British Rowing Awards: Eastern Volunteer of the Year winners

We share the citations of the regional winners from the Eastern region, with national winners to be announced in a live webcast on 20 January

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We’ve had a huge number of nominations for British Rowing Awards from clubs up and down the country, so it’s been a tough job for our judging panels to narrow them all down to this year’s shortlist. Thank you to everyone who made a nomination and congratulations to the volunteers, coaches, clubs, crews and other rowers who have been selected.

Three members of the Eastern region have won regional awards and are now shortlisted for national awards. They are:

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• Alice Draper, Milton Keynes RC – Volunteer of the Year
• Chris Radbone, Cantabrigian RC – Rising Star of the Year
• Tony Roper, Yare BC – Lifetime Achievement Award

Thanks to everyone for all their hard work.

Alice Draper, Milton Keynes RC – Volunteer of the Year regional winner

The British Rowing Volunteer of the Year is for people who have contributed significantly to their sport in 2021, for the benefit of the wider rowing community.
Alice has run the most successful learn to row courses ever at Milton Keynes RC, and played a key role in rebuilding membership post-Covid.

The club’s citation continues: “Uptake of development membership following completion of a learn to row course has increased from around 20% to over 80%, which has more than compensated for the fall in members renewing.

“This is the third year Alice has volunteered for the role of LTR Coordinator & Development Captain, with step improvements being made year-on-year. Her dedication and hard work has elevated the role, the quality of the LTR courses and the offering to development members, to an exceptional level.”

The LTR Coordinator role involves managing the LTR waiting list, responding to new enquiries, inviting people to participate, planning eight sessions including members to support, gathering feedback from both participants and helpers.

But Alice’s contribution goes way beyond completing each of these tasks. She has a natural flair for teaching and dedicates a huge amount of time and energy to personally connecting with each of the participants to understand how they are finding the course and how she can enhance their experience. Alice fully appreciates that people have widely differing capabilities and motivations and works with each of them to build confidence and skills as appropriate.

Prior to Alice being in the role, LTR graduates would join as development members and their rowing sessions were organised by the women’s captain. Alice proposed and implemented the development captain role and she organises their rowing sessions using her knowledge of their abilities and goals, to best match with supporting senior members and boat types. There is no doubt that this smoother transition has improved retention rates.

This year’s learn to row courses have been a huge success thanks mainly to Alice!

Chris Radbone, Cantabrigian RC – Rising Star of the Year regional winner

The Rising Star of the Year award is for young volunteers who have made an exceptional contribution to their sport and the wider community. All five regional winners are a credit to their clubs and community, including Chris Radbone.

The club’s citation describes how Chris coaches the senior women’s squad at Cantabs and has really developed as a coach over the last 18 months and is integral to the club’s high performance programme.

As a volunteer, his commitment to the squad is unparalleled, and he is so giving of his time. Chris makes it his mission to ensure that people improve both on and off the water. He genuinely cares about every single individual in the squad and spends every session helping them achieve their best. He has a very holistic view to his coaching, which for someone so young is really very impressive.

Over the past year he has been instrumental to the success of the squad – every athlete who entered Henley Women’s Regatta qualified this year.

Even when furloughed over lockdown, Chris spent time undertaking a nutrition qualification, ultimately helping to drive the squad on. He is the club’s resident S&C expert too, and has inspired a lot of the squad to better themselves in the gym.

Despite his young age, Chris is exceptionally well respected at the club.

Tony Roper, Yare BC – Lifetime Achievement Award regional winner

Seven exceptional volunteers will receive the British Rowing Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021, including Tony Roper, who has been nominated by the Eastern region for his incredible dedication to the sport.
The Lifetime Achievement Award has had an illustrious list of winners over the years and this year is no different. The award recognises a lifetime of achievement and dedication to the sport of rowing.
Read on to find out how Tony has made a huge impact on his club, region and the wider community.

Tony was elected secretary of Yare Boat Club, Norwich at 21 and has served for 58 years. Now, at 80, he continues to play an active role in club affairs and its future direction as president.

The club’s citation says: “Longevity alone justifies this nomination, but Tony has made an exceptional contribution to the sport of rowing, benefiting countless participants.”
The regional chair of the Eastern region said: “For almost six decades of committed service to the club, Tony has maintained its fabric and allowed it to thrive in the face of many challenges.”
As well as being the interface for British Rowing, local authorities, other clubs and insurance providers, licensing the boats and administering membership, Tony has skilfully repaired club boats and attended to house and grounds maintenance – all quietly and efficiently.

Yare BC quite simply owes its survival to Tony and for his handling of the aftermath of two landmark events.

The first, in the 1970s, saw a takeover bid but, led by Tony, a few loyal members, wishing to remain on site, formed Yare Sculling Club, later Yare BC and retained enough boats to survive.

The second was in 1997. Arsonists destroyed the main boathouse and fleet. Tony, with others, worked tirelessly to secure a complete rebuild and source replacement boats. To celebrate this re-emergence, the club initiated a new event called the Yare Cup, now a permanent fixture in the racing calendar.

Tony’s commitment to Yare BC was further demonstrated by his willingness to contribute funds (alongside others) for the purchase of the club site from the landowner.

Now, in 2021, Tony has presided over a momentous milestone in the local rowing scene–the incorporation of Broadland Boat Club. This has inevitably involved complex amendments to policies and organisation, and an expansion of fleet and membership with the emphasis on ensuring that everyone feels valued and welcome.

Yare has always been friendly and welcoming with an inclusive ethos, nurtured by Tony and reflective of his character and it owes him an enormous debt of gratitude. He is the embodiment of sustained, selfless voluntary service to our sport and is the bedrock of Yare BC.

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