This week, the University of Birmingham launched the pilot scheme of the new Birmingham Talent Hub, a programme designed to support a group of gifted athletes aged primarily between 16-23 in the region. Supported by Sport England funding and following the success of the University’s Gold Charter Mark awarded by England Athletics last year, the 18-month pilot aims to create a satellite hub site for local sportspersons in order to develop their potential with catered support, sessions and coaching.
The Hub is the result of the British Athletics Talent Pathway restructure, and they, along with the University, England Athletics, British Athletics, London Marathon Events and TASS, have come together to launch the first British Athletics Hub, based at the University of Birmingham’s world-class Sport & Fitness club on the Edgbaston campus. The Hub will host 32 of the best young talent in the area, including UoB graduate sports scholars Sarah McDonald, Mari Smith and Jonny Davies, a number of University of Birmingham students – both those who are already a part of the Scholarships programme, and some emerging talent – and local non-students.
Last night, the partnership was officially launched at the Sport & Fitness club with an induction for the athletes, including a guest speech from Sarah McDonald, a breakdown of what the support will look like, and introducing the five-strong coaching dream team.
Heading up the coaching team is Luke Gunn (pictured), Head of Athletics and Talent Hub Manager at the University of Birmingham, who was also integral to the University’s success of the Gold Charter Mark award last year. He said it’s incredibly exciting to be selected as a pilot site for the revamp of the Athletics Talent Pathway in the UK.
“The University has always been passionate in assisting talented junior individuals through their dual-career pursuits into senior internationals at the highest level.
‘This unprecedented joined-up approach from all the main governing bodies in the UK is so exciting, and nothing short of a huge boost for the sport and the region athletically. This is a partnership and direction we all believe is the way forward to best support the transitional athlete.
‘We are especially delighted to open our incredible support services at the University to the wider athletic population across the West Midlands region, engaging with athletes, coaches, clubs and other academic institutions more than ever before.”
Joining Luke is Lead Power coach and heptathlete Jade Surman, who has been a part of the University’s athletics coaching team for over four years and will focus on supporting the non-endurance athletes. Bud Baldaro, another University of Birmingham Athletics Club legend who has most recently coached Mari to her European Indoors success will be the Lead Endurance Coach; and Dean Miller, former Paralympian and British Para Athletics coach, will support Bud as apprentice Endurance Coach. The final addition is newcomer to the team Andy Paul, who will use his experience managing the Youth Trust Pathway for British Athletics to be the Sprints Coach for the Hub.
With the wealth of knowledge afforded by this team, the facilities at the University of Birmingham and the strength of the partnership, the Hub is set up to be a fantastic site of support in Birmingham, which will be able to drive the next generation of athletic stars to achieve their full potential.
Find out more on the England Athletics website.