11 November 2008
Andy Paul, UK Athletics Project Officer looks forward to this year's awards evening.
This year's UK Athletics Awards Dinner will take place on Saturday 29 November and I for one am looking forward to one of the best nights in the athletics social calendar.
When we launched the awards in 2005 - UK Athletics and our Home Country colleagues were hoping that it would capture the imagination of everyone in athletics, calling on those at the grassroots to nominate and vote for their unsung heroes.
It has grown in both attendance and participation with each year more names, nominees and recommendations being put forward, and the dinner is supported superbly by Heidsieck and Co Monopole Champagne.
A key factor in the popularity of the awards has been the focus on clubs and the fact that the positions recognised within the awards structure underline the importance of clubs and their members as the bedrock of our sport.
After all, there are dozens of end of season awards dinners, magazine votes and website polls asking you who was your athletics Olympic or Paralympic hero. But how many in our sport look to give recognition to the many varying facets of club membership?
Anyone with a dedication towards athletics can be recognised by the awards process which begins at regional and Home country level, continuing on until the National awards evening at the end of November.
After all - there are so many different roles within an athletic club that to merely recognise athlete achievements - fantastic though they are - barely scratches the surface. It has never ceased to amaze me during my 29 year involvement with Birchfield Harriers just how many people are prepared to volunteers and give their time for the sport.
As a result, the awards, whilst recognising club success, also give our volunteer workforce, officials and coaches a well deserved chance to shine. They ensure that creative and dynamic thinking in club leadership is recognised with a partnership award for the best examples of clubs working with outside organisations.
In the same way that athletes come in all shapes and size, so do clubs - and the fact that the awards recognise "off track" activities enables us to reward our strong road and cross country running club population as well as those officials who specialise in working away from the traditional track and field environment.
One of my favourite parts however is the recognition of youth in these awards. It is essential that we make sure young people filling vital roles in our sport know how much they are valued and that we take time to show them that their efforts in volunteering (sometimes even harder to fit in when studying and still competing) are appreciated and admired. With awards for young volunteer and newcomer to officiating hopefully we are showing that recognition is not restricted to "lifetime achievement"!
Finally I am thrilled in the way the awards have been embraced by the whole sport, from the elite athletes who attend happily to support their home clubs and make the awards, the dedicated club official who has worked alongside regional staff to ensure their nominations are made, to the enthusiastic club chairman that makes the evening part of their club's social activities.
There is still an opportunity to be involved in what I am sure will be another memorable evening at the National Motorcycle museum, so visit www.ukathletics.net and make sure you secure your tickets for a superb feel-good evening.