Grassroots Team of the Year Finalists

This award honours a team in any sport who have worked together to succeed beyond expectations, or had an impact outside the boundaries of sport. Here are our finalists:

Pilgrim Flyers

In the summer months, young mountain bikers head to woodland in and around Plymouth to hone their skills in the great outdoors. In winter, though, it’s a totally different story, with a multi- storey car park in the middle of the city providing a platform for sports-mad kids to perform in complete safety and often in full view of their parents, who have parked up to watch.

Using tape and cones to create a circuit for their members to race around, this night club with a difference has been a huge hit in the south west. “We use a load of tape and cones to make a circuit, and we have the kids racing round. It’s undercover, it’s floodlit, there are toilets, it’s all weather, the parents can park there and watch - it’s unbelievable, really good,” says coach, Jay Norton.

The club has a national champion on its books and has also produced racers who have competed in World Cups. That, though, isn’t the aim of Norton, who runs the club with his wife, Maddie.

Their ambition is to provide an outlet for kids to continue to get on their bikes when the nights are long and the weather is cold. And it’s working.

Trafford Rowing Club

Few sports clubs have taken advantage of the surge in sporting interest as a result of the 2012 Olympics as readily as the Trafford Rowing Club. The club gained 200 additional members after the Games in London and now runs one of the country’s most successful rowing clubs.

Trafford rowing club provide a brilliant example of how the interest engendered by the 2012 Olympics has been capitalised on, growing enormously, particularly at youth level where Trafford have enjoyed sustained success across age groups. Priding themselves on appealing to wannabe rowers across the social and economic spectrum, the club is set on transforming the sports appeal across Manchester.

The club’s under-15 girl’s squad is particularly highly rated as young female rowers look to emulate the success of the likes of Kath Grainger. The club now boasts almost 90 junior members - a far cry from the 1980s when membership fell to unprecedented levels and threatened the club’s very existence.

“Most coaches, but not all, have been rowers in their youth,” says club captain, Jill Lees. “They want to share their passion for the sport and ensure that the next generation enjoys it as much as they did and achieves its maximum potential. Seeing young juniors develop, progress and blossom into experienced athletes is the most rewarding feeling.”

Hackney Wick FC

Set-up under the banner ‘Our Borough, Our Club’, Hackney Wick has been breaking down barriers since being formed by Bobby Kasanga, who came up with the idea of forming the club during a prison sentence for gang crime in the London borough.

Given its unusual starting point, it’s no surprise to learn that Hackney Wick FC isn’t your average football club. Using his experience of growing up in Hackney, Kasanga set about forming a club which reflected the needs and motivations of the local community, attracting players from across the borough. As such, the team’s influence spreads well beyond the confines of the club’s Mabley Green home ground.

The club regularly sends its players to local schools to educate kids in the local community on the dangers of gang crime, while also reaching out to the elderly members of that same community - offering free tickets and travel to the club’s matches.

In February 2016, the club launched its academy and now routinely runs eight sides across all age- groups over a weekend. A Hackney Wick Women’s FC is also now very much a part of the fabric of the club.

Fittingly, Hackney Wick’s first official fixture was against Stonewall FC - the country’s first gay football club. Both are bringing down barriers and using football as a force for good, while also appreciating its power to change perceptions.

The winner will be announced on Wednesday 7th December.



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