EA National Volunteer Award Winners 2024

Created by : Amy Fendley On : Mon, 03/18/2024 - 17:00
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England Athletics celebrates National Volunteer Award winners

Saturday evening saw England Athletics celebrate the winners of the 2023 National Volunteer Awards. It has been an important feature of England Athletics activity for over a decade and is the the culmination of our volunteer award programme as we recognise our national winners every 12 months after successes have been celebrated at Regional Award evenings.

CEO Chris Jones commented:

"I always look forward to the volunteer award ceremonies. The finalists in the respective categories are ultimately all winners and are standard bearers for what is a wide ranging and dedicated commitment from selfless individuals. They are the foundation of our sport and without volunteers we would not be able to coordinate the structures and systems that result in thousands of participants being able to enjoy all the many physical and mental benefits that athletics and running provides."

"Our sport not only provides the opportunity for people to realise their full potential but also for people to find social belonging, to build friendships, and to develop as individuals."

Our winners

The winners enjoyed a delicious celebratory dinner at the New Hall Hotel in Sutton Coldfield which holds a coveted AA 4 Red Star rating. Each also received a Room to Reward voucher to use for two nights for two people at a one of R2R's 900 hotels whenever suits them. Their Operations and Marketing Director Joe Langtree was able to present the vouchers on the night: This is what R2R is all about and it's great to be a part of it."

Chris Jones, Gary Shaughnessy and Sarah Benson made the presentations.

Gary said in his opening speech:

"Tonight we see the energy givers - they give energy to the sport and those involved them give it back and recycle that energy and make such a huge difference and make it vibrant and enjoyable."

Club of the Year: Mansfield Harriers

Mansfield Harriers

Inclusivity, an athlete centred approach and dynamic, forward thinking leadership have enabled this once struggling club to become a thriving hub for athletics activity within the local community. As well as working hard to recruit, train and retain volunteers across all aspects of its activities, from administration to athlete development and access to its facilities the club has fine-tuned its governance to enable it to attract funding and ensure financial sustainability.

Richard Massey and David Lisgo received the award on behalf of the club. When asked what was the key to getting volunteers, they said a volunteer coordinator was vital,

"They were able to do direct approaches to people - that works best. And we raffled out Room to Reward prize to active coaches over the last 10 years - we've grown from 3 to 25 since 2012."

Read more about Mansfield Harriers

Coach of the Year: Jo Evans

Jo Evans

Over the last 12 months, Jo has helped athletes to become both regional and national champions, with a group member going on to reach the age group European Championships.  In addition to supporting elite level athletes, Jo makes sure she is attentive to everyone, whether they are just starting out in athletics or have been involved for years.  She also acts as a mentor to athletes who are interested in starting their own coaching journey.

She told us that she bumped into an ex athlete last week who told her what an impact she'd had. "It was lovely, and it's my passion to see all the kids improve. Developing them all has been very special."

"Thanks to England Athletics for an amazing evening; it was lovely to meet such inspirational people."

Read more about Jo

Club Leader of the Year: Pat Carlan

Taking a club on the brink of closure and making it vibrant and viable again requires a high level of commitment and drive, as well as a willingness to get stuck in wherever your skills are needed, with leadership by example an essential part of the process. From fixing the plumbing to race direction and grant application, coaching and governance, Chair Pat Carlan, has done all this and more - taking Mansfield Harriers from near collapse to once again being a thriving, successful organisation.

And the secret of his success?

"It is lots of hard work for the volunteers, but if you have the same goal you can get far - and success breeds success."

Read more about Pat

Community Project of the Year: Hereford Running Community

Hereford AA Chair

This running community pulled together to raise funds to save their track when resurfacing the track would cost £400k. Realising the importance of the facility to schools and clubs and the long term benefits in helping people with mental and physical health, the community worked as a team to take on the challenge which seemed so daunting back in January 2023. The Hereford Running community have put their hearts and souls into the project and have achieved the unthinkable.

Lesley Bennet from the Herefordshire Athletics Association represented the communty. Her advice to other clubs in the same situation?

"Avoid putting it off. If you need help, ask for it. There's help out there - the whole community of Hereford got behind us."

Read more about Hereford Running Community

Newcomer to Volunteering: Claire Tomsett

Claire Tomsett

A welcoming face for new young athletes and their families, Claire initially came to the club as a parent of a young athlete and has put that experience to good use. Combining a friendly approach with a real depth of knowledge, she has helped parents become more involved in club activity.

She's U13 Sportshall Team Manager and also assists with the coaching of a large U11 group. Claire is making a real impact on athletics at grass roots level. 

"I love seeing the ones just starting out - seeing them build confidence and progress over the weeks. Plus it's great to give something back."

Read more about Claire

Contribution to Running: Nicola Harvey and Louise McLaren, leaders at Park View 4U Friendly Running Group

Nicola Harvey and  Louise McLaren

Offering a diverse and inclusive running experience - membership of Park View 4U Friendly Running Group includes those with dementia, learning difficulties, cancer, heart conditions and mental health issues. It is run entirely by volunteers with no membership fees; fundraising ensured there were enough Run Leaders, resources and First Aid training for all. The group has three Mental Health Champions and run sessions dedicated to mental health themes. Members volunteer at parkrun, deliver armchair aerobics, and support food banks and other charity and community projects.

Their philosophy is that the group members all support each other, the group supports the Park and community, and they in turn support the group and its members.

"It's wonderful and unexpected for our group to be recognised and to meet all these amazing volunteers. Our RunTogether group will be so excited and it makes us feel part of the England Athletics family."

Read more about Park View 4U Friendly Running Group

Inspiring Official of the Year: Kenny Ebanks

Kenny Ebanks

A level 4 Starter and Starter's Assistant who over the last year could be found at televised meetings right down to league matches!   Kenny is passionate about future proofing officiating, is always looking to bring people on, find new sources of officials and supporting those to continue their journey. He has taken on tutoring and delivers free Assistant Official courses to young people in local schools.

Kenny began his officiating career also being a coach; "but there were far fewer officials so I continued with that." His advice on supporting new officials?

"It's the first impressions - how they are welcomed and supported that first time but not overwhelmed. Make their first experience enjoyable and they'll come back."

Read more about Kenny

Services to Athletics and Running: Chris Cohen

Chris Cohen

Initially an athlete, then a coach, Chris started officiating in 1974. He's filled a number of roles at the English Schools' AA including Vice President. He's been an International Technical Official (ITO) for World Athletics for 20 years, was head of competition, competition director and technical delegate for various World Championships, Olympics and Paralympics. Chris spends huge amounts of time helping host countries to promote these events and mentors those he works with so that the event will leave a lasting legacy. It is great for other officials to see Chris on the TV at major meetings; he is a role model and gives officials a chance to see where their aspirations can take them.

Chris told us he spends all the time and effort because he just loves the sport, even when it is stressful.

"I was inspired by many other officials when I started out and I am so pleased when I hear of people I have helped have been selected for major international roles. When I started out at that level there was just 2 of us, and now we're so much more prevalent on the world stage with 2 at gold level, 6 silver and 25 bronze."

Read more about Chris

Chris Jones finished by saying: "To those working actively, week in week out, and across the year, in our member clubs, for competition providers, in communities and in schools we are indebted to your ongoing skill, tireless dedication, and commitment and thank you sincerely for all that you do."

Selection process

The nine winners were selected from the ranks of the Regional Award winners by a panel comprising Chair of the Board Lorna Boothe, Board members Janice Kaufman and Matthew Dalton (also chair of National Council), staff members Tracey Francis and Marc Ritchie, and external panel member Andy Day.

Marc said:

"The quality of nominations, runners-up and winners for this year's national awards of a very high standard, and really is a reflection of the outstanding work that is carried out by the amazing volunteer workforce within our sport. It can mean so much to any volunteer to hear the words 'thank you' on a club night, at a meeting or at any recognition events."

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