Berkshire featured in the recent England Athletics Regional Awards.
Official of the year
Jill Wright: Jill holds a Level 4 Field and a Level 2 Track Licence and has been active as an official for over 50 years, at local, regional and for a time national level. Now focussing on local and regional officiating, she supports new and training officials and ensures that sufficient qualified officials are available for County track and field, sportshall and cross country championships, and a wide range of schools meetings too. Jill isn’t attached to a club, but regularly attends athletic meetings in Berkshire and beyond as an official in all disciplines of the sport, and has been an administrator for Berkshire, as the County Officials Secretary for many years.
She arranges Tutors for local officials’ courses and provides attendees with opportunities to put their knowledge into practice; identifying mentors and encouraging development of skills and progression. She spends time with inexperienced officials at meetings, advising on good practice and encouraging the taking on of responsibility.
There is a general shortage of qualified officials in the small county of Berkshire, Jill uses her persuasive skills to ensure that events are properly catered for, and when required seeks officials from adjoining counties to help out. She remembers names and faces; and gets to know athletes, recognising those who could potentially turn their hand to officiating. It is high time that her critical contribution to officiating in Berkshire is recognised and rewarded.
Slough Juniors AC: We are extremely proud that Slough Junior Athletics Club has been recognised as one of the most forward thinking and successful athletics clubs in England. A common misconception about athletics clubs is that they’re all about “running”. At SJAC it definitely isn’t. We aim to guide athletes through a broad curriculum that has been developed in conjunction with England Athletics. This starts with the FUNdamentals of movement and then covers many basic athletic and physical movement skills that will stand all children in good stead across all sports, not just athletics.
We work with athletes from the age of 5 upwards, and have a well-balanced, long-term and common-sense approach to every aspect of athlete, coach and team development. As our young athletes progress, they move through ability-based training groups, ensuring they are secure and competent in the skills required for the various athletic disciplines they will encounter. These disciplines include running at speed and over hurdles, running for distance, jumping for height and for distance and throwing.
While older athletes do tend to train in event-specific and appropriate groups depending on their experience and ability, we aim to maintain an all-round, multi-event development programme for as long as possible. But more than anything, our over-riding aim is for children to enjoy the sport, to learn, develop and have fun.
We also engage directly with the whole community, including parents, with questionnaires and presentations on physical literacy activity. We’ve launched a lunchtime running club, after-school RJT sessions, teacher education and fitness sessions to educate everyone in a fun, sustainable and engaging way on the importance of active participation.
Run Together Leader
Sue Bennett: Sue gives so much of her free time to volunteering within the running community. She holds RunTogether sessions on Monday and Wednesday evenings every week, as well as a monthly Sunday morning trail run. In addition to this, she’s a volunteer Run Director at parkrun every Saturday and volunteers at Newbury Runners. If any of us have a run event on, she will train with us and support us on race day. Sue is a RunTogether leader and a Mental Health Ambassador, and attends courses in her own time to build on her already extensive volunteering and coaching skills.
Sue’s positive and enthusiastic approach to supporting her runners is amazing and totally inspirational. She proactively engages and encourages people with mental health issues, weight issues, recovering from illness or accident, people that think they can’t run, and people that just want to run in our groups. There’s such a broad mix of people in our RunTogether groups and this is part of our ethos. Sue loves her RunTogether family and dedicates all her free time to encouraging people to ‘give running a go’. Everyone that has joined Sue’s groups have ended up falling in love with running and making some great new friendships from all walks of life. Most of us would not be running if it were not for Sue’s commitment and dedication. Nothing is too much for her, she puts ‘her everything’ into these groups. Despite suffering from her own illness, Sue is there every week to support and encourage her runners. She goes above and beyond standard volunteering duties and for that we love and respect her so much. Sue says we all inspire her, but it’s her that is our inspiration.
Abbie Jones: Abbie has been with Maidenhead since she was 7, she’s nearly 17 now and has been approached by other local clubs due to her talent and has represented at County level, but she has remained at Maidenhead and is an asset to the club.
The facilities she trains on are not the best, but she really is a remarkable young lady with all she does volunteer wise and competing herself. I’m the Junior Admin for Maidenhead Athletics Club and Abbie has helped out for years with the younger athletes, before her own training sessions, and has inspired many young athletes along her way. Abbie competes in jumps, sprints and mid distance as well as cross country. Last September Abbie decided to do her Gold DofE, which involves 12 months of volunteering every week. She did this most weeks and even took on an additional role of looking after an U11 Boys sportshall team. In which she organised 24 boys, no mean feat, and medalled, seeing one of her athletes be selected for Regionals. Abbie decided even though she was volunteering she wanted to give something back to the club, so she became a Level 1 coach in January.
Abbie is enthusiastic, supportive and encouraging, she ran with a partially sighted girl, coaches’ children with all sorts of additional needs, and wholly supports our inclusive club. She’s passing on all her knowledge and love of athletics.
Abbie coaches whilst working a Saturday evening job, studying for her A levels, doing her DofE and competing herself, and has plans to continue on the coaching pathway and take on another sportshall team. She’s an inspirational young lady, most definitely deserving of this award.
Also recognised for her efforts in the Coach of the Year category was Shireen Higgins.