Committed coaches and a Mayoral message.

A library photo of Carolyne Johnston and Michelle Bartlett.
If you read their fascinating article on their roles as Age Group Leaders (AGLs) you will begin to realise why we have such a hard working and talented group of junior athletes.
I wasn’t sure I had enough material for a newsletter this week but the couple of articles I did receive were, I thought, both important and interesting enough to merit one.

Although these articles would appear, on the surface, to be totally different, what struck me was that they emphasised, once again, the benefits and core values of our club with familiar themes cropping up in both.

Tony Jackson says ” I firmly believe that the support the Club has provided over the past 6 months will have been instrumental in maintaining the physical and mental well-being of members.”

Paul, Carolyne and Michelle’s article contains phrases such as “we’re really proud of how adaptable we are as a club”, ” we are a family ” and ” friendship cohorts “. The dictionary definition of cohort is “a company of companions and supporters” which I think sums us up nicely.

Stay safe.

Best Wishes.

David Jones

Tony Jackson – Club Secretary and Stratford Mayor

A Message from the Mayor.

Our very own club secretary and Stratford mayor shares his thoughts.

Tony Jackson

When I was elected as Deputy Mayor I had 12 months to get an understanding of what the role as Mayor would entail and to give some thought to different ideas and initiatives that I could support.

Fairly early on I decided that rather than supporting specific charities (as previous Mayor’s had done) I would support the following three good causes

  1. Volunteers
  2. People with Disabilities
  3. Exercise and Well Being

Covid restrictions were already with us when I took office in May but at that time I had positive hopes that we would be back to normal by late Autumn. Sadly, that hasn’t proven to be the case and my Mayoral Year, whilst still being really enjoyable, isn’t turning out as I might have expected.

Lockdown very quickly identified the value of daily exercise and we are very fortunate that Stratford provides ready access to lovely open green space. In these times the benefit of being a runner was never more obvious. The temporary suspension of Parkrun has meant my competitive side seems to have retired for the time being, but regular runs are still an essential part of my routine and the Greenway is a great space for spotting fellow club members.

As Mayor, I get a real insight into the needs of the people and the wide range of excellent charities, community groups and clubs that provide essential support services for those people. I very quickly found that my chosen good causes option gave me lots of common ground when talking to all of these bodies and appreciating the extra value they are providing to the community during these unprecedented times.

It is very difficult to do comparisons of how different organisations have tackled their own issues but suffice to say, I would like to say how incredibly proud I am to be associated with Stratford Athletic Club, and I firmly believe that the support the Club has provided over the past 6 months will have been instrumental in maintaining the physical and mental well-being of members.

Whether that support has been Zoom meetings, online quizzes, the virtual Shakespeare League or even the Mayor’s Magic Mile, I would like to take this opportunity to pay recognition to every member who has done their bit over the period of Covid.

And finally, can I close by giving you something to look forward. Paul has accepted my offer of a Mayor v Chair Challenge where we tackle the four throwing disciplines of Shot, Hammer, Javelin and Discus. Ideally this should have taken place by now but we have now decided that this will be a curtain raiser to the start of next year’s T&F season.

Be prepared for a ‘Guess the total distance thrown’ competition

With Lockdown 2.0 happening, virtual pentathlon may well be back on the agenda and, if so, expect toilet rolls to be disappearing from local supermarket shelves anytime soon.This was Martha Edwards back in June.

Junior Coaching and Age Group Leaders (AGLs)

Paul Bearman, Carolyne Johnston & Michelle Bartlett

David asked me if the junior coaches would outline the way we are structured and how we go about coaching our 300 or so young athletes. I started the ball rolling in the last newsletter with what David called “Bearman’s Beliefs” and for the next few weeks the respective Age Group Leaders will be answering a few questions how they organise their coaching sessions and the people who help them.

On occasions over the years, both inside and outside the club, I’ve been asked why we introduced splitting our juniors into age groups rather than the usual club convention of event groups. It goes back to SUAAC “is a club for everyone and to ensure every member, irrespective of their background and ability, will be valued”. In addition we have also retained the “social” element by having age group and friendship cohorts in line with schools that I always wanted us to have that makes it a fun and enjoyable club for all of us involved to be part of.

The groups are led by an Age Group Leader/s (AGLs) who have the responsibility to run their discrete groups within the overarching philosophy of the club. We also form the leadership group for the juniors and we suggest, discuss and agree the things that keep the club safe and moving forward. It shouldn’t be underestimated what the wonderful volunteer AGLs past and present do behind the scenes to keep the juniors safe and moving forward.

We also adopted the philosophy of a run, jump and throw culture that we still use today and it means that everyone gets the opportunity to find their event/s as they grow and mature.

To achieve this we needed to develop a structure that focussed on “Long Term Athlete Development”. This is a framework for training young people for each stage of their physical and athletic development. With no baggage from previous experience in athletics I considered the model common sense as much as anything, insofar that everyone develops at different rates. What is also appealing is the thought of young people finding a lifetime’s enjoyment and fulfilment from our wonderful, varied and challenging sport.

Another concept that appealed to me was that it was considered at the time when LTAD was first mooted that coaches who engage in the model and its practices are more likely to produce athletes who over time reach their full athletic potential whatever that turns out to be.

If we take Lewis Byng as an example; I first met him and his mum when I did some coaching at Henley Primary school and as an under 11 he was ranked number one in the UK as a sprinter. Years later when he re-joined SUAAC he had grown quite a bit to say the least and he’s still growing. With a winter of hard graft he showed he hadn’t lost his speed but boy could he throw. So from a speedy 10 year old to an Olympic Shot hopeful demonstrates the old adage not to specialise too soon.

First up from the coaching group are Carolyne Johnston and Michelle Bartlett. They have been coaching with me for many years and along with the other AGLs, past and present, are a major part of the backbone and success of the club and the development of 100s of young athletes over many years. They lead the Under 11 coaching team to introduce the youngsters into the way we do things to give them a great start and it’s all done in a fun, creative and safe environment.

Carolyne Johnston and Michelle Bartlett – Under 11 AGLs

* Who are you and what is your role in your respective group in the junior section?

A partnership, support for each other and a true friendship has made us the team we are for the past 17 years……….yes Mr Bearman has tried on several occasions to separate us to lead other age groups but it was never going to happen! We are the U11 age group leaders.

I started helping with the U11s in 2002 when my children joined the club, soon to be caught in Mr Bearman’s coaching net and became joint Age Group Leader (AGL) with Michelle in 2003. Both Michelle and I did our training and qualified as Level 2 Coaches.

My daughter Eleanor progressed through the age groups meaning I spent more time at the track and was helping with the older age groups. I soon joined Paul in the U17+
age group and have been coaching since on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

My role as an AGL and coaching with Paul is something I would probably have never done if it hadn’t been for Eleanor. She has had such an amazing experience as a member
of the club from the excellent coaching she has received to the opportunities and success she has had over the years.

I look back over those years and feel I have been able to give something back in return for the wonderful opportunities Eleanor has had.

I would like to think that my time volunteering as a coach to quite literally hundreds of children that have passed through our age group has made a difference to those
young people, even if just a spark of an opportunity for their future.


As Carolyne has mentioned we have been a strong partnership for over 17 years!

I started in the club as an 8 year old and trained and competed until I was 18. I started coaching when I was 16, a venture that Paul steers many of his more senior athletes in. However I never left and found myself being ‘asked’ to run the Under 11 section of our club.

As I’m sure you can all appreciate, speaking to parents and dealing with all the administration that goes on behind closed doors, wasn’t something a 16 year old me was comfortable with. That is where Carolyne came in and I am so glad she did! Then the rest, as they say, is history.

The dynamic duo, still going strong and always there to support each other. We love what we do!

* Who are the coaches/helpers in your group?
We have been running a tight ship until recently with our coaches Lucy Edwards, Katja Berg, Emma Sparrow and Jemma Lane together with our junior coaches Charlotte Gravelsons
and Maddie Clark. Fortunately we have expanded our team with our trainee coaches, Kate Jones, Richard Harrison, Adam Linforth and junior coach Harry Gravelsons.

* Do you have any particular coaching philosophy or ideas how athletics sessions should be run?
We follow the junior philosophy of making sure every child gets the opportunity to learn the basics of “run, throw and jump” and do it in a safe environment that’s enjoyable not just for them but also the coaches.

From our perspective we always try to ensure the athletes are having fun. Of course making sure all safety and technical aspects are covered. For our age group, we try to coach in such a way the children don’t even realise how hard they are working. Ensuring you are adaptable is key.

We are also the start point for many of our volunteer coaches and we see it as our role to help them get involved and gain confidence that will hopefully set them on the way to a long involvement in coaching.

* How many athletes are in your group?
We currently have 30 athletes but would normally have around 60. Due to the pandemic and coaching ratios we haven’t been in a position to invite our new intake of children
which would normally happen around Easter. Now that we have more coaches and as things settle down in the New Year we will extend our group.

* How do you set your training groups up e.g. coach : athlete ratios?
Since the coronavirus restrictions the rules are we have between 5-8 athletes to 1 qualified coach. We currently have 4 groups of children, keeping the same children in a group at the moment. These are led by at least 2 coaches.

We also follow the club’s strict Covid protocols to keep everyone sanitised and safe.

* How do you plan your weekly activities and what do you aim to achieve?
The under 11’s get the opportunity to try all aspects of athletics and at this young age we teach the children the basic principles of running, throwing and jumping.

As mentioned making it fun but also ensuring they understand the reasoning behind having to be an all-rounder. Once they move up to the next age group they start to develop
and find they naturally move towards the events they will eventually train and compete most in. With us they have the opportunity to try new things but they also have to try some events that they don’t enjoy so much. It’s a good thing honestly!

Our sessions are based around fitness and enjoyment whilst learning new skills. We pride ourselves in developing the under 11s giving them a good start for their journey as they progress through the age groups.

* What have been the main challenges this year and how have you overcome them?
The coronavirus has hit us badly as we have been unable to invite our new intake of year 5s at the beginning of the summer season. However, once back at our track we were able to stagger the year 6s in gradually whilst adhering to the strict coaching ratios. Those first few weeks back were difficult for all of us. The majority of our group had not been back to school and were quiet and apprehensive to start with. Trying to separate 9 and 10 year olds was always going to be a challenge but we think we have done pretty well so far.

* What if any have been the highlights this year?
Our main highlight of the year has to be winning the winter season 2019/2020 Sportshall. This has all been down to an excellent coaching team and enthusiastic children who have been willing to learn, improve and have been very competitive.

Definitely the online pentathlon!! During the first lockdown period we set a virtual pentathlon for our group, quite a few took part and judging by the photos and videos sent in, they all had a great deal of fun. They really got stuck in and went through a lot of toilet rolls!!!!

* Have you got any personal objectives e.g. development
Over the years we have mentored quite a number of our junior athletes to become fully fledged coaches. We consider that we can give them the best start in developing their own skills and gain confidence for their life ahead of them. Examples of this are not only to qualify as a coach but assist them in presenting themselves in the future, whether it is coaching, delivering a presentation at university or using the skills they have learnt at an interview.

Our recent athletes who have gained a wealth of experience from the under 11 team and have now moved on to university and work are Archie Musk, Imy Sheppard and Georgia Clark.

* Looking ahead and assuming Coronavirus eventually is under control, what are your hopes for the club in 2021 and I realise that none of us are able to predict what the future will bring?

To get back to our normal way of doing things!

We’re really proud of how adaptable we are as a club. It will be great to being able to set up relays with batons again or getting the high
jump out would be amazing and all the things we took for granted before but definitely events the children like to get stuck in with.

* Any personal thoughts for the future?

Another 17 years!

Michelle : Personally I hope that my kids can enjoy the club as much as I have and as much as Carolyne’s children did. We are a family and athletics has been a massive part of our lives since we started at the club all those years ago!

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And Finally.

Item of the week is the Stratford AC Beanie with embroidered logo on the front.

Prices start at £4.50 and can be purchased from the shop