Volunteers Drinks Evening and Awards

Last month Raiders hosted a drinks evening for almost 100 of our volunteers at the Tennis Club. We also used the occasion to celebrate some of the outstanding efforts of our volunteers with some awards.

After all the disruption of the last couple of years it was great to be able to get together on Wednesday 25th November with many of our volunteers to thank everyone for all their contribution and catch up with fellow volunteers that many may have not seen in ages or met since becoming a volunteer.

We also took the opportunity, for the first time in a couple of years, to give out some awards to a numbers of volunteers who have gone above and beyond in the last year. It was incredibly hard trying to pick just one winner for each of our awards as there are many people who would be worthy winners but as the Highlander movies often said… there can be only one… or in our case 4 worthy award winners:

Raiders Spirit Award – Individual – Hilary Kempe

One of Raiders strategic objectives is to drive greater representation of women in coaching and managing roles and we already have some outstanding volunteers in the club including Martina Hardy. Our winner this year is another amazing role model to the girls and one of only 4 female managers in the club.

Hilary stepped up last year to manager a team, having never played football before, but did so because there were no other volunteers and the team would fold otherwise. Through perseverance and an uncanny ability to maintain a positive attitude in spite of weather and the occasional heavy losses, meant her team, the Callistos, although having some brand new players and a developing squad, are starting to see results and last week even won the second half against the top team in their division. Hillary exemplifies the Raiders ethos of enjoyment, inclusivity and respect and proves that, like Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, you don’t have to have played football for many years to be a successful coach.

Raiders Spirit Award – Team – U16 Yellows

The U16 Yellow team, managed by Ian Raba, comprised on the whole of players who only started playing football a year ago, and have struggled to be competitive in the vast majority of their games. However, three weeks ago, astonishingly, they were 1-0 up in a league game, when they were awarded a penalty. Rather than nominate their best player to take the kick, in order to give them a chance of a very rare victory, the entire team chose a player with “the most fantastic attitude as he has never scored a goal. Unfortunately, his effort didn’t hit the back of the net but they did win the game. For us, this epitomised the Raiders values of teamwork and friendship and camaraderie are more important than victory.

Above and Beyond Award – Rich Gaherty

Rich Gaherty has managed to combine his work as a manager of the U13 Greens team with helping to set up and drive forward our new futsal offering. His work on the development of Futsal over the last two to three years has instrumental in its success. We have gone from a couple of team in 1 league across some age groups to several teams in most age groups competing in three different leagues as well as county cups. Rich has worked with managers across the age groups and has helped set up teams and their fixtures in age groups beyond his own and deserves his recognition for the additional work he has taken on and value he has added to the club.

Volunteer of the Year Award – Simon Whale

Many of you reading this will be aware of the contribution to the growth of Raiders of the entire Whale family over the years. Sarah (Simon’s wife) was instrumental in the development of Raiders girls football and their daughter Annie is our first female referee.

This year is Simon’s ninth season managing a girls team. He also took on managing his son’s boys team from u14s, when they lacked a manager, which meant four seasons of double football at the weekend. Thanks to Simon we have the first U18 girls team in over a decade and it would not have happened without Simon’s focus, drive and determination. Recruiting senior players has proved to be very challenging and Simon has literally left no stone unturned. Contacting all local schools drew a blank but it was Simon’s relationship with a Pitsone team that had recently folded, which enabled the team to continue and welcome some new players to keep the team together and playing. Simon eptimoses all the values that we hold at our core within Raiders and is a well-deserved recipient of our Volunteer of the Year award.

Volunteer of the Decade – Keith Pollard

Keith has been an integral driver of the growth of Raiders over the last 12 years as Chair and as a key member of the club before that. Working alongside a group of dedicated volunteers through the years, the club, under Keith’s stewardship has grown to be one of the top 5 largets community youth football clubs in the country. We have accumulated a number of awards in recent years that are a reflection of all this hard work including UEFA Club of the Year Silver Award, Herts Sport Club of the Year, Dacorum Sports Club of the Year and numerous volunteers and community awards.

Keith has also dedicated a significant amount of his time to the club’s efforts to deliver a home ground and clubhouse of its own. We rely on, and are hugely thankful for, the partnerships we have with many of the schools and local associations in the area that lend us their pitches but the ability to have our own grounds would be a transformational opportunity for the club. Keith, despite recently stepping down, is still continuing to push this initiative forward and we hope, very soon, to be able to announce an exciting update.

He has also worked tirelessly to build strong relationships with the many schools, local councils, sports organisations and community groups. Keith leaves a huge legacy within Raiders and his contribution is much appreciated by everyone within the club.

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