The back page of this week’s Herald with two further pages of coverage inside.
This week’s newsletter leads with the fact that The Herald deemed us worthy of almost 3 pages of coverage on how we, as a club, have coped with the pandemic so far.
We’re gradually returning to the new normal, with the culmination of both the virtual Shakespeare Race and EA Relays, Rob Minton’s Zoom sessions have resumed and the juniors have been issued with comprehensive Lockdown home training guidance.
Tomorrow night is the Senior Members Annual Awards via Zoom, the juniors having held their Awards in December.
The results of January’s virtual Shakespeare Race are shown and there are provisional dates and venues for this year’s Vets T&F fixtures. Fingers, legs and arms crossed !
Just a reminder that the Senior Members Annual Awards will be via Zoom, tomorrow, Friday 22nd, starting at 6.30 pm
The junior held their own Awards at the pavilion in December.
No red carpet, no tombola but I’m sure you can supply your own food and drink, sit back and enjoy reliving the highlights from the strangest of years.
Hurdler Lucy Lane is closely followed by Holly Newton at the Club Championships in September.
Millie Leighton, watched by Nick Butler and officials Michael Lane and Louise Leighton, takes flight in the triple jump during the Club Championships
The Stratford upon Avon Herald
This week The Herald have devoted almost 3 pages to our wonderful club. They tell the story of how well we as a club have coped during the pandemic.
It is a reminder of what we have gone through in the last 10 months and how, hopefully with light at the end of the tunnel, we will emerge as strong, if not stronger than when it all started.
The copy was also submitted, in a greatly reduced form, to Stratford District Council, hopefully for inclusion on their website for their Celebration of Sport.
This will be an online showcase of the commitment of individuals, teams, coaches, teachers and volunteers during 2020.
They asked to hear about how clubs or individuals adapted to enable sport and physical activity to take place and of organisations involved with helping the community to stay active.
Below is the copy that was submitted to The Herald, copy that was featured almost verbatim.
A big part of the attraction of athletics is being able to meet and get to know like-minded individuals, it is about making friends with like-minded individuals and it is about competing with like-minded individuals. It is also about the individual’s physical and mental wellbeing.
For a large part of the last 10 months, many of these attractions have been denied to the 500 plus members of Stratford upon Avon Athletic Club, a local community club that seeks to look beyond these 500 members in an attempt to involve the wider community.
The lockdown in March 2020 bought all the winter training and competition to an abrupt halt.
Government guidelines dictated what could and couldn’t be done and so as well as encouraging senior members to stay active with various initiatives, the juniors, with safety in mind, have been encouraged to get involved with home coaching programmes, devised by the club’s volunteer coaches and overseen by their parents, which kept the families of these juniors engaged, including Virtual pentathlons for the under 11 and 13s arranged by the respective age group leaders.
So how did the members, coaches and officials at the club, with an active age range of 8 to 78, respond to the many challenges presented to them by the pandemic?
Despite the restrictions, it would be no exaggeration to say that without exception they all rose to the challenge magnificently.
For the juniors, when the guidelines were relaxed in June, despite initially not being able to train at the Stratford School track, a few week’s travelling to the Leamington track enabled a limited number of youngsters and their coaches to ease their way back into a familiar routine albeit in unfamiliar surroundings.
When the Stratford School track was available in July it was deemed a “Covid secure“ location but not before stringent protocols were put in place to protect everyone. It meant that sessions could include more athletes and involve groups of up to 12 athletes per coach. This enabled socially distanced sessions across many disciplines and across all junior age groups to resume.
The relaxation of restrictions also allowed, the club’s junior endurance group to once again resume their Sunday morning training sessions on the Welcombe Hills, with groups of 5 juniors and a coach. Such was the popularity of these sessions, which in normal times attracted approximately 25 participants, that it wasn’t unusual for 60 juniors to take part, meaning several of the coaches having to take double sessions to accommodate these numbers.
Domestic Track and Field competition was effectively wiped out and the athletes who were aiming to compete in the national championships were devastated as one after the other the championships were cancelled.
Fortunately for members, The Pingles Stadium in Nuneaton was one of the first stadia in the country to re-open and one of the first to hold socially distanced track and field competitions for both juniors and seniors. This limited amount of competition, alongside the indoor T&F season which was completed just prior to the first lockdown resulted in many members occupying top 10 UK rankings.
On the international stage some competitions were run and hurdler Andrew Pozzi was expecting a trip to Japan for the Olympics, but with the Olympics delayed until 2021 he took advantage of competing very successfully across Europe and he finished 2nd in the world rankings.
Domestically, Lewis Byng finished his Under 20 career with a British Under-20 shot put record with the 6kg shot, becoming the first British Under 20 in history to break the 20 metre mark which gave him a place amongst the top juniors in the world.
For the bulk of senior members who are primarily road and cross country runners, despite limited opportunities, the club continued to arrange many activities albeit socially distanced.
An unfortunate casualty of the current pandemic has been the postponement of the club’s, free to join, Couch to 5k initiative, which culminated in the participants “graduating“ by taking part in Parkrun. This initiative saw several hundred members of the public take part, many of who went on to join the club and indeed some have graduated to competitive 10k runs, half marathons and even full marathons. Couch to Marathon! One member, who joined one of these groups at the age of almost 70, never having run before, has now run a half marathon and hopes to run a full marathon this year. In 2019 she achieved a top 10 UK ranking for her age in both 200m and long jump. For some people in athletics life begins at 70!
A major part of the club’s normal activities has been the monthly Shakespeare Races. These have usually been held on the first Wednesday of the month for 10 months of the year. It is a highly competitive competition, traditionally involving approximately 60 members per race, running in and around Stratford over something like a 10k distance. Of course this wasn’t allowed, so the club arranged for it to be competed “virtually”. This involved a monthly run by members, on their own or in groups of 6 when regulations allowed. Each month there would be a different distance, restrictions were put in place to ensure members didn’t run downhill for a majority of the race and there was a two week window for results to be submitted. The result of this was that instead of some 60 competing, many months saw over 100 entrants. It was a hugely popular initiative. When the distances involved complied with the England Athletics guidelines for younger runners, these virtual races also gave some of the club’s juniors a chance to compete with and against the seniors, many for the first time.
As a result of both this and club secretary Tony Jackson becoming Mayor of Stratford, a Mayor’s Magic Mile race was introduced. Again this was extremely popular and it also gave many of the juniors the chance to compete against their elders and in very many cases, show their elders up!
With many club members also being enthusiastic cyclists, a virtual cycling time trail was also introduced.
The virtual Shakespeare races were a huge success and it would be no surprise if many members exited the various lockdowns fitter than they were last March.
Other initiatives included such things as Zoom resistance and stretching sessions, quizzes, alphabet runs, which involved members submitting Strava runs (an internet service for tracking exercise which incorporates social network features using GPS data) in the shape of the letter of the month. This resulted in some extremely innovative outings.
Several senior members also competed in the virtual London Marathon raising quite a bit of money in the process and in the local Warwickshire Road race league, which also went virtual, the club dominated.
However, the cub realised that as important as the physical wellbeing of its members was, their mental wellbeing was equally as important. The upshot of this was that the club’s welfare officer penned articles for the club’s weekly newsletter, offering advice and links to various organisations that might be of help for anyone requiring it.
For many members, the highlight of the club year is and indeed in this year of all years was, the Club Championships. With restrictions lifted to enable a limited championship to take place and with the full agreement of Stratford School for the use of the track, on condition of complete compliance to regulations, on a glorious sunny day in September the event went ahead with over 120 athletes taking part. The championships, which normally take 5 weeks to organise, were organised in just 11 days and run by over 40 of the clubs volunteer official and coaches. It was hugely successful and the smiles on people’s faces was a joy to behold and with over 200 personal bests recorded on the day, it proved that the hard work of both members and coaches during the difficult circumstances of lockdown had definitely paid off.
Then came another round of restrictions and for a few weeks in November the track was closed but afterwards, with the protocols in place, training carried on until Christmas with an eye on a return to competition. However, the signs weren’t looking good with the indoor Sportshall league and the Cross Country season completely decimated. The current lockdown imposed at the beginning of the month meant the indoor Track & Field competitions have also been cancelled.
So that was then but what about now? Quite simply we are pressing the restart button and, similar to the situation in March 2020, apart from the fact it’s mid-winter and the weather isn’t as good as it was during the last lockdown, we will continue to provide programmes of activities that try to keep everyone engaged, fit and healthy as we can and look ahead to post lockdown.
The first of this year’s virtual Shakespeare races has already taken place, again enthusiastically embraced by the membership.
Zoom resistance and stretching sessions are resuming.
Junior coaches and age group leaders are putting in place training plans.
The Annual Club Awards will be via Zoom later in the month, as opposed to being held at Stratford School. The junior section held a socially distanced awards ceremony at the Stratford School track in December.
The current level of activity is obviously very restricted because of the “stay at home to stay safe” instruction. As the club, like the rest of the country comes to terms with lockdown 3, it is determined to continue to put its members and their families at the forefront of its efforts to maintain both their physical and mental wellbeing while maintaining, indeed hopefully strengthening, the community spirit that is at the very core of what the club does.
Although restrictions are likely to continue for the foreseeable future, the vaccine programme is in full swing and the club’s volunteer leadership teams are already looking ahead and planning for hopefully a burst of late spring and summer competitive activity.
The club strives to be so much more than an athletic club, it strives to be something more akin to an extended family for its members and their families and hopefully, very soon, we will all be back together and have some more fun and enjoyment along the way.
David Jones & Paul Bearman
Georgie Campbell and Ben Kruze. First placed female and male runners in January’s virtual Shakespeare Race.
January Shakespeare Race.
The results of January’s virtual Shakespeare Race are shown in the link below and interesting reading they make.
With 81 members competing, it is noticeable that in the top 10, of the 8 who competed in last May’s 5 mile race, 6 improved their times and the 2 who didn’t were only 10 seconds or less slower. The first 2 female finishers, Georgie Campbell and the ageless Kate Wright also improved on last year’s times.
Two of the top 5 were juniors, with Alex Adams in 4th place, improving on last year’s time by exactly a minute, while Taylor Stubbins, in 5th place, improved by a scarcely believable 8 minutes. Yes, 8 minutes.
Hopefully we will have a report on the EA Relays in next week’s newsletter
Once upon a time, a long time ago – 2019 – our Vets T&F team used to compete quite successfully in the Midlands Vets T&F League.
Hopefully this will be able to resume sometime this year.
This being the case, below are provisional dates and venues for the coming season.
15th May – venue tba 9th June – Redditch 7th July – Stratford School – tbc 4th August – Worcester – tbc
5th September – Nuneaton.
Mental Health & Wellbeing
If you are worried about anyone, including a child or if you need advice and support for coping with anything affecting mental health or wellbeing there are many different ways to seek help.
The NHS website contains a lot of valuable information: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/, which includes advice about talking to children about feelings and spotting signs of depression in adults, children and teenagers.
Below are links to other organisations that may be of help.
Provides confidential, non-judgmental emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those that could lead to suicide. You can phone, email, write a letter or in most cases talk to someone face to face.
Telephone: 0300 123 3393 (9am5pm Monday to Friday)
Mind provides confidential mental health information services. With support and understanding, Mind enables people to make informed choices. The Infoline gives information on types of mental distress, where to get help, drug treatments, alternative therapies and advocacy. Mind also has a network of nearly 200 local Mind associations providing local services.
ChildLine is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of nineteen. You can contact a ChildLine counsellor for free about anything no problem is too big or too small.
YoungMinds offers free confidential online and telephone support to anyone worried about the emotional and mental wellbeing of a child or young person up to the age of 25.
call the free parents’ helpline on 0808 802 5544 from 9.30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday
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