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A big part of the attraction of athletics is being able to meet, make friends with and compete with like-minded individuals. It is also about those individual's physical and mental wellbeing.
For 10 months of 2020 many of these attractions were denied to the 500+ members of Stratford Athletic Club, a club that looks beyond their membership and tries to involve the wider community.
How did the club, with an active age range of 8 - 78 respond to these challenges?
Guidelines dictated what could be done. Senior members were encouraged to stay active and juniors were encouraged with home coaching programmes that included virtual pentathlons for U11s & 13s.
When the Stratford School track was available in a Covid secure environment, sessions across many disciplines and junior age groups resumed. Sessions could include 12 athletes + coach. The relaxation of restrictions meant the juniors could resume Sunday sessions on the Welcombe Hills in groups of 5 + coach.
Fortunately, The Pingles Stadium in Nuneaton re-opened and held socially distanced track and field competitions, enabling members to compete.
Many senior members are road and cross country runners, so the club arranged virtual activities. The monthly Shakespeare Races, usually involving some 60 members, became a virtual competition with 100 + competing some months. With club secretary Tony Jackson being Mayor of Stratford, a Mayor's Magic Mile race was introduced. Both of these competitions gave junior members the chance to compete against seniors. Zoom resistance and stretching sessions were held.
The club realised that while the physical wellbeing of members was important so was their mental wellbeing. Articles in the club's newsletter provided links to organisations that might be of help.
The highlight of year is the Club Championships. With restrictions lifted a limited championship went ahead with 120 taking part. Normally taking 5 weeks to organise, they were organised in 11 days and were hugely successful with 200+ personal bests recorded.
That was then but what about now?
Despite it being mid-winter the club will continue to provide programmes to keep everyone engaged, fit and healthy. The Club Awards will be via Zoom in late January. The junior section held a socially distanced ceremony in December.
As the club comes to terms with lockdown 3, it is determined to put its members and their families at the forefront of efforts to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing, while maintaining the community spirit that is at the very core of what the club does.
The club strives to be much more than an athletic club. It strives to be an extended family for its members and families and hopefully, very soon, they will all be back together, having fun and enjoyment once more.