North East volunteers shine at Regional Award Evening

We’re two thirds of the way through this year’s Regional Volunteer Awards – celebrating the amazing volunteers who have worked tirelessly to help keep our sport running through such a challenging year.

Last night we rewarded the hard work and dedication shown by volunteers throughout the North East region via a live stream on our YouTube channel.

Our England Athletics Regional Volunteer Award winners and runners-up for the North East are:

Club of the Year: Darlington Harriers and Athletics Club

A strong commitment to supporting the community as well as providing excellent opportunities for members and prospective members to get fitter through running are just part of what makes Darlington Harriers and Athletics Club so special. Celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, the club is about to be promoted for the second season running in the Senior Track and Field League and is also in the process of becoming a registered charity. As well as offering a free Couch 2 5k group to help local people get active, the club also offers a free, four-week trial period for prospective members wishing to ‘try before you buy’.

Above all, the club has established itself at the very heart of its community through its support of local charities and activities such as collecting for their local food bank and collecting gifts for the children at their local hospital.

Coach of the Year: Simon Jamison, North Shields Polytechnic Club

Keeping a group of 100 athletes motivated and connected during lockdown is no mean feat, but coach Simon Jamison made it a priority, resulting not only in increased membership numbers, but also helping many members achieve personal bests and feeling fitter, more confident and staying injury free. Simon has developed both group and individual training plans and also ran regular zoom strength training sessions. He made good use of social media to provide tips, advice and encouragement and also set up virtual challenges that everyone could undertake.

Alongside all this Simon has taken time to improve his own skills and knowledge, completing training in safeguarding, inclusion, and disability athletics, as well as looking at running technique, conditioning and strength training.

Runner-up: Rob Wilson

Newcomer to Officiating: Mel Cooke-Dunlop, South Shields Harriers and AC

Mel has worked hard over the last five years to gain a broad range of expertise at different events across the North East. She gained her Level 2 qualification earlier this year but is still keen to progress further. Very much a team player, she is keen to learn from those around her and is willing to help out whenever needed. She encourages both her fellow officials and parent helpers, and also connects well with the athletes. Recently Mel has officiated at her County Championships, the North East Grand Prix, masters events and the young athletes league, showing great commitment to improving her knowledge as well as building her experience.

Unsung Hero: Keith Willshire, Secretary, North East Counties AA

Always cheerful and enthusiastic, Keith has led the club through its most successful and challenging year yet, calmly finding solutions to a myriad of issues. Providing leadership of the highest quality he has managed a huge number of local track and field meetings, processing entries, solving time tabling issues, and introducing new events such as mixed relays and also Open Pentathlon. Keith has assisted at cross country and road events, and is also a Track Judge. During lockdown he kept everyone in touch with regular Zoom meetings and developed a new computer system which has helped increase levels of participation amongst the club’s athletes.

Runner-up: Val Baxter

Young Volunteer of the Year: Ashley Watson, Hartlepool Athletics Club

Very much a role model to the young athletes under her care, Ashley has taken charge of two junior training groups and has qualified as a Coaching Assistant. Following this she set up an U13 hurdles group which has gone on to achieve regional medals and put themselves at the top of the power of 10 rankings. Alongside this she also supports three U9 sessions every Monday, stepping in to fill the shoes of a coach who could no longer be available, thus ensuring the regular training of over sixty children.

Ashley’s ambition is to become a fully qualified coach and also to work within disability athletics as a guide runner. Her dedication to athletics shows she has every chance of success.

Runner-up: Owen Wadge

Leader of the Year: Simon Lynch, Newburn Running Club

Simon set up Newburn Running Club in September 2020 with the aim of ensuring his community had a social running club which would welcome runners of all abilities. He dedicates a large amount of time to the success of the club and it is now going from strength to strength including the provision of free Couch 2 5k training. Simon has also inspired some members to train as leaders, thus ensuring the group should continue well into the future. Above all Simon leads the group with passion and enthusiasm, always ready to advise and inspire those around him.

Runner-up: Michael Robson

Innovation in athletics and running: Mark Smith, North Shields Polytechnic Club

During lockdown Mark noticed via social media that some of his fellow members were struggling with their mental health, missing the companionship of their fellow runners and feeling less connected with the club. Mark’s response was to set up ‘Up the Poly’ a series of podcasts featuring a different member every week, forging a connection between club members and giving them something to listen to on their solitary long runs. To date Mark has recorded 19 podcasts featuring members of all ages and disciplines, researching what members wanted to hear about, and interviewing coaches to gain tips on staying motivated and returning to racing. The content has appeal to members of all ages and so far has been downloaded 2,500 times.

Runner-up: Mark Tallon

Services to athletics or running: Russell Dickinson-Deane, Coach, Newcastle Frontrunners

Passionate about running and always ready to help others get involved, Russell works hard to ensure those around him achieve their targets, giving sound advice to prevent injury and even accompanying his athletes on their training runs to help support their progress. He has been Chair of his club for the last two years and has inspired others to also take on committee roles, helping build his vision for the future. He has also ensured the club has trained coaches and leaders to meet demand as the club grows.

Alongside this Mark has raised the profile of the LGBT club both nationally and regionally, creating a safe space for LGBT people to exercise and compete. Not only a coach, Mark is also a timekeeper and a parkrun director, helping runners to find running that is friendly, accessible and free.

Runner-up: Heather and Bill Atkinson


Volunteering

We are incredibly proud of the heritage of volunteering within our sport; from coaches to officials, run leaders to volunteer coordinators, tuck shop organisers to club secretaries. Our sport simply wouldn’t happen without volunteers. Click here to see how you can get involved.