I think I know who the nicest people in the world are. They are athletics coaches.
Athletics coaches and the officials at competitions are all volunteers. They give up their time to support young people and adults with their athletics. They are usually at least middle aged and some of them are verging on elderly. Most of them are former athletes themselves, some still compete as veterans and some are parents who started out when their own kids were training and are still volunteering even though their kids are all grown up.
My son has had great support from the coaches and officials at his own club – whether they coach him directly or not. In recent weeks, they have allowed him to start training in the sandpit on his own. His old team manager emailed to see how he got on in his GCSEs and again to congratulate him on his new long jump PB – which he described as ‘about 10 grains of sand’ off the club record.
But it’s not just the coaches at his own club who are brilliant. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve discovered that they are all brilliant. They are all willing to do what it takes to support young athletes – wherever they come from.
When we arrived in Loughborough for my son’s long jump the other week, we had a bit of a problem. He’d booked the competition himself and failed to read the detail on the email with the final timetable. On the provisional timetable, his event was at 1.40pm. Unfortunately on the final timetable it was at 11am. So we’d missed his event.
We were devastated when we realised this. We’d travelled 90 miles and there were so few competitions available. This was probably his only chance of the season to record a distance and, hopefully get a new PB and maybe a club record.
‘Is there any chance he could jump at another time?’
‘I’ll have to talk to Liz.’
A woman appeared with a big smile on her face. This had to be Liz. She offered him the chance to jump at 5.30pm with the senior men. We would have done it if we’d had to, but it would have caused us problems. We were in a strange town with nowhere to go and Covid rules meant we couldn’t stay on site. We didn’t have enough food for my son to jump at that time and he knows he can’t just eat McDonald’s before jumping.
‘Could he jump with the girls?’
The girls were jumping at 2.10 and she agreed he could jump with them. As an open competition, he wasn’t competing with them directly, so it really didn’t matter when he jumped.
Thank goodness for Liz!
While we were on holiday in Padstow, my son was desperately searching online for competitions to take part in. He find one in Milton Keynes and he emailed the organiser, a lady called Karen, to see if he could take part. She replied to say that it was for club members only.
Then, four weeks later and completely out of the blue, Karen emailed him to say they had an open competition and would he like to take part in the long jump?
What an amazing and thoughtful lady! She didn’t need to do that, but she did. If she hadn’t emailed, the chances of my son getting a place in that competition would have been virtually nil.
My son is so grateful to both these ladies for supporting him, and so am I.
As he said, ‘Big up Karen and big up Liz’.
I say – big up all the athletics coaches and officials. They do a fantastic job.