Track Update.

The Hills Were Alive !
Sunday morning saw the resumption of training for our young endurance athletes on the Welcombe Hills and what a joy it was for all concerned.

Strictly observing both social distancing guidelines and a 5 to 1 ration of athletes to coaches, 45 of our younger athletes took part in 9 coached sessions.

This coming Sunday the club’s coaches have been able to put together 11 groups, which means 55 of our young athletes can take part.

Despite these additional sessions, we are still over subscribed and there is a waiting list !

That is a measure of the level of enthusiasm being shown by our younger members.
This week’s newsletter is effectively a single issue one.

It is about the efforts being made by both Paul Bearman and Paul Hawkins to get the club gradually functioning again in the manner to which we have become accustomed to.

Sunday morning’s sessions on the Welcombe Hills for 45 of our junior endurance athletes was an absolute joy. I suspect it was quite an organisational challenge for Paul Hawkins though.

The article below by Paul Bearman, highlights the extent to which he has gone to try and get an agreement from the school to reopen the track for our use.

Despite not being able to get a firm commitment from them, there is no doubt that his efforts have resulted in the matter moving up their list of priorities..

Watch this space.

Best Wishes and take care.

David Jones
Track Update

Paul Bearman

Hello everyone.

I hope you’re safe and well in these extraordinary times.

I’m writing to update everyone regarding the planned SUAAC Track & Field training resumption programme.

4 weeks ago, in line with Government guidelines, England Athletics started a training resumption programme and as a club we are looking to restart training for Track & Field in the next few weeks on our normal days and times.

EA guidelines includes:

  • The safety and wellbeing of all athletes, runners, coaches and the wider community is at the heart of any guidance that England Athletics is distributing. We know that athletes, runners, coaches and athletics venues will be keen to resume athletics activity as soon as it is safe and appropriate for them to do so. England Athletics recognises that wish BUT at the same time wants to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of everyone in the athletics community, facility providers and the wider community is considered as the first priority.

Using this information as our guide, I led the consultation with the junior Age Group Leaders for compiling a restart programme with a series of documents that relate specifically to the prime requirement of having a robust Risk Assessment in place. The RA has to meet England Athletics stringent guidelines which are formulated based on Government guidelines to try, as best we can, to not let the spread of Covid-19 occur due to the activities at the club, not just for the people associated with the club but society in general.

In addition we have to have protocols for training, communication to parents, a timeline etc. Without these we would not be sanctioned by EA to resume training as we wouldn’t be insured.

The documents have been put together and are based on sound principles gleaned from numerous sources including schools.

The plan was based around creating coaching “bubbles” of 1 coach to 5 athletes in line with EA guidelines and the plan was geared to erring on the side of caution for safety reasons and with a cautious phased return. Apart from the commitment of the coaches to resume training the other key component is obviously having access to the track.

Despite having our robust and comprehensive plans and Risk Assessment in place, unfortunately this is where things have come unstuck.

EA guidelines includes sport specific advice to help athletics venues and includes:

  • Any measures that venues put in place to enable athletics activity to resume need to be capable of being flexed or changed quickly if tighter movement/social distancing is reintroduced in the future or when the restrictions are further relaxed.

  • Opening outdoor track and field facilities is at the discretion and consent of the facility owner, provider or contractor.

    On 15 June I submitted our request to the senior leadership team at Stratford School including the Head teacher to use the track and included all the documentation that went beyond what was required.

    After chivvying this week I had a reply on Tuesday 23rd June from the school:

    “We are aware you are keen to get back to training but we are having to manage multiple issues currently and deploy staff and resources as necessary to control potential Covid 19 infection make provision for students to get back to school as guidance changes almost on a weekly basis. I regret this has to be our main priority at this time and we are taking a cautious and proportionate approach to the reopening of facilities.

    Any return of public use of the facilities and control of those users is not possible currently but we will keep this under review”.

    We have to remember that schools are under unprecedented pressure to get the schools back to working as near to normal as soon as possible and there’s a need to understand the climate they are working in. However, I then spent a good part of Tuesday playing email tennis and trying to convince the school that our track record of managing the club properly and safely over many years is unsurpassed and the documentation that we have produced does everything possible to avoid the spread of Covid-19 to not just club members and their families, school pupils and staff but everyone else in the community.

    We came up with many, many different suggestions but after a last throw of the suggestions and ideas dice I received the following:

    “I understand the disappointment but this (decision) has nothing to do with the hard work and thought which you and everyone else has put into the potential return to training which is thorough and gives us a lot of confidence that you can manage the situation effectively.

    We were awaiting today’s relaxation of lockdown guidance issued by the Government to see if this had any impact upon the use of sports facilities which regrettably it did not.

    People may get frustrated but please appreciate we are dealing with a significant number of issues right now to get the school back into some semblance of face to face education for our students, which is equally frustrating, and we do understand the desire of the club to resume training which is why I gave an assurance that we would review this to see if we could action some return to the facility soon. However we do need some time to consider this and ensure our operational procedures and safety management systems are also updated and able to be delivered.

    Everyone needs to understand that these are very exceptional times and there are many competing demands on everyone’s time right now. I will re-iterate to the club what I said to my own Head teacher and Governors. Whilst we would all like to get back to normal as soon as possible this virus is a killer and the safety of the public, staff and students in controlling the virus remains our and the wider publics overriding responsibility. We review all our actions almost on a daily basis and take proportionate steps to manage getting our students and customers back fully using our facilities.

    I would respectfully request that people give us time to do this and see the wider picture”.

    My reply was :

    “Thanks for your response and like the school your appreciation and understanding of just how serious we too take our role in supporting all aspects of our young (and older) people’s wellbeing.

    It’s fully understood the situation the school is in and by virtue of our leadership group including teachers, school administrators, NHS volunteers, carers etc. and indeed the Stratford Mayor ,Cllr Tony Jackson, we are fully aware of our responsibilities to act with caution and in the best interests of not just our athletes, their families and ourselves but also the wider community to ensure, as best we can, we curtail getting or spreading this noxious virus.

    We look forward to hearing from you in due course”.

    We are now in limbo and as disappointing and frustrating as this is the school have acknowledged our return to training is on their agenda and in due course they’ll let us know when we can resume training. I will continue to keep the issue live including updating the school as EA guidelines are revised.

    In the meantime the AGLs will continue to review home training activities and some athletes are using the facilities at Nuneaton and Redditch. I’m also talking to Warwick DC to find out about access to the Leamington track.

    If you have any questions about this Juniors can email me and Seniors can email Paul Hawkins.

    I’ll update everyone as soon as I hear anything

    Stay safe and keep active

    Paul Bearman