The track and field summer season is in full flow, and competitions throughout the country are taking place in their numbers each week. But what goes into organising a competition, and what goes into planning our England National Championships series? We caught up with former international athlete, Liverpool Harrier and now England Athletics’ Competitions Delivery Manager Vicky Griffiths to find out more.
How far out do you start planning the National Championships?
“The planning for each championships starts around twelve months in advance. We work alongside the other Home Countries and competition providers to ensure the fixtures calendar is fluid with minimal clashes.
“I work alongside Nichola Skedgel, England Athletics’ Competition Partnerships & Innovation Manager and she does a fantastic job coordinating between ourselves and our partners.
“Straight away after each championship we do a full review, pulling together all feedback and details. It is important to do this early when fresh in the mind. This then helps start the planning for the following year!”
What key considerations do you have to make when planning a championships?
“Officials are critical to the running of our championships, and without them and their incredible support we would not be able to deliver competitions to our athletes. We start to plan and work with our officials months out from the competition. A project plan is created for each championships to help make sure that all aspects and specifics of the competition are accounted for. This helps us to keep accountable and track what needs to be completed, and by what deadline.”
What are some challenges you have when organising a championships, and how have you overcome these?
“One challenge we have had this year was finding suitable venues to hold our championships. We want to ensure that we host our championships at the best and most inspiring venues for the athletes. We are very excited to be hosting our Age Group Championships at the Alexander Stadium at the end of August.
“There are always challenges as we approach championships – for example changes to the timetable, the weather. As long as there is a contingency plan in place and a team of people who are flexible and can respond, then we are always able to overcome any challenges together.”
What is the most rewarding thing about organising a championships?
“I love watching athletes do well, and seeing them celebrating with their team, their family, friends and coaches. This season already we have seen some amazing battles on both the track and field between athletes and I am sure there are many more still to come!”
How has your experience as an athletes impacted your approach to event organisation?
“I always like to put myself back in the shoes of when I was competing, and ask myself how I would want something to be done. It is so important as a competition organiser that we are putting the needs of athletes first and this is always my approach.”
What changes are you looking to make at the England Athletics Championships to improve athlete experience?
“We are always wanting to put the athlete first! We ask ourselves; what do athletes want to see at events and how would they want them to be delivered?
“We are already working on changes to the 2024 season to ensure we are providing the best possible experience for all who attend. We want great venues, action-packed timetables, wider ‘festival’ style experiences for athletes and spectators, and maybe even new formats of competition…! I am very excited for the future so watch this space!”
Finally, what advice do you have for clubs who are looking to organise local competitions or open meetings?
“Never be afraid to ask for help or advice from other clubs, regions or contacts! Use the experience of others to learn what works well and doesn’t work well. Try new things! Be innovative in the delivery of events and even maybe be the first to trial something new!”