The National Young Athletes League and the National Junior League are no more. I don’t believe we have heard the final truth about why this was necessary, but the withdrawal of major sponsors had something to do with it. The only things that weren’t involved in the decision, it seems to me, were the things that England Athletics said were the reasons.
Anyway, little point in regretting what is lost. We have to make the new arrangements work. Having finished in mid-table in the Midland Premier Division of the NYAL I was probably not the only one who thought we were in a good position to appear well up in the new u13/u15 YDL. So it was a shock to find us in West 2 – four divisions below the top. This couldn’t be allowed to pass so I made as much fuss as possible and Lesley did what she does so well with the facts and figures of the athletes about whom she cares so much. And we’ve been regraded into West 1.
Now the coaches and team managers, and above all the athletes will have to step up and prove that we were right to insist on our place in the league. There are a whole heap of young people training with the Academy on Wednesday nights, and indeed on Thursday club nights. Now they will have to be moulded into the team that will beat Team Bath and North Somerset. It would be nice to win promotion to Premier 2 – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
In the u17/u20 YDL we will continue to be a major part of Team Avon who are in the top division and we must do our utmost to do well there. I’m sure our athletes will do us proud.
In the Midland League we fared less well, but go into the new season with real hope that things can get better. Having been demoted from Division 2 a year ago, we found competition in Division 3 just as hard. The athletes who did turn out performed well, but there were too few of them and the team had more holes than my gran’s knitting. Despite Mansfield not appearing at all, we were demoted again into Division 4.
Discussions with Bristol & West had been going on informally for more than a year. Their problem was one that it would be nice to have: both men and women were promoted into the national leagues, which left their Midland League team seriously depleted. They too were demoted – into Division 2. It made good sense to combine forces, especially if we could then compete in Division 2. Much to my surprise, the league agreed to us entering the combined team in the higher division, and that is where we shall compete next summer.
Julian Pontin has agreed to be team manager for Yate and he will work with Roger Brocklesby of B&W to put out the best team we can. It will still be necessary for athletes to fill in for events that are not their normal one, but with good will on both sides – which I believe exists – and a fair wind, we should do very well. The first match is at home on May 18th.
Our second awards evening was held in Chipping Sodbury Town Hall. We were disappointed not to have the speaker we had planned, but I hope people who were there enjoyed themselves. It was certainly good to be able to recognise the achievements of our athletes at national and international level.
The hunt for the best possible venue – big enough, club prices at the bar, our own buffet – moves on. Next year the awards evening will be in Leyhill Prison Social Club. We should feel right at home there.
Gradually we are increasing the number of coaches working with our athletes. A small number of young people have taken the first steps to becoming qualified coaches and they are working with children on Wednesday nights. Hopefully, it won’t be long before they are able to play an even bigger role in the club. Another worthwhile development is the starting of a new high jump group.
What should be our aim for the next twelve months? The new leagues for young athletes will be our main preoccupation, along with the expectation of better things in the Midland League. More coaches, more athletes, more officials, better facilities at YOSC – all the usual aspirations for a club in our position.
Thanks are due to so many people that it’s not possible to list them. But I have been greatly encouraged by the numbers of parents (and grandparents) coming forward to do jobs or merely to take an intelligent interest in the club’s affairs. I thank them and look forward to working with them next year.
Shortly we will have to decide what to do about the club membership fee in the light of England Athletics’ decision to increase the affiliation fee. It seems likely, given the response at the meeting called to discuss this with the CEO and President of EA that collection of the affiliation fee will continue to be done through clubs and that the fee will double to £10. This will almost certainly mean a simple increase in the membership of £5. I hope we can agree to make that change.