Neil Featherby: Future of Norwich Road Runners’ juniors in safe hands

Neil Featherby on a training run. Picture: Mark Hewlett Photography

Neil Featherby on a training run. Picture: Mark Hewlett Photography - Credit: Archant

Whilst my column of last week featured CONAC's young Logan Smith and how his talents were very carefully nurtured through Dereham AC and the City of Norwich Athletics club, this week I am going to try and put into a few words the good work which the Norwich Road Runners are doing in respect of the development of their junior athletes.

Having had a good chat with Elies Mann (level 2 junior coach) who very much assists the club's junior head coach (level 3) Alma Symonds, it soon became pretty clear that they really are working very hard to ensure that all their juniors are being well guided.

Alma has been involved with the development of young athletes for several years and set the junior section within the club up just over three years ago. To say that her devotion towards ensuring that every single youngster is given the very best attention is certainly an understatement whilst needless to say, Elies is also just much dedicated to making sure that they have a very structured system which nurtures all young athletes who join the club.

This in many cases is from the age of seven and while they both oversee the junior section, Alma is now specifically involved with looking after the seven to nine-years-olds whilst Elies supervises the 10 to 14-year-olds.

Going forward, it is planned to have a new addition to the coaching staff with Ray Lindsay also looking to do his coaching qualifications in the new year. Ray is not only a founder member of the club, but is also one of Norfolk's top road runners from the 1980s and 90s. He has a huge passion for running, but it is his knowledge of the sport which will most certainly bring further additional benefits to this side of the club.

MORE: Love running? Join the Run Anglia Facebook group hereFor those who know Ray, and that is just about everyone in Norfolk road running circles, (he is the guy who can be seen riding the lead motorbike at many road races in the county), they will also know that whilst any session he oversees is productive, it will also be fun. I personally think this is important when working with adults, so even more applicable when ensuring that young athletes keep the desire and motivation to look forward to each training session.

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With the Norfolk county and area schools cross country championships just a few weeks away as we approach the New Year, much of their training is geared to these races.

However, the club also additionally hold Saturday morning sessions via assistant club coach Ally Hadden to further offer any youngster the chance to try out at events such as the throws, jumps or hurdles. Whilst Norwich Road Runners do not have any juniors competing in any young athletes leagues, when asked what would they do if any of their youngsters showed exceptional talent as a budding track or field star, Elies was very quick to respond by saying that while it is not their intention of losing any of their younger athletes, in such a situation they would indeed advise them to go to the City of Norwich Athletics Club where their needs would be much better served in those circumstances.

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I have to say, I was really impressed by that attitude particularly when she went further on to say that at the end of the day a coach's purpose is to advise and guide all those who come under their charge to the best of their ability.

The club are now very much looking forward to a new junior only race which they are organising next March over 2.4km at The Dinosaur Park, at Lenwade.

Well done to all of them and keep up the good work.

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