Several winners at the Burnley Community Sports Awards 2021 have achieved more than sporting success to earn this year’s accolades.
A common theme among many of the winners was not only keeping people active, fit and healthy, but the lengths they went to, to overcome the impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic, such as combating loneliness, mental health and wellbeing issues among their players, members and followers.
The annual awards night was held at the Burnley Mechanics Theatre for the first time in two years after the pandemic meant last year’s event had to be cancelled.
Awards were handed to individuals, clubs, organisations and schools at the ceremony hosted by legendary hurdler and world record holder Colin Jackson CBE – considered one of the all-time best in his chosen sport.
The winners were:
Coach of the Year – Lianne Bruce of Basically Cheer and Fitness
Lianne’s win set the tone for several other winners in recognising her work throughout 18 months of lockdowns and restrictions to ensure women and their families had access to physical activity. The judges said: “Lianne delivered daily online workouts and not only kept people moving, but kept morale up, and was there for people if they needed help, advice or even just a chat. Lianne provided daily and monthly challenges and diet advice. Her enthusiasm for healthy living is infectious and she is a real inspiration. Setting challenges, online classes, one-to-one support sessions, online family party nights, Lianne is a rock for anyone wanting to train, lose weight, or just get fit. The amount of extra time she puts in to support all of her clients is second to none. All her workouts were uplifting, fun and motivational and not only helped people’s fitness during lockdown but helped lots of people’s mental health.”
Club of the Year – Burnley Rounders Club
Judges described the club as ‘outstanding’ for keeping its players engaged throughout the pandemic with activities going way beyond rounders, including online quizzes, pumpkin carving, Christmas tree dressing competition, and even a singing and talent competition. Other activities included a fundraising activities to provide free swimming lessons for local children. They added: “The club tried its very best to ensure none of its players were left socially isolated during lockdown, they contributed to food banks and had members volunteer for the NHS responders.”
On a sporting note, the club has secured a grant to buy portable floodlights for playing outdoors in winter and has set up a North of England championship, which will see 16 teams coming to Burnley to compete for the crown of North of England champions. It has also arranged the Burnley rounders festival for the sixth consecutive year when the England national teams will come to town to compete against four local teams.
In addition, it worked closely with Rounders England to make Burnley one of only five venues nationally where the national body will run regional talent identification hubs.
Volunteer of the Year – Lois Page of Burnley Belvedere Girls and Wildcats
Sixteen-year-old Lois was described as an ‘inspiration’ throughout the tough covid lockdowns, creating online videos and challenges to try and keep the ‘Belvo’ girls active, engaged and interested in their football.
The judges said: “Every week Lois planned and prepared a 3–5-minute video to post on social media. Her videos included a range of things like drills and coaching points, fun games (for players) to play both on their own and with family members and even did some arts and crafts related football videos. By the end of the lockdown she had made 16 videos over 16 weeks, getting 4,895 views in total. Even other clubs shared the videos and got other coaches and team mates involved.”
She was also praised for taking the lead in organising coaching sessions, and enrolling for the FA’s Level 1 football coaching qualification.
The teenager, who is studying sports science at Nelson and Colne College, is the first choice goalkeeper for Burnley Belvedere Ladies and plays hockey for Pendle Forest.
Individual Contribution to Active Communities – Stephen Reece-Buck, Energize Dance Studio, Burnley
Stephen was praised for keeping his dance family together when lockdown restrictions meant he had to close his doors.
“He helped so many people overcome anxiety and depression by keeping them as active as possible. Some children and adults have experienced so many emotions over lockdown, but Stephen has been there to support them all,” said the judges.
His response to the lockdown was to launch online challenges and classes, which meant he had to tailor routines and programmes to fit into people’s space, use equipment from around the house and offer extra teaching points as tutors were not physically in the room with the customer.
The judges added: “Overall, Stephen achieved a sense of coming together and supporting each other, offering support, and overcoming these strange situations we have been thrown into.”
Contribution to Active Communities – Challenge Through Sport Initiative (CSI)
The Challenge through Sport Initiative (CSI) was one of the organisations that continued to support those who needed it across Lancashire, and especially in Burnley, during covid lockdowns and restrictions.
Designed, operated and delivered by Active Lancashire, CSI is a behavioural change programme for people in recovery – mostly from substance and alcohol misuse, but also includes help for people with mental health issues, gambling addictions, isolation and just as importantly, their families.
The judges said: “Keeping participants and volunteers mentally healthy has been a huge challenge, but the team rose wholeheartedly to it. CSI moved activities online within 24 hours (of lockdown restrictions) and used the same tutors that had been running the sessions in person. This meant that people were comfortable still joining in the activities. For those not able to connect online, one-to-one sessions were given, which later became group support sessions. CSI also created a chit chat group on WhatsApp that over 60 people used. It was led by CSI support workers to start with, creating challenges, running quizzes, and has now evolved so that it is led by the group itself, whose members have become friends away from CSI.”
Support workers were also praised for making home visits to show people how to use the WhatsApp group on their smartphones.
Primary School of the Year – Barden Primary School
The school was chosen for the tireless efforts of the staff and the enthusiasm of the children in making sport part of its DNA, and ensuring pupils’ experience of school life was not affected too much by the onset of covid.
The judges said: “Throughout the lockdowns of 2020/2021, the school has continued to keep sport and physical activity as a key focus, whilst ensuring the staff knew the importance of delivering PE to a good standard, regardless of the method of delivery. Within the last 12 months, we have seen staff members and children alike going above and beyond to ensure physical activity was maintained in a creative and enjoyable way. During the lockdowns, they held various activity days focusing on a range of different activities such as bring your bike/scooter to school days, sports such as archery, tri golf and a range of more traditional games, such as football, cricket, rounders and tennis to name a few.”
The school was also praised for its work with Action for Children to support pupils who returned from lockdown periods of inactivity, and has since employed a sports specialist to implement high quality interventions for different groups of children.
Secondary School of the Year – Unity College, Burnley
Unity College was also chosen for its positive response to covid and the ensuing lockdowns, implementing new strategies to engage and encourage students to stay physically active at home.
This included online videos of workouts, fitness challenges, dance workouts, netball drills, football skills, rugby drills and fun fitness sessions. The PE team also made personal videos and messages to help students carry out the set tasks.
A film showed how staff had stayed active throughout lockdown and encouraged students to undertake a weekly challenge.
Those studying vocational sport for GCSE were given access to videos of the PE team completing specific fitness tests that correlated to the PE coursework.
The school’s nomination said: “Unity College has a team of experienced PE staff who always go above and beyond to ensure all students have access to an inclusive and engaging curriculum. We aim to provide opportunities for pupils to increase their confidence in a way which helps support their physical, mental, and social wellbeing.”
The Rising Star of the Year award went to a teenage sprinter clocked as the fastest 400m runner for his age in Lancashire this year.
Nelson and Colne College student Osasu Agho-Peter, aged 17, joined Burnley Athletic Club in 2019 and soon settled on the 400m as his primary event, becoming Lancashire Schools Champion in his first year in the sport with a personal best time of 52:2 seconds.
He clocked his fastest time – 51:7 seconds – this summer in only his second race in two years because of the pandemic, making him the quickest 400m runner for his age in the county.
The judges praised his dedication to his sport and added: “Osasu is still a relative novice in sprinting and the pandemic has been a big hurdle to overcome in terms of his development. His dedication cannot be questioned though, as he regularly catches two buses to get to training and has often walked the 2.5 miles from his home to the track on training nights.”
Osasu, who is also a talented centre half for the Burnley FC shadow youth team at college, has now moved up to the under 20 age group and has shown he is more than capable of competing against older opposition, winning a silver medal in the Lancashire Championships to top off an excellent season.
“We are all looking forward to what a full winter’s training will mean for this talented one-lap runner in 2022,” added the judges.