Athletics is in the blood of the North East. We’re well known for producing champions in many sports but, in particular, athletics. You could go right back to the days of Jim Alder and beyond, or to the period of Mick McLeod, Brendan Foster, Charlie Spedding, Steve Cram, Kirsty Wade, Jill Hunter, David Sharpe, Jonathan Edwards, Tanni Grey Thompson or get right up to date with Stephen Miller and Chris Tomlinson.
The region has produced Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European Champions and World Record holders. All have found the North East a fantastic place to develop and showcase their athletic talent.
Great sports coaches inspire young people. But they also provide something extra – a focus for communities to get involved, to want to come together and enjoy sport.
Getting young people into athletics is only possible because volunteers support the club system by helping to nurture young athletes to develop their potential and providing an outlet for children to experience the fun and enjoyment athletics offers.
Officials, coaches and volunteers are the lifeblood of the sport. Their work allows competitions to take place, helps develop and improve talented youngsters but perhaps most importantly provides the tangible support structures that enable the clubs to exist and thrive.
As well as encouraging more youngsters to get into athletics, we want to increase the recruitment of coaches, volunteers and officials to fulfil the dreams of many youngsters in the region and, who knows, maybe find the next Foster, Cram or Wade.
And that's just what one TBSF member has been doing since qualifying as an Athletics Coach:
John Renney an IT Manager has enjoyed athletics since childhood as a member of his local athletics club. As a youngster he enjoyed competing across a range of track and field events including triple jump, 1500m and javelin. John went on to enjoy participating regularly until his early 30s when he took a break and became a father. In 2004 when John's sons were a little older they all rejoined his old club. A recruitment campaign by the Tony Blair Sports Foundation was being held at the club and John decided it was time to give something back to the club that had given him and now his sons, so much enjoyment.
John tells us:
"The Foundation has been a great help. Not just in subsidising my training fees but also their support and advice in obtaining the right credentials which allows me to work with the kids has been invaluable.
I'm currently working with 8 youngsters at the club on endurance which is a big help to the team. The experience has been life changing for me and I have now decided I want to go on to coach as much as I can. With the support of the Foundation I have progressed to take the new UKA Athletics Coach Award which will allow me to take my own coaching sessions. I have started volunteering at a local primary school, helping to teach athletics to 25 eight year olds which is fantastic not just for my professional development but for the school and the great kids involved.
Working with the Foundation and my club I have set myself some clear targets; to get more athletics coaches working in our local schools and to bring the schools and clubs closer together thereby increasing the number of junior athletes across the region. All of this would be much harder to do without the help and support of the Tony Blair Sports Foundation."