Like many coaches in the North East Sunderland Harriers sprint coach Andy Abbott has been forced to adjust his training methods for his group through the lack of competition due to the Coronavirus.
It ruined the 2020 athletics season and the 2021 is heading in the same direction, with many cancellations and postponed meetings already hitting the fixture list going into the spring.
He has now been reduced into preparing training programmes for individuals to train alone, after having great hopes for his squad ruined.
Photograph shows Evie Compson learning to use her Christmas blox
Abbott said: "Jordan Beavers became the Under-20 North East Indoor champion at 60 metres and long jump in February 2020 and looked forward to a tremendous outdoor season, but the virus ended everyone’s year. Should they get back to the track in 2021, he will be competing in the Senior age group.
"The Senior men have a good quartet with Ben Craig, Lewis Charlton, Reece Carroll, and Jack Young. The hopes in the Under-20 relays come from Joshua Ajiboye, Rhys Clark, Matthew Haley, and John Harris. From the women they have Evie Compson, Molly Gardener, Anna Harris, and some athletes from the University.
Like many club members, Abbott is concerned about the state of the Silksworth track and as part of his duties before the training begins he checks it over.
As part of the UKA Clubmark accreditation which covers safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults, the track, its infield, and equipment need to be examined for hazards before each training session. Currently there is need for proper maintenance of the long jump pits and throws cage which suffered from vandalism some time ago and remain unattended. The track itself is in a tired state and could soon become hazardous in parts.
Abbott joined the club in the mid 1980s through a friend of his, Ken Wilkinson, who suggested he should join him to help out in a volunteering role.
Abbott added: "Sunderland Harriers has always been renowned as a road and cross country distance running club and Ken and myself had been sprinters and long jumpers in the good old days of cinder tracks. We decided to try to increase the number of track and field coaches at Sunderland by taking the UKA Assistant Coach award".
"We were fortunate to have many talented young athletes, so the club was persuaded to enter the Young Athletes League, which even at that time was boys only. It was 6.30 on a Sunday morning that the bus left Park Lane full of young athletes and a handful of the coaches, principally Mary Ellis, Ken Jefferson, Derek Wilcox, Gerry Young, Ken, and myself, and some parents. After several promotions the team earned its place in the Premier Division, meaning much longer trips often not returning until after nine o’clock at night".
"Meanwhile Ken and I moved up a couple of levels in the UKA coaching hierarchy, I ended up as a coach for sprints and for javelin; my real passion being sprint relays. Happily, at about that time, the Northern Region developed competitions for girls teams. We had a great relay squad with Bev Blakeman, Amanda Edwards, Adele Forrester, Gillian Wedgewood, and Kerry Wheatley. They were a very talented group of athletes who worked hard as a team".
"I think luck plays a great part in coaching success. I was coaching javelin one night when three young lads entered the track and one said "Hey mister can you show us how to javel,'' he was called Dave Pescod, he eventually went on to throw the men's javelin a club record a foot short of 60 metres, which still stands. There were many other boys who I had the pleasure of coaching, some of whom like Charlie Ellis, Andrew Rutland, Pip Stephenson, and Philip Young still hold club records after thirty years".
"By the mid 1990s we became a victim of our own success, the usual people were doing most of the work, particularly organising teams for competition. New volunteering blood was needed but not found. Life pressure took its toll and athletics took a back seat.
After I retired from work in the Noughties I decided to return to coaching, and luckily Sunderland Harriers let me back in. Again I was fortunate to find championship talent in the shape of Jordan Beavers, Anna Harris, Hollie Lancaster, and Logan Powell".
"Now there are sixty names on the on the sprint group list over a thirty five year age range. If everyone turned up together it would be an impossible coaching task even with the assistance of other athletes. Twenty names on that list have arrived via the Sunderland University Athletics Group, but unfortunately Coronavirus put paid to many appearances from them. Their President, Jordan Latimer, is extremely keen and before the virus hit we worked together to enter teams in BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sports) events twenty names on that list have arrived via the Sunderland University Athletics Group, but unfortunately the virus put paid to many appearances from them".