Sheppard’s Flock & Ryan’s Rankings.

A great evening in January when Mike Sheppard and Rob Forman accompanied 8 of our U15s to pick up ‘Junior Team of the Year’ at the Stratford District Community Sports Awards.
The coming week will see a much welcomed return to the track for many of us and last night saw some of the senior members resuming their Wednesday night runs in groups of 6. Great fun it was too.

In this week’s newsletter we’ve got the latest fascinating report on our dedicated Age Group Leaders. This week it is the turn of Mike Sheppard and the U15s.

We say a fond farewell to Liuba Pasa as she returns to her native Italy after gracing us with her presence for the past 2 years and stats wizard Ryan Bakewell comes up with yet another of his hugely informative pieces of work on this year’s vShakespeare races. I have no idea how he does it though.

Take care.

Best Wishes

David Jones
Mike Sheppard with wife Jenny and daughters Imy and Jess.

Following on from the previous informative and interesting articles from our U11’s and U13’s Age Group Leaders, this week it’s the turn of the U15’s

All of our discrete age groups are key to the gradual development of our young athletes, insofar that as they go through their transitional phase of growth and development between childhood and young adulthood, the coaches have a responsibility to ensure they are “phased” through these early years with a care for their health and wellbeing, as well as developing their skills to get them to be the best they can be

The under 15 age group in all sports is recognised as the most vulnerable for “drop outs” with social and school pressures given as the main reasons for giving sport up.

However, over the years, SUAAC’s under 15 group has consistently maintained a very healthy cohort that has moved into our older age group. This has largely been down to the coaches past and present who have kept the training environment a fun and enjoyable place to come to and not just for the physical benefits but also to enjoy the social element that we promote….at the appropriate time…and to simply let off steam.

Here, Mike Sheppard gives an insight into the way the under 15s are organised with his small but perfectly formed band of volunteer coaches.

Paul Bearman

U15s: Mike Sheppard

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

As Age Group Leader, I plan the Tuesday sessions, coordinate the coaching team and organize the squad for league and sportshall competitions. I also have a thriving side-hustle completing DofE reports.

On Thursdays I coach a small group of U15-U20s focusing on the Long Sprints and on Sundays I help Paul Hawkins on the Welcombe Hills.

I’ve been an athletics nut all my life. Early inspiration came from watching the peerless Steve Ovett race Henry Rono at Crystal Palace (check it out on YouTube – an awesome performance) and my formative years were spent racing for Tonbridge AC on track and country. My own competitive career peaked at the age of 11 when, a couple of years after beating Rono, the same Steve Ovett presented me with a silver trophy for winning the local “King of the Hill” race.

I got involved with Stratford AC when my daughters started with the Club and I have been coaching the U15s since 2012.

Who are the coaches?

It’s a small but able team:

Rob Forman started with Stratford about the same time as me and has recently returned to the fold after a dalliance with basketball coaching. Rob is a stickler for the correct execution of drills.

Jenny Sheppard is a very effective organizer and brings the calm perspective of someone who has come to athletics through marriage rather than blood. Jenny previously looked after the U13s and this has provided helpful continuity through the disruptions of 2020.

Val Bronjewski has been with us for 18 months and brings experience gained from a competitive past in the horizontal jumps.

Sandy Green and Steve Roberts also provide valuable support, particularly with the throws.

Over the summer we were fortunate to be supported by Imogen, Archie & Jess, three of our excellent younger coaches. However, with all of them now back at University we are stretched again, so I’m on the hunt for new recruits!

Do you have any coaching philosophy or ideas how athletics sessions should be run?

The U15 years are often pivotal to an athlete’s long-term trajectory in the sport. Rapid advancements in power, strength and speed can open up exciting new possibilities but also present a challenge when individuals perceive a ‘dip’ in their level relative to others. The ones who stick with it are those who find their own motivation, enjoying the company of fellow athletes but gaining pleasure through the challenge of improving their own performance rather than by comparison to others.

In this context, these are some of the beliefs that shape my approach to planning and managing sessions, my personal “Ten Commandments” if you like:


  1. Athletics is our hobby so it should be enjoyable.
  2. Athletics is all about competition……,but
  3. Your primary competitor is yourself – no one can do better than a Personal Best.
  4. You don’t know what you can do unless you try.
  5. The goal of training is to get better.
  6. Every session should have a purpose – know what you are doing and why.
  7. Tactics is playing to your strengths, but improvement is working on your weaknesses.
  8. Get the detail right – amateur should not mean amateurish.
  9. It’s not fit or fast, it’s fit and fast.
  10. You get out what you put in – persistence pays.

How many athletes are in your group & how do you set your training groups up e.g. coach: athlete ratios

We have 30-35 on an ‘average’ Tuesday, more girls than boys.

Over the period of restrictions, coaches have worked with a group of 5-8 for the duration of each session. Everyone agrees that smaller groups work best, but in practice we are limited by the number of coaches and available track space now the dark evenings are with us.

How do you plan your weekly activities and what do you aim to achieve?

At this age many athletes are beginning to specialize in particular events, but we try to keep Tuesday nights generalist in line with the club’s “all-rounder” philosophy.

We work to an overall plan which places slightly more emphasis on general conditioning in the autumn, specific fitness in the spring and competition preparation in the summer. However, we always aim to maintain a varied diet of activity as far as facilities and weather allow. Provided young athletes are getting appropriate rest, I believe most benefit if they can continue to develop key skills like sprinting, jumping and throwing all year round.

What have been the main challenges this year and how have you overcome them?

Firstly, the long period without track access between from March and June which curtailed structured training for most of the group. Secondly, the cancellation of competitions which left athletes with little to aim for and few opportunities to realise the benefits of a winter’s hard work.

On the bright side, it’s been fantastic to see just how enthusiastic the athletes have been when we have been able to train together.

What if any have been the highlights this year?
A great evening in January when Rob and I accompanied 8 of our U15s to pick up ‘Junior Team of the Year’ at the Stratford District Community Sports Awards.

Competition wise, watching a record contingent of Stratford AC athletes represent their counties at the English Schools XC in early March. A brilliant day out in Liverpool’s Sefton Park despite the looming cloud of Covid.

Delivering such a successful Club Championships in September was a phenomenal achievement given current constraints. Hats off to all concerned but particularly Paul Bearman for making it happen.

Have you got any personal objectives e.g. development

If I ever have more time I would like to spend some of it just watching how other coaches and other clubs go about things. There are many ways to skin a cat!

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

A return to proper, competitive athletics.

Any personal thoughts for the future?

Longer term, it would be fantastic if the Club could build on its established success at junior and veteran level to become seriously competitive in the senior age groups as well. It’s a hard nut to crack as young adults are so busy and those that do remain competitive will often move away or be drawn to larger clubs. However, if we could establish a strong core I think it might take off.

Arrivederci Liuba

This week we said farewell to Liuba Pasa as she returned to her native Italy after spending a couple of years with us here in Stratford. During this time she fully embraced every aspect of our club. Competing for us in both XC and Masters T&F as well as Shakespeare Races and many external races. She was wonderfully enthusiastic, competitive and really friendly. Liuba leaves us as the holder of a couple of club records, W55 800m and 3000m. She will be missed.
Ryan’s Rankings.

King of the interactive graph Ryan Bakewell has magicked up some fascinating information on this year’s vShakespeare Races.

I have no idea how he does this stuff.

Read and enjoy.

I’ve taken the liberty of calculating ‘age gradings’ for this year’s Shakespeare race results, then plotted them on an interactive graph. See links below:



Age Grading in this instance means how you compared to the world record time for the race distance that month; for someone of your age and gender.

The results are plotted as a percentage of the current world record (100% would be the world record time, 50% would be twice the world record time etc).

To see this, follow the relevant link above, type your name in the top, click it, then click off the search box to see your results over the year. If you really want to… you can (don’t) compare yourself with someone else by typing their name and adding their result to the chart. A maximum of 10 results can be shown.

What does it tell you?

• Because the results are normalised, you can see how your performance changed over the year – spot your best and not so great races.

• You can see how well you did relative to the WR for that distance – sometimes funny for a laugh… unless you’re really good, then it’s just incredible!

• You could (don’t) compare yourself to others in the club. You can add up to 10 people to the chart to see how you stack up (if you need to plot more than that… seek help).

There are caveats to this of course – not least that world records tend to be set in optimal conditions on the flattest courses, whereas the Shakespeare races (virtual or otherwise) were probably neither of those.

Further to this, here are some stats on the age gradings across the series:

· June’s 4mi race saw the greatest number of athletes post their best age graded performance – 22% had their best race in June.
· September’s 2mi race was also a successful race for many with 21% of athletes posting their best performance in Sept.
· September’s 2mi race was nobody’s worst race.
· June (4mi), August (5km) and September (2mi) races combined saw 60% of athletes post their best performance.
· Only 1.5% of athletes (2 people) posted their best performance at the Track Hour.
· Only 3% of athletes posted their best performance at March’s ‘real’ 10km race or July’s virtual 10km
· April’s 10km virtual race saw the highest number of worst performances, with 29% of the club seeing their lowest age graded score in April.
· The track hour saw 15% of us posting our lowest age graded performance of the year.
Item of the week.
Item of the week is the black and yellow Stratford AC hoody with embroidered club name and logo. Prices start from £17 and it is available from the online shop (
And Finally

A couple of photos to add the The Newsletter library.
Apparently Paul Bearman’s wife was bored recently and started to sift through some old photos, spotting this one. It was a PR picture for an award Paul got for his community work from his company Conoco about 25 years ago. It paid for building the long jump pit and the shot and discus circles at Tiddington. His daughter Lauren is on the left with her best friend Kelly, who is still very much a part of his “family”. Apparently these two are responsible for Paul getting involved in the club. We have a lot to thank them for.
While dog walking on the Welcombe Hills last Sunday with Jo Hutchinson, who should I see appearing out of the mist but Tim and Fin Hutchinson. Fin continues to make good progress after his recent injury.