A TRIO of behind-the-scenes stalwarts who have significantly increased sports participation at their respective clubs and leagues are in contention for the Volunteer of the Year award, sponsored by NU Image.

Sadie Minturn had around 10 girls in attendance when she started up sessions at Moredon Junior Netball Club in September 2016 but that number has since doubled.

An inexperienced group to begin with, they tasted heavy defeats in their first tournament and matches before a major turnaround saw them claim a number of victories.

The creation of the junior arm has proved crucial to the future of the 60-year-old club, which had been under threat of extinction due to an ageing membership and no younger players coming through the ranks to replace them.

Minturn is credited with playing a major role in the club’s survival as a result and puts many hours into training, organising and attending matches for the team – fitting them around her own family, work and netball commitments.

Lee Bowen is another true driving force on the local grassroots scene in his role as development officer at Sanford Link Table Tennis Club.

He organises coaching sessions for his club, as well as in a number of schools in Swindon, taking young people who have never tried a sport and providing them with guidance and the opportunity to learn and improve.

Some have gone on to become table tennis coaches through Bowen’s involvement with the Wiltshire County Table Tennis Association.

Fellow finalist Alan Harding, together with Mike Jakosz, was instrumental in developing Trowbridge Basketball League from an unremarkable set of weekly fixtures into an inclusive competition for all. 

Harding acts as the referee overseer and active supporter of the league and has helped its playing numbers swell from 25 to more than 50 every week.

Those who take part in matches enjoy the inclusive nature of the game and the league is able to boast a high level of player retention.

Basketball might be viewed as something of a niche sport in a small town but Harding has fostered a genuine sense of community through his advice, expertise and effort, with the numbers speaking for themselves.

Jakosz, as chair, has helped run a successful league featuring seven teams and also manages the social media and marketing side of the organisation, as well as managing his own team, becoming a driving force around the rejuvenation of basketball in Trowbridge.

The 2017 Wiltshire Sports Awards, set up by the Swindon Advertiser, Gazette & Herald and Wiltshire Times in conjunction with Wiltshire & Swindon Sport (WASP).

Newsquest Wiltshire group sports editor Owen Houlihan, WASP CEO Steve Boocock and 1968 Olympic 400m hurdles champion David Hemery will meet in January to decide the award winners.

All the winners will be announced at the Corn Exchange celebration ceremony at the end of January, which will include an audience with 1985 World Snooker champion and now-television commentator Dennis Taylor, who will be guest speaker.

The evening will be a celebration of all of the winners for all of the categories, and tickets are available priced at £15 per adult and £9 per child, to include a buffet.

Tickets can be purchased by calling Ian Parker on 01793 501731 or email wiltshiresportsawards@newsquest.co.uk.

This year’s Wiltshire Sports Awards winners will be revealed at swindonadvertoser.co.uk/sport, gazetteandherald.co.uk/sport and wiltshiretimes.co.uk/sport this weekend and in our special supplement in next week’s papers