Rewarding our sporting stars while looking out for their mental health

Monday, 18 March, 2019

East Hampshire’s sporting stars were recognised and rewarded for their efforts at last week’s sports awards ceremony – and a new initiative was launched to support their mental health.

Hundreds of local athletes, coaches, volunteers and supporters packed out the Old Thorns Hotel, in Liphook, at East Hampshire District Council’s prestigious annual ceremony on Thursday 14 March.

Star quality was provided by Olympic silver medallist Roger Black, one of Britain’s most successful athletes, who hosted the evening and from special guest female cricket star Charlotte Edwards.

Charlotte captained the England cricket team for more than 10 years, breaking many records and leading the team to three Ashes series’, a World Cup and a World Twenty20 (T20), while scoring more than 10,000 international runs along the way.

This year’s event had a special theme that is high on EHDC’s agenda at the moment – mental health. The council has partnered with local charity Havant and East Hants Mind to launch an initiative across the district that will help sports clubs support any members who might be suffering from mental health issues.

The Sports Ambassadors initiative will encourage local clubs to have representatives that will work closely with Havant and East Hants Mind to look out for its members’ mental health and improve mental wellbeing in sport.

The initiative will give the ambassador the tools, training and resources to support, give guidance and listen to any member who might be suffering from mental health issues, while also challenging the stigma that might be associated with mental health in the sports clubs.

A touching introductory video on the scheme was shown on the evening, you can watch it here. If you’d like more information on the initiative and want to get involved, please contact Havant and East Hants Mind on 02392498919 or email info@easthantsmind.org

Cllr Julie Butler, EHDC’s Deputy leader and Portfolio Holder for Welfare and Communities, said: “Wow! What an incredibly inspirational evening. We really do have some exceptional sporting talent across East Hampshire.

“It’s great that we can reward and recognise those who give so much hard work and dedication to being successful in their chosen sport. They really do deserve it!

“I’m also delighted that the Sports Ambassadors programme is being launched across the district - and EHDC couldn’t be more supportive of the scheme. There is a huge amount of pressure that comes with competing at a high level or being part of a sports team that can sometimes be overwhelming.

“Balancing normal life, including school or work, with training and competing can be really hard, so it’s great that there will be support for clubs with athletes who might be struggling with this.”

There were 14 awards up for grabs and nominees were drawn from all corners of the district, from all age groups and from a diverse array of sports.

Here is a list of the winners:

Portfolio Holder Special Recognition Award
Winner: Richard Osborne, Clanfield

Richard picked up this years’ special recognition award from Cllr Julie Butler thanks to his continued contribution to the sport of sitting volleyball.

From a local club coach with the South East Sitting Volleyball Team, Richard made his international coaching debut at the London Invictus Games in 2014 with the Georgia team, whose members barely spoke a word of English and had never played the sport before. The team managed to finish in an astonishing fourth-place and Richard went on to coach Georgia again in Florida 2016.

In 2018, Richard was asked to coach the UK team at the Sydney Invictus Games where he ran trials for more than 300 service men and women. The team won silver, just missing out to Georgia winning gold.

Richard is also secretary of the Hampshire Volleyball Association and works closely with Volleyball England to actively raise the profile and awareness of sitting volleyball.

School Team of the Year
Winner: Bedales Prep School U13’s Football Team

The Bedales U13’s football team had a fantastic year in 2018, not only did they win the Hampshire League without losing a game, but they also came home with silverware from every tournament they entered.

Their unbeaten season saw them score 65 goals while only conceding 22 and also showcased their tremendous attitude as they always accepted refereeing decisions without comment.

Their fair play ethic was there for all to see. In one match, where the team were outplaying their opponent, two of its strongest players volunteered to play for the opposition to even up the teams!

Team of the Year
Winner: Alton Cricket Club U16 Girls

Alton Cricket Club U16 Girls had a remarkable season in 2018, winning both the North Hampshire Youth Cricket U16 League and cup.

They were unbeaten in all nine of their matches, scoring more than 1500 runs and taking 55 wickets in the process.

There were impressive individual performances with scores of 77 and 55 by batsmen, as well as bowlers taking four three-wicket and two four-wicket hauls in games.

The team have fantastic team spirit and inclusivity, the experienced girls always welcome and support younger girls into the team and help to develop them at training and treat their opposition with the upmost respect.

Junior Sportsman of the Year
Joint Winners: Jacob Fairhead, Farnham and Luke Van Oudtshoorn, Headley Down

At just 14-years-old, Jacob is the current WIKF (Wado International Karate-Do Federation) world champion and former European champion and has held the title for British and Irish national champion for seven consecutive years.

In 2018, Jacob was selected for the England National Karate Team and was also spotted by the GB Taekwondo Coach, who asked to him to join the Olympic development programme. Jacob had never done Taekwondo before and this was a huge transition while still training with the England National Karate Squad.

Just one week after his 14th birthday, and 10kg under the weight category, Jacob made it through to the finals of the WIKF European Championships, winning silver and losing by only one point.

Jacob misses lots of school due to his training commitments and competitions, but still manages to keep on top of his school work while travelling around the country. He has continued to keep his grades up and has been asked by his school to apply to be head boy.

Luke Van Oudtshoorn is rapidly becoming a household name within East Hampshire sport and GB triathlon.

His wins at the British Triathlon Super Series and Blenheim Triathlon gained the attention of the top coaches in the country, which led to him being accepted onto the England Next Generation Programme - which is set up for triathletes with Olympic potential.

Luke was selected as one of four boys from Great Britain for the Youth Olympic Games European qualifier in Spain, where he finished first for GB in the swim event and was in the lead pack on the bike before, unfortunately, being involved in a serious accident which cut his qualifier short.

Luke’s 3000m time of 8:22.78 ranks him second in the UK and sixth in Europe for under 17’s. Luke is also ranked fourth for the 1500m U17 with 3:53.04.

The last triathlon season saw Luke win the Portsmouth Sprint Triathlon and the Brighton and Hove Triathlon. He also represented England at cross-country and GB in triathlon.

Junior Sportswoman of the Year
Winner: Lucy Williams, Alton

Lucy is a 17-year-old 1st Dan Black Belt in Judo. In 2018, she achieved her ambition of being selected for the England Judo Talent Development Squad.

Unfortunately, Lucy fell ill in March which seriously interrupted her training. She fought back with an aim to compete at the Nationals in December, however three weeks before, she fell and seriously sprained her ankle. Lucy was determined to still compete at the Nationals and came fifth, despite having very little preparation.

Lucy has overcome her illness and injury and not let it deter her positive attitude, she has made the most of the competitions that she has been fit for – winning three silvers in international competitions, two silvers in national competitions and golds in regional and county competitions.

Lucy is now working hard to improve her ranking of sixth in her new age/weight group as well as starting university in September.

Junior Disability Sportsperson of the Year
Joint winners: Eden Rainbow-Cooper, Horndean and Lizzie Allen, Petersfield

Eden’s wheelchair racing career is going from strength to strength as she is quickly establishing herself as a Tokyo 2020 hopeful.

Eden is currently ranked number one in the UK T54 classification for female wheelchair racers in all track distances. She represented GB and gained new personal bests in the 400m, 800m and 1500m Grand Prix in Switzerland last year.

Eden came second in the London Mini Marathon for the female category and fourth overall, she also set the record for the female wheelchair category in her first ever half-marathon in Manchester.

14-year-old Lizzie Allen took up swimming from a very early age and has now been competing for five years!

She overcomes a complex range of gross motor difficulties, including low muscle tone and severe joint hypermobility, to compete nationally and internationally as part of the Down Syndrome Swimming Great Britain Squad.

In April 2018, Lizzie set a new Down Syndrome world record for the 25m freestyle. In July, she represented GB at the Down Syndrome World Swimming Championships in Canada where she won a silver in the 25m Backstroke and two bronze medals in the 25m breaststroke.

Young Volunteer of the Year
Winner: Amy Sly, Medstead

Amy (17) gives a lot of her time to volunteer and help others. She volunteers at various sports clubs, including netball and rugby, as well as helping with after school activities.

Amy volunteers with years four to six at Medstead School and every year group at Perins, she also works with Alton Girls Rugby Club.

Amy also organised a 12-hour charity netball match which raised £1,500 for good causes and got a lot of new people playing or trying netball.

Senior Disability Sportsperson of the Year
Winner: Lieutenant Commander Emma McCormick, Clanfield

After suffering a bizarre and very rare leg injury from horse riding, Emma was told she would likely spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Not content with this prognosis, she fought her way back to walking, through sheer determination and hard work.

Emma turned to powerlifting as a way of focusing her energy and assisting with her recovery. After a hugely successful 2017, she became world champion and was selected for the Sydney Invictus Games in 2018.

Emma went on to win two gold medals in Sydney for the discus and shot putt events, beating an Italian Paralympian! She also finished fifth overall for powerlifting – an incredible achievement against competitors much more experienced.

Coach of the Year
Winner: Maia Daborn, Headley

At just 18, Maia has inspired hundreds of people to take up archery and is an excellent role model for the sport.

She started archery at age 10 and began to help with archery sessions from age 11. Maia qualified as a level one coach at age 15 and level two at age 17 – making her the youngest level two coach in the country!

Archery GB quickly recognised her achievements and talent and invited her to join the GB coaching team where she has been coaching Olympic archers.

Maia, who also helps to coach the Hampshire county team as part of the Junior Coaching Programme, has coached archers of all ages and abilities. She currently coaches an 11-year-old archer who was ranked seventh nationally in the Junior Lady Barebow category last year.

Club of the Year
Winner: Ropley Cricket Club

Ropley Cricket Club works hard to provide opportunities for local people of all ages, abilities and genders to play cricket.

The club has teams operating in a variety of different leagues including women’s, senior, youth, indoor, Sunday and many more.

Regular community events are held by the club to increase participation and promote cricket to the local residents. A taster event for women and girls attracted more than 80 people - which meant the girls’ section of the club expanded, an event for children aged five to eight also grew the youth section of the club by more than 61 members. It has also held a Help for Heroes charity match and often sends volunteers to the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre to provide coaching and physiotherapy to injured and sick service personnel.

The club, which has Clubmark accreditation, is very supportive to its volunteer network and often provides funding and mentorship for coaching, umpiring and scoring qualifications.

Senior Volunteer of the Year
Winner: Joanna Guy, Whitehill & Bordon

Joanna is responsible for setting up the increasingly popular Whitehill & Bordon Parkrun, which now attracts up to 200 runners a week and brings the community together to socialise and stay fit and healthy.

She spends countless hours each week working behind the scenes to make sure Parkrun runs effectively – making sure there are a team of volunteers at each event, promoting Parkrun on social media and updating the run results.

On the day of the run, she provides enthusiasm and encouragement to all runners while carrying out the many duties that allow the event to run smoothly.

Senior Sportsperson of the Year Award
Winner: Alice Oppenheimer, Alton

Dressage rider Alice had an extremely successful 2018 with her homebred horses, winning some major national competitions which include the National Winter Championship, Premier League Show, Wellington Premier League and finishing third at the National Championship.

Alice also works hard to develop the next generation of dressage riders. She is a member of the British Dressage Youth Committee, which oversees and nurtures young dressage riders and she also trains local young riders - who recently won the Preliminary Championship at the National Championship in their first year of dressage.

In December, Alice was awarded the Bronze FEI (International Federation for Equestrian Sports) Badge of Honour in recognition of her contribution to the international GB teams and was one of five riders to be put on the British Equestrian Federations World Class Programme Podium Potential Squad for Dressage for 2019-2021.

Service to Sport
Winner: Tom Mills, Alton

Tom has been a vital part of Alton Rugby Club’s success over the last 50 years, sometimes to its survival and frequently to its growth and development.

He first joined the club in the 60’s as a young player and quickly took to fundraising for the building of the clubhouse that the club still uses today. Tom has had several committee roles, including chairman and treasurer, but now holds the position of long-term president.

Throughout his time at the club, he has coached the ladies’ team to national success, supported young players who have needed guidance, wrote press reports on matches and worked tirelessly to improve the clubhouse and pitch facilities. Tom also acts as a friend and person to talk to for any member or volunteer who might be struggling with life’s pressures outside of rugby.

Outstanding Personal Achievement
Joint winners: Ashley Hamer (Alton), Ken Finlay (Clanfield), Jhon Cosgrove (Petersfield)

Ashley Hamer stepped in to help the Colts team at Alton Rugby Football Club in a time of adversity.

In 2017, the long-standing team manager died suddenly – a distressing time for the young team who had lost a friend and a mentor. The head coach stepped in to hold things together and build the team up again through hard times, but then the worst happened and he also unfortunately passed away in 2018.

The Colts team were understandably devastated, assistant coach Ashley then stepped in to support the team in every way that he could. He quickly became both team manager and head coach and worked hard to rebuild the team’s sense of security and motivate them to carry on competing and achieving.

There are still difficult moments but the Colts have progressed to the third round of the Colts National Cup. The Colts original team manager and head coach will never be forgotten but Ashley deserves a huge amount of credit for keeping the team together and supporting them through the horrific period.

Jhon Cosgrove found a new passion for running which has helped him overcome mental health issues and he now runs for Liss Runners and Vegan Runners.

He uses running to raise awareness of mental health and encourage people, particularly men, to talk about any issues and reduce the stigma associated with it.

Jhon also uses running to raise money for charity. On Boxing Day 2018, Jhon ran a full marathon dressed as a giant broccoli raising over £1,500 for Veganary. He has also recently returned from India, where he completed a 250-mile bike ride over five days to raise money for charity, which was a huge challenge for a non-cyclist.

Ken Finlay has been an enthusiastic member of Clanfield Joggers for more than 20 years, supporting the club as secretary and chairperson.

Several years ago, Ken’s wife was diagnosed with a life-limiting illness and was supported by the PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy) Association - a charity that Ken and others in the club have raised thousands of pounds towards.

Ken supported his wife through her illness, during this time Ken was inspired to set up the Clanfield Challenge - which is a running event that would also raise money for charity. Ken is the event director and works tirelessly with the challenge team to organise this annual event that attracts up to 800 runners, including children and adults.

The event has inspired many local people to start running and Ken has also organised many Couch to 5k courses to get inactive people out and caring about their health and wellbeing.