Volunteers are the unsung heroes of grassroots running…so please get involved

Funding announcements for Team GB athletes always creates controversy.

There’s the debate over which athletes would benefit most from receiving such grants along with a little criticism about certain athletes who perhaps don’t necessarily need it at this stage of their career. It does beg the question about the two very different ends of the spectrum when it comes to athletics.

Right at the bottom is of course grassroots athletics – it is very much amateur and most certainly done for the love it.

This doesn’t stop there of course as when I say for the love of it, this is also very applicable to all those coaches, helpers, volunteers and officials who are always there when needed to help make things work and keep the ball rolling.

We all know who they are and they really are unsung heroes.

With my recent columns about the standard of cross country running at senior level and the announcement of Chris Merrylees and Dominic Blake being promoted to joint managers of the Norfolk Senior X/C Teams, it appears that there has been a large influx of entries for January’s County Championships hosted once again very ably by Thetford AC.

So much so that I received a visit from one of these hard working officials in the form of chairman of Athletics Norfolk, Clive Poyner.

Thankfully not to tell me off, but to talk to me about all the hard work which really is put in by all those amazing people behind the scenes at club and county level.

It looks like there could be a resurgence in senior athletes wanting to take part in the 2018 champs, which of course is great news. This will also most certainly require a lot more manpower in respect of volunteers to help out from everything from car parking, to marshals out on the course to helping with results.

However, and as my conversation with Clive became a little more in-depth it was quite clear that it went a little beyond also requiring volunteers.

A new co-ordinator who has the skills and knowledge to plan and deploy all cross country activity in the county is also required following the recent step down by the very hard working junior age group team manager Dave Pring to concentrate on his role as co-ordinator for the Eastern Region teams for The London Mini Marathon.

Therefore and whilst Norfolk cross country running at senior level currently looks to have a healthy future, it is also important to provide the support and structure for all the younger age groups to help develop our young talent and help them carry on with their running once they become adults, hopefully in a Norfolk vest. Perhaps one day they could even become a funded GB athlete.

For those who would still like to enter the 2018 County X/C Champs, you can enter online via www.athleticsnorfolk.org.uk and of course for anyone who could perhaps lend their support by way of helping out as a volunteer on the day, or of course in one of the key roles mentioned in this column, then please contact Clive at team@athleticsnorfolk.org.uk