringing people who share his passion for athletics to the club. His tireless work has not only impacted the sport and left a legacy at the club and in the community, but it has touched and improved people’s lives in many ways. As a product of his dedication to his work, people have had the opportunity to get involved, make friends, try new things, compete, with some even making it to the national team and becoming Olympians. Paul has encouraged and supported many volunteers to get involved and always made sure that their contribution is recognised and appreciated. If there is a problem that needs sorting, Paul would do his best to sort it, however big or small. He does this in his own special quiet way, never talking about the hard work he does and always putting the club first.

Runner-up: Dave and Anne Roberts – Cleethorpes AC (Yorkshire & Humber region)

David and Anne Roberts of Cleethorpes AC have given 50 years of service to their club and county. Described as inspirational, the Roberts are known and loved by grassroots athletes, coaches, officials, parents & clubs throughout Humber, Yorkshire & Lincolnshire. Anne has taken on many roles in our sport and her huge contribution to athletics is as an announcer. She is renowned for her clear, concise instructions: poor track etiquette is spotted and further guidance follows! Anne also encourages less experienced announcers with her advice and instructions. Their commitment to schools athletics is also legendary for their dedicated volunteering for district and county meetings as well as at schools trials and championships. Dave is a very experienced Level 3 starter who is respected for his willingness to pass on helpful guidance which is appreciated by all who work alongside him. At club level he encourages young athletes to become officials and/or administrators as well as encouraging parents to get involved in club events. The interest and encouragement shown by the Roberts towards young athletes makes them proud to be part of the athletics family.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Volunteer of the Year Award

Winner: Tracey Jones – Southampton AC (South East region)

Tracey Jones of Southampton Athletics Club wins the Volunteer of the Year Award for this year’s National Volunteer Awards. Tracey got involved with athletics through her son and she quickly became an official for the club. Moving on she qualified as an assistant coach, then full jumps coach and later she became officials secretary and also the main organiser of the SAC open competitions, which have grown in popularity year on year. Recently she took over the role of club chair giving many hours to improving the club for young and old. She is friendly, enthusiastic and approachable: she can be found scoring, serving tea and coffee, on field, helping everywhere. She also helps run the foundation academy for young athletes encouraging them all the way. Described as the heart and soul of the club, Tracey actively encourages parents and people from the local community to get involved with the club. Regular emails are sent to parents explaining roles within the club and how anyone can join in and learn – enabling them to take the opportunity as far as the individual decides to take it. Tracey just has a way about her that makes you want to join in.

Runner-up: Jemma Arbon – Mansfield Harriers & AC (East Midlands region)

Jemma is a coach, leader, committee member, team manager, Mental Health Champion, role model and regional councillor whilst also being prepared to support others in their volunteer roles. She is also a champion of women in sport – inspiring positive competition and leading by example by putting herself forward for team events. Having set up a beginner’s group she has stayed on to mentor those leaders and continues to offer support to its members. Jemma has a real skill at developing volunteers with a winning smile and a supportive attitude. Her approach is that if she can ‘do-it’ anyone can and she fills volunteers and athletes with self-confidence and the knowledge to excel. Jemma goes out of her way to ensure volunteers and parents from all clubs know their value and instils in the juniors the value of officials. Not shy to ask for assistance, many parents find themselves suddenly ‘helping’ and enjoying the opportunity to be included and involved: whilst spreading her net wide she uses social media to keep in touch with her junior and senior circles.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Young Volunteer of the Year Award

Winner: Thomas Lewis – Run Wild Manchester (North West region)

The National Volunteer Awards Young Volunteer of the Year is Thomas Lewis of Run Wild Manchester (based out of the University of Manchester). Over the past two years as president, Tom has volunteered hundreds of hours of his time for run leading. He organised every weekly session, which saw a regular attendance of 100+ runners, assigning Run Leaders to groups and planning routes for each group. In addition, he was a Run Leader at the Manchester International RunTogether meet up and responsible for the creation of the Manchester 24 Hour Run Against Homelessness. This saw multiple clubs in Manchester take part, with 314 runners running 5km laps raising money for charity. During lockdown Tom made sure the club continued to be active, hosting weekly pub quizzes, encouraging runners to write weekly run reports and filming/editing weekly virtual parkrun videos. Tom has been at the forefront of making the club more social, encouraging those who wouldn’t normally socialise, making everyone feel included and welcome – especially as loneliness can be a huge issue at university. He has been the driving force behind using Run Wild’s sessions to raise awareness and provide support around a number of issues, with events for #Runandtalk, LGBT awareness and #runequal.

Runner-up: Rosie Timlock – Wreake & Soar Valley AC (East Midlands region)

Despite being focused upon success on the track as a steeplechaser and achieving her dream of attaining a USA scholarship in 2021, Rosie Timlock of Wreake and Soar Valley Athletics Club is always ready and willing to help and support those around her. Her first instinct is not to be asked to help but to offer assistance in any manner. Rosie has an undoubted diligent attention to duty which belies her young years. She has a great understanding of the work that goes into organising events and club activities and is always the first to step in and do whatever needs doing. Her help at schools events is invaluable and she very much sees this as giving back to the structure which helped launch her into a lifetime in the sport. During 2019, she became a qualified official – a job which she undertook with the only breaks in her duties being to warm up and compete! Not known for her shy and retiring manner, she took over announcing at various events. At her first road commentary, she researched every single entrant and shocked many with her in-depth knowledge!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Dave Sunderland Coaching Award

Recipient: Conrad Milton

We are also delighted to confirm that the recipient of the Dave Sunderland Coaching Award is Conrad Milton. Conrad is a Level 4 Performance Coach who has been coaching for 57 years. Whilst he coaches athletes from various clubs (currently 27 athletes aged between 17 to 52) he is attached to Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow AC.

Over the years he has helped produce 39 international athletes including winners at Commonwealth, European and World Student Games level and is one of the few British coaches to count a world record holder amongst his charges (Paula Fudge). He took Hayley Yelling to European Cross Country success in 2004 and 2009, after working together for 12 years, and Kojo Kyereme became World Masters Champion in 2015. He coached Sir Mo Farah through his teenage years before he left for the US and introduced him to international competition, often while acting as British Team Manager or Team Coach.

In addition, he has co-ordinated and lectured courses for Gifted and Talented Schoolchildren and Junior Sports Leader courses, has lectured up to University level on Drugs in Sport, and has helped a number of schools introduce Sportshall athletics.

Apart from being National Coaching Secretary for BAAB for 8 years, he controlled the initial Trust Fund scheme for UK athletes receiving grants/prize money permitted within international rules. For many years he was Hon. Treasurer of the European Athletics Coaches Association and on retirement from this was made a Life Vice President.

Active at all levels, Conrad helped arrange the merger between Borough of Hounslow AC and Windsor Slough Eton AC. He is a qualified official (Timekeeper) and regularly acts in this capacity at league meets.

He is described as being generous with his time and wisdom and always willing to share his experience and tips with others.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Click here to find out more about the National Volunteer Awards and to watch a recording of the awards presentations.