On Tuesday 26 January, EA Club Support Manager Rich Ayling went to visit Team Bath AC and the Natasha Lewis Foundation (NLF). Dave Bowler, the founder of the foundation and the fiancée of the late Natasha Lewis, introduced Rich to numerous volunteers and athletes at Team Bath.
Dave explained that The Natasha Lewis Foundation works with Team Bath to provide support for not only talented athletes but the club as a whole:
“The support we provide covers many facets aimed to support every participant at Team Bath which have included things such as new or enhanced coaching qualifications, a hardship fund, extra track time, new kit and for selected athletes they have been able to gain access to warm weather training camps, rehabilitation sessions, specialist kit and funding for competitions”.
The NLF do this to keep kids and young adults engaged in their love of athletics and help to grow Team Bath's numbers as an excellent provider for the sport. By working closely together they are helping talented athletes to receive much needed support and some athletes have already benefitted from kit, specialist training and the opportunity to attend European training camps.
To further support the great work that Team Bath AC & NLF are doing, they have been awarded club improvement funding from England Athletics. This funding has been used to support talented athletes and also athletes who don’t own spikes. As Dave explained during the visit, they don’t want cost to be a barrier for athletes participating in athletics, so the NLF has supported Team Bath AC to develop a hardship fund to support club members. They have also used funding to purchase track spikes for talented athletes and provide support for travel expenses, kit and entry into key competitions.
On September 3 the NLF will be holding a 10k race at Bath Odd Down and the profits from this race will go into supporting further athletes through the charitable work the foundation are doing. Team Bath AC are also organising two athletics open meetings in April and May. These opens will be known as the Natasha Lewis Opens and will be targeted at young athletes involved in Athletics 365.
Following on from the pandemic the club identified the need to provide more opportunities for young athletes to gain experience and compete locally. The ambition is these opens will help support young athletes and be a fitting tribute to Natasha Lewis who absolutely loved her athletics.
Team Bath are working in partnership with the local schools partnership and will be arranging teacher training events to help young people get positive first experiences of athletics. This approach to supporting the community very much fits the culture of both NLF and Team Bath AC and they have already been identified for this.
Such has been the impact of the NLF, it was awarded as the South West Regional Volunteer Award winner for the Community Project of the Year. The project made a lasting impression on the panel and the impact their work is having across the community really set it apart. Dave went to Exeter in November last year to collect their award and everyone connected with the club and the NLF are delighted to see their efforts being acknowledged.
Athletes from Team Bath AC are already seeing the benefits from the support provided by the NLF.
John Howorth said:
"It is a huge honour to be a representative of the NLF and continue Natasha’s legacy. What the foundation has done for athletes and the community is inspiring and it is a privilege to have its support.
"I’m really looking forward to continuing to represent the foundation over the year and best represent its values and enthusiasm. I plan on using the foundation's support to fund an altitude camp closer to Easter time. This will give me the opportunity to continue to develop fitness and strength in a lower-oxygen environment, prior to the start of the outdoor athletics season. The funding will also help contribute towards the financial stresses associated with competitions and training gear/facilities."
Freya Spurit added:
"Since becoming a NLF athlete in 2021 my training and competing has massively improved. This season I have put out stronger and faster performances than I ever thought I could, although I’ve had some challenges along the way, like a calf injury and getting long COVID last year which stopped me training for a while.
"With the help of the foundation I was able to access the support I needed through my recovery so I could get back to training. As a result of this, I have broken both my 5k and 10k PBs this year, and won two 10k races.
"My goals for 2023 are to further improve on these PBs and complete my first half marathon. I feel extremely privileged to be part of the foundation with other likeminded athletes, and have the opportunity to be able to do things like this. It has and will continue to help me grow as an athlete and enhance my performance."
Rich Ayling was really pleased to see first-hand how the partnership is benefitting athletics in the community:
“It was great to get an understanding of the collaboration between NLF and Team Bath AC. I can see the huge benefits this partnership is providing and it was lovely to speak to athletes and learn how the support is benefitting them. When I visit clubs it is always a pleasure to witness such a positive training environment and you could see so many athletes enjoying their training and benefiting from this set up. During the evening I spoke to multiple volunteers and coaches and it was great to learn more about their passion for athletics and how young athletes are benefitting from their efforts. Well done NLF & Team Bath AC.”
Dave went on to say:
“I also believe that the work we have been able to provide in a short period of time and the volume of athletes we have supported truly honour my late fiancé Natasha’s memory in the best way possible and for me it’s truly amazing to see the passion for athletics live on in everyone we help at Team Bath.”