South West Regional Volunteer Awards winners and runners-up for 2020

We’re two thirds of the way through this year’s England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards – celebrating the remarkable contribution of Athletics and Running volunteers across the country and, this year, thanking volunteers for the massive role they have played in helping to navigate our sport through the impacts of Covid-19.

The sixth of our regional awards nights saw us pay a virtual visit to the South West region. Broadcast live online, it was fantastic to be able to recognise the unbelievable sacrifices, passion and hard work demonstrated week in week out by volunteers throughout the South West who have made such a positive difference to Athletics and Running in such a unique and challenging year.

Our England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards winners and runners-up for the South West are…

Athletics & Running @Home Award – South West

Winner: Jason Campbell (Highworth RC)

Congratulations to Jason Campbell of Highworth Running Club who wins the England Athletics Regional Volunteer Athletics & Running @Home award for the South West. During lockdown, Jason utilised the club’s Facebook group to full effect with a HIIT session each Wednesday in lieu of club nights. He also replaced the weekly track sessions that he usually hosts by posting ideas for rep sessions with advice on how to make the session harder and reminders to warm up/cool down properly. He set the club fun running targets to entertain and motivate club member with challenges such as a run for exactly 27 minutes 12 seconds or to start a run before 7am. Jason encourages runners of all abilities and ages, is permanently positive and always pushes people to achieve their best. He plans fun, interesting activities and welcomes people sharing their accomplishments on Facebook. He’s always willing to offer training advice and will tailor a fitness programme for specific needs or aims. He shares the results for the DBMAX Rainbow 5k and gives encouragement and praise to those who take part. He has also been a regular contestant in a weekly quiz night for a small group of club members.

Runner-up: Patricia Everitt (Bournemouth Joggers)
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Club of the Year – South West

Winner: Tavistock AC

The England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards Club of the Year for the South West goes to Tavistock Athletics club. The club takes all levels of athletes from age eight upwards and have an active junior and senior section. They have particularly developed throwing, working with coaches from other clubs, and have encouraged new runners through various Couch to 5K programmes, monthly races as well as a successful 7 mile race and a Half Marathon. Tavistock AC has developed well in recent years and has produced many good athletes with success on the track, road and cross country. The club has also worked well in the local community raising money for charity. Despite lockdown, the club has taken over the control of the track at Tavistock College and created an excellent base for all levels of athletics: they also made it available to use by City of Plymouth and Erme Valley Harriers athletes. Without this forward thinking approach, the club would have struggled as would many other clubs in recent times. Tavistock AC has also invested in the facility, installing a new recorders hut and an equipment storage facility and now have plans to build a clubhouse and toilets at trackside.

Runner-up: Yate & District AC
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Coach of the Year – South West

Winner: Elaine Fileman (Tavistock AC)

Coach of the Year for the South West, Elaine Fileman, started her coaching background with no athletics background. She took it upon herself to get qualified as a coach and to this day she continues to further her knowledge to deliver the best quality coaching possible. She worked her way up to coaching several u15 girls who are now reaching English schools standard in the hammer. She has paved the way for future throwers at Tavistock Athletics Club and the South West by using every available resource to gain knowledge and skills to facilitate her athletes’ training to make great technical advances in their techniques. As well as being a coach, Elaine has a key role on the club’s committee as junior coach coordinator. In this role, she always makes sure that the juniors have a place in the club to train and are happy in their groups as well as supporting other coaches by sharing her knowledge. Since lockdown she has helped other coaches and their athletes who have been unable to train at their own track and created new training groups so that everyone possible could continue to grow as athletes and work towards reaching their full potential.

Runner-up: Sharron Kington (Taunton AC)
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Run Leader of the Year – South West

Winner: Jay Sims-Bagshaw (Avon Valley Runners)

Winner of the Run Leader of the Year award for the South West, Jay Sims-Bagshaw of Avon Valley Runners, is a key part of the leadership team for the club: not only is she the safeguarding lead and one of the lead coaches, but she is one of the hardest working volunteers at the club. She proactively and regularly takes a lead and is a great multi-tasker. Jay offers encouragement and support to members via different media. She is quick to respond to any queries raised and does her utmost to ensure that a full evidenced answer is given. Jay has a fun, approachable persona which is a great asset as a mentor and leader. She is able to assess where an athlete needs to improve and strengthen and knows that the same thing doesn’t work for everyone so adapts her methodology. Her proactive approach enables her to think of the bigger picture in terms of the club and how the members will feel if something takes place. She has been a key lead through the pandemic, setting up the Zoom sessions to offer assistance and help to members. Jay’s infectious enthusiasm is a joy to be around.

Runner-up: Ian Matchett (Weston Whippets)
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Official of the Year – South West

Winner: Pat Jefferies (Yate & District AC)

Pat Jefferies of Yate and District Athletic Club has had a huge impact on the club and the wider athletics community. Winner of our Official of the Year award for the South West, Pat attained a Level 2 Track and Field Official qualification and the work she put in to coordinating the officials for most competitions in the area earned her an Honourary Life Membership at Bristol and West Athletic Club as well as the Avon Athletic Association. As a mark of appreciation of her and her husband Tony’s outstanding contribution to sport, the athletics arena at Yate was officially named “The Jefferies Arena” and a plaque was unveiled by HRH Princess Anne in January 2019. She is a well-loved individual always ready with a smile and a word of encouragement for athletes, parents, coaches and officials. Pat has enabled many young people to achieve their ambitions and her selfless and tireless work behind the scenes is truly inspirational. She has inspired many people to start on the journey of being an official and mentored those just starting out, helping them gain valuable skills and experience, which they too then put back into the club, our sport and the athletes.

Runner-up: Ann Dale (Yate & District AC)
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RunTogether Group of the Year – South West

Winner: Verwood Runners

Verwood Runners is a very inclusive RunTogether group with a very wide range of abilities. The winner of this year’s South West RunTogether Group of the Year award, Verwood Runners are always so supportive of everyone – encouraging every achievement no matter how small. RunTogether was created by England Athletics to provide fun, friendly and inclusive running opportunities for everyone and Verwood Runners are a great example of this philosophy. The core team work hard to provide group routes that challenge all levels. The Run Leaders also organise social events as well as socialising after runs, so they’re not just a group that runs together. The support provided by the group has been so important to its members in this very unusual year with encouragement being given through social media and Strava: there have also been weekly challenges to help keep everyone motivated, online skills sessions and social activities. Running with others in groups or virtually can provide inspiration and encouragement in the best of times as well as the more challenging: the ethos is that it doesn’t matter what run a member has done (even if they’ve only been able to walk with the dog), the important thing is to keep active.

Runner-up: Lady Runners of Cheltenham
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Services to Athletics or Running – South West

Winner: Sonya Ellis (Exeter University AC)

An amazing coach for 34 years, Sonya Ellis of Exeter University Athletics Club has an unbelievable and unwavering commitment to athletics. Winner of the Services to Athletics award for the South East, Sonya has not only been pivotal to the growth of the Exeter University team over the past decade but has also been central to coaching at Taunton AC, Exeter Harriers and within the South West Athletics Academy (a group which has encouraged hundreds of young kids to take up athletics as well as developing already-keen athletes to achieve their maximum potential). She has also put in huge efforts to coach not only able-bodied athletes, but has focused greatly on working with disabled athletes too. More broadly, Sonya has a wealth of experience in officiating (including 25 years as a starter) and organising large-scale and smaller events. Sonya’s impact on those around her has been nothing short of extraordinary. Her tireless hard work and her vast expertise have enabled her to consistently help bring through younger generations of volunteers and coaches. Whether she’s mentoring an elite-level athlete or a complete beginner, Sonya’s extensive knowledge and charismatic personality helps them do their best and most importantly, enjoy what they are doing.

Runner-up: Mo Pearson (Cornwall AC)
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Volunteer of the Year – South West

Winner: Debbie Brooks (North Somerset AC)

The Volunteer of the Year award for the South West winner for 2020 is Debbie Brooks of North Somerset Athletics Club. She is very passionate about athletics and cross country and shows it on a regular basis. As one of the ‘front of house’ contacts for the club, Debbie is the smiling face at training and competitions: new recruits are told to ‘look for Debbie’ at meetings! She will have pins, numbers, information, vests, timetables and enthusiasm to ensure nervous athletes are relaxed. The club as a whole feels fortunate to have such a dedicated, enthusiastic volunteer giving her time freely at all times of the year to help everyone succeed. Debbie has been volunteering with the club for four years and from being asked to assist a team manager, she has stepped into many roles: track and field team manager, cross country camp coordinator, athlete recruitment for cross country, committee member and assisting the membership secretary. This year she has used her expertise to support the track and field team managers offering help and guidance following her successful recruitment of new team managers. She takes on her volunteering roles with an overwhelmingly positive attitude, infecting those around her with her enthusiasm.

Runner-up: David Hyde (Avon Valley Runners)
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Young Volunteer of the Year – South West

Winner: Holly Newman (Avon Valley Runners)

Congratulations to Holly Newman of Avon Valley Runners for winning the Young Volunteer of the Year award for the South West. Holly is an avid member and supporter of Avon Valley Runners having been a member of the club since she was a junior. Always available to help, her knowledge and skills for transmitting information to others is amazing. She currently leads the Junior element of Avon Valley Runners and she’s developed an incredible rapport with her athletes: their success is testament to the hard work which both they and Holly put into their training. Holly plans each session in great detail in advance but is always prepared to adapt it to the conditions, both weather and athletes. Her enthusiasm and love of the club shone through this year when she decided to take the Avon Valley Relay virtual and managed to get nearly 50 teams involved. Holly is honest and authentic which makes her someone people can relate to. She encourages others whilst being a great performer herself as she sees running as a key element to helping everyone through a difficult year. Holly not only trains and encourages others but also helps with the running of the club.

Runner-up: Dani Page (Newton Abbot AC)
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Click here to find out more about the 2020 England Athletics Regional Volunteer Awards.