I think we have every right to be proud of our ‘little; club and the progress we have made this year. We have achieved considerable success, both at team and individual level but I would prefer to let others, namely team managers, tell you about that in their reports.
I would prefer to speak of the more pastoral aspects such as club unity, cooperation, sense of purpose and financial stability. This can be summed up in one word, tranquillity. My family has been associated with the club for fifteen years now and having been on the committee for at least a dozen of these I think I can say it has been the most tranquil I have experienced and believe me, as chairman, you get to see all the pettiness and jealousies that do so much to divide a club and unpick the fabric we are made of.
I would like first to concentrate on one of my failures as Chairman and the most obvious one to me, my inability to get rid of the phrase “my athletes”. My athletes want.... my athletes deserve....my athletes are better than .... my athletes aren’t available..... he’s stolen one of my athletes. Oh how I hate that phrase and the small mindedness it represents. It is based on the fallacy that because we influence someone’s performance they then belong to us. They are children of the world and every one of them in charge of their own destinies, even at the age of 11. Having said all of that the free flow of athletes back and forward between training groups and between disciplines is getting better, not least because of the shining light example of Tony Fuller who shames us all in his selflessness and his ability to put the interests of the children first.
In the two years previous to this one I identified financial stability as the key threat to our club. We were simply spending more money than we were taking in and running down our reserves at an alarming rate. We never seemed to have enough money for equipment or more difficult to achieve our aspirations to be a big and successful club. We had been limping along on sponsorship, often a dangerous crutch to rely on which masks the true cost of running the club and in the long run only makes the club weaker and when it is taken away you find yourself up the famous creek.
Key to the financial stability was not only increasing the fees to a realistic level but increasing the number of bums on seats. This latter part of the equation was not difficult to address as we’ve had and continue to have a wave of people wanting to join the club and it was merely a case of speeding up the process of entry and putting in a more formal and managed scheme.
We managed to pack in some 90 new faces last year and we’ve managed to accommodate another 90 this year.
One of the more gratifying and interesting things about doing my job has been to see the desire of new entrants (or more precisely their parents) to enter what they believe to be a successful and well run club and the level of satisfaction with their first year. The number of kids who enter the induction scheme under a temporary membership and then sign up to become full members is a joy. We must be doing something right as the strike rate of temporaries becoming fulls has recently been running at 90%. For this I am totally indebted to the coaches involved in this scheme but we can all take a pride in this because we have created a club which so many people want their kids to be part of.
It is worth saying that no one quibbles about the price of membership and parents of children who come from other sports, noticeably swimming, gymnastics, dance and even football, remark on how cheap we are in comparison to the fees and weekly payments they have had to make.
Having shoe horned another 90 members in during my second year as Chairman I had to accept that the track was getting too crowded on Tuesdays and Thursdays evenings and that coaches were being over run with athletes. It was for this reason that I started inviting the younger (11,12,13) athletes to train on a Saturday morning. Sure, this involved extra expense both in track fees and paying coaches to put in extra, over and above the call of duty, hours. This move has, I believe, been a great success thanks to the work of Graeme Crissell, Graham and Yvonne Holmes and more recently Geoff Morgan and Steve Hicks and I am indebted to them all. It has allowed me to get our waiting list down to only four or five currently when I have known it to be in the thirties.
I have felt for some time that there is a degree of inevitability about a move toward paying coaches at every level of our sport if it is ever going to compete with other sports and become more professional in its production of athletes to compete on the national and international stage. Unable to take everyone with me on this I have adopted a cautious approach. I am a believer in evolution not revolution but I fear the young buds of my evolving approach are about to be damaged by the ‘winds of change’ coming from some quarters and that is why I have proposed that a separate working group looks at this subject over the next year and report back their findings and proposals to the next AGM.
Let me say now I am favour of almost anything that increases the number of coaches and the time they can give to the sport at all levels as we have a massive need for quantity as well as quality if we are to build the tree. However, in doing so we have to be careful not to blow our little, or not so little, club apart.
I have this year been particularly active in trying to attract more coaches to our club recognising this as the limiting factor in growing our club but I must say I have in the main been disappointed with my success rate. I have sought coaches from other clubs, I have sought volunteers from voluntary organisations and I have sought beginners from within the ranks of the parents. Whilst we have made some progress we are still left with the thin blue line of hard core coaches who carry the weight of the club on their shoulders.
My penultimate sentence is to thank each and everyone who is involved in the coaching of athletes at our club. I truly to admire you and only hoped that I could get more to stand alongside of you. Equally let me say I am very aware, or I think I am, of all the hard work put in by so many people. It would take a paragraph to list the disciplines and a page to mention all as individuals. Thank you to you all.
All that leaves me to say is that I have, in the main, enjoyed my 3 years as Chairman, most of that as acting chairman, especially the last one but before I drop the baton I must pass it on. I have run my leg and I am drained. I will hang around until the New Year on the committee and even chair the meetings if people want me to, to give the club a chance to find my replacement and I will endeavour to continue to run the induction scheme until next summer when hopefully one of the new committee will step forward to take this over.
Thank you to all those who have supported me and helped me to feel part of a successful club.