Hethersett man named England Athletics Coach of the Year
- Credit: Mike Utting
A Norfolk athletics coach who “lives and breathes the sport” has been named England Athletics Coach of the Year for 2020.
The award completes a remarkable treble for Mike Utting from Hethersett who was previously named England Athletics’ Eastern Region Coach of the Year for 2020 and Active Norfolk’s High Performance Coach of the Year in 2016.
England Athletics described Mike as “an incredible, kind-hearted person who makes athletics fun and engaging.”
“Mike is encouraging, extremely patient and goes the extra mile to help his athletes. Mike lives and breathes athletics,” the winning citation said.
Mike, who is currently a coach with the City of Norwich Athletics Club, was also praised for his interest and support for para-athletics. He has coached Great Britain athletes at two Paralympic Games—London 2012 and Rio 2016.
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The judges also praised Mike for giving his time freely to athletes, other coaches, parents and anyone needing his support, including running one-to-one sessions.
In accepting the award, Mike, in typical modest fashion, praised those who had made it possible:
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“It’s been an extremely difficult time with the pandemic being incredibly sad for many. Volunteer coaches have stepped up to support their athletes. The award is recognition for my team of volunteers and coaches in Norwich and the country, along with all the volunteers,” he said.
Mike got into athletics almost by default when, as a young man, he decided to hang up his football boots and cricket gloves. “I went out for a run. I knew I was a pretty average runner and was never going to set the world alight, but I felt I could coach. I left school with no qualifications and in many ways, I fell into coaching but found that I had a passion for it and soon realised that you need to coach the person and not the event. Every person is an individual and has to be treated as such,” he said.
He became involved with a number of athletics clubs including Wymondham Joggers, Wymondham Road Runners, Duke Street Runners, Norwich Olympians and Norwich Athletics Club and also found he had the ability to discover talent from attending school sports days. He worked as a voluntary coach for 30 years before taking up some professional coaching posts at the age of 60, 11 years ago.
Mike was born in Norwich and moved to Hethersett in 1985. His initial coaching career took an unexpected turn as he explained:
“Out of the blue, I received a telephone call asking me to look after young athletes with learning difficulties representing the Great Britain MENCAP team,” he said.
He became involved in the national development programme which brought him into contact with some of the world’s top coaches. Mike developed his coaching to embrace what he refers to as the three Cs - caring, connecting and communicating.
Mike’s profile continued on the up as he looked after disabled athletes at the European Championships in Swansea in 2014, and the World Championships in Lyon in 2013 and Doha in 2015 and also the ultimate challenge - The London and Rio Olympic Games.
“I feel I have been on a long journey as a coach. I am a firm believer that you can make a difference to people simply by sitting down and talking to them. I love imparting what knowledge I have. I also love sharing it and helping the next generation of coaches,” he said.
Daughter Alison led the tributes: “He gives up so much of his time to inspire and help young children and young people believe in themselves and reach their potential and he is always helping others. It is so nice for him to get the recognition he so rightly deserves,” she said.
After the announcement of the England Athletics award Mike received congratulation messages from top coaches from throughout the UK and admitted that he was “in shock.”