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The E-Inspire Interview

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Ballymena & Antrim girls
Shiny happy people - club members celebrate their success in the Ulster region

  

  

Northern Ireland Club Ballymena & Antrim were popular winners at last weekend's UK Awards Dinner. They took the much coveted Club of the Year award following an impressive nomination where their unique qualities were admired by the judging panel.
 
Club Founder Maeve Kyle OBE– Ireland’s first ever female competitor at the Olympic Games - revealed to E-Inspire those ways that B&A dares to be different from other athletics clubs:

 

Ballymena & Antrim was originally founded as a Women’s Club in 1955. A local Men’s club asked to amalgamate with the club in 1958 meaning that unlike clubs which grew primarily from a men’s section there has never been any issue with absolute equal status for both genders in every  position and job to be done . (Although they retain their separate club strips with green and white for the women and black for the men!)

 

The Club will always challenge any structure or change to the way it is run, if after debating and discussing it, it feels is not in the best interest of either the sport, the club or any of its members

 

The Club is affiliated to all recognised athletics bodies on the island i.e. Athletics Northern Ireland (and UKA) AND Athletics Ireland.

 

For more than 20 years the athletes have been responsible for determining all key club decisions.  They proposed and won the right that only those fully paid-up members, who had  competed within the previous 12 months could vote. However all other members would be used as consultants to help in decision-making process.

 

 

 

Dean Adams competes in Junior league final
Dean Adams - one of the many youngsters to benefit from Ballymena and Antrim's unique set up

  

Our membership is open to disabled and non-disabled, and reflects the special needs athletes of any age from toddler to great grandparent. Our membership is like a league of nations, with a variety of nationalities represented including China!

 

We have six managers who look after Fundamentals, Development, Coaching, Finance, Administration and IT, each of whom may appoint assistants if required.

The Managers are responsible for our operational matters, using the club’s IT facilities to report on their work, communicate with athletes, etc etc Each provides written reports for our AGM.

 

There is a large coaching staff ,which the Club subsidises through education, practical mentoring, and personal equipment. Each Event Lead Coach has assistant coaches who work at different levels across the range of abilities and this helps them to develop their own skills, and ensures we have a strong work rota in place!

 

The Club is especially privileged to be the resident club at Antrim Stadium, and to have total support in everything we try to do  from  Antrim Council (including our track-side club-room), as well as from Ballymena Council, where we originated.  This unique relationship with the two is represented in the club crest You can see the  single Round Tower of Antrim and the Seven Towers of Ballymena, all linked by joined hands.

 

We have the support of many of our former athletes, who keep in contact and provide financial support for the development of athletes and coaches through a unique ‘Star Fund’ This enables us to help young athletes and make them feel valued to the club.

 

 

Club of the Year
L-R Jessica Ennis, Maeve Kyle (Founder of B&A) Bobbie Browning (Junior Manager & Coach) Melanie Browning (Junior Manager & Coach) and Kelly Sotherton

We have toured across Europe taking in Holland, Germany, Sweden and Portugal as well as further afield to Canada. The club has also enjoyed warm weather training at Cyprus on several occasions, and experienced many other ways of doing things from our foreign colleagues.

 

Ballymena and Antrim succeeds because it works as a team. We support and respect for each other (often agreeing to disagree….with a laugh!) We socialise at all levels, and hope that each member feels that the club is just another big family.                                                     

 

We have our rules of course – they’re not too tough, but they do emphasise safety and respect for other people. Personal responsibility is top of the agenda for all our members.

 

The Club’s Mission Statement -which was devised by our junior athletes - is: “The Club is there to provide a safe place for young athletes to develop their talent as far as they can go, and as far as they want to go.”

 

We all accept that competition and results are important, but that we are also privileged to play a part in the positive development of young people, to rejoice in  their success in life after athletics, and know that  this is as memorable as any athletic performance!  

 

 

E-Inspire will be taking a break during the Christmas and New Year period and will return with a new look in the Spring!