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Coach/mentor of the year.

WINNER: RICK BETTS AWARD winner Rick Betts has been a volunteer coach with Middlesbrough AC for 17 years and regularly coaches more than 20 athletes up to four times a week.

He'll also usually go to support them when they are competing and acts as club press officer too, so that their achievements are recognised.

The dedicated 47-year-old from Middlesbrough coaches both able bodied and disabled athletes and has again seen a number of them succeed at regional and national level over the past 12 months.

Rick says the highlights of the past year have been seeing Amy Carr strike gold at the English Federation of Disability Sports National Championships, Jack Crosby winning a bronze medal at the English Schools Championships and Lee Hunter winning the 800 metres Special Olympics title. He also took great pride in seeing Rachel Carter's first ever 300 metre hurdles race win her the North-east Under-17 crown.

"I firmly believe that a coach can only be as inspired and enthusiastic as his athletes make him," said Rick, "and I have been lucky enough to coach some great Teesside-born talent in my 17 years as a coach.

"My present group are a great source of pride for me and I share this award with all of them as they are the ones who train hard and compete on a regular basis, putting themselves on the line not knowing what the outcome will be and they get as much pleasure from setting a personal best as they do competing."

RUNNER-UP: LISA BATES LISA Bates is well on the way to achieving her aim of making Middlesbrough Swimming Club the best in the area.

Yarm-based Lisa, 28, has been head coach/director of the club since 2011 and has seen it go from strength to strength in that time.

Her star swimmer is Aimee Willmott who competed in the 2012 Olympics and this year's World Championships in Barcelona as well as winning her first international medal in the 2012 European Short Course Championships in Chartres.

But Lisa has also seen Jack Baister and Perry Gardner compete at international level while seven of her swimmers made qualifying times for the National Age Group Championships in Sheffield and one of them, Emma Cassell, won the girls' 14 years 200 metres butterfly gold medal and a bronze in the 100 metres.

"When I took over our aim was to be certainly the best club in Teesside and the best club in Northumberland and Durham, and now we are not too far away," she said.

"I'm really proud of everyone around me for their part in putting us on the way to where we want to be.

"Swimming is my passion. You have to be dedicated to get up at 5 or 6am five mornings a week but it's very rewarding."

RUNNER-UP: GUY FAWKES GUY Fawkes, above, is the driving force behind the Billingham Amateur Swimming Club revival.

And such is his dedication that not only does he regularly leave his house at 5.30am to make the 30-minute journey from his home in Guisborough to the the Forum to take coaching sessions, but he'll also often work a 12-hour night shift before heading straight to the pool to coach his enthusiastic bunch of swimmers.

On top of that, he spends much of his spare time organising his swimmers and monitoring their logbooks to ensure he is up to date with their progress.

Head coach since 1999, he has put the club back on the map after it spent two years without a home pool while the Forum was closed for major refurbishment.

Guy's swimmers compete regularly at county, regional and national level and he says the highlight of the past year was Stephanie Blakeburn's performance in the British Gas National Championships in Sheffield where she swam against the best in the country and reached seven finals.

"Being without a home pool for two years caused a lot of disruption to the programme," said Guy, 54.

"But since we moved back to the Forum the club has grown in momentum, culminating in Steph's performance at Shef-field.

"She reached seven finals, which was a fantastic achievement, and she came close to getting a medal on one or two occasions too."

CAPTION(S):

Coach/mentor of the year winner, Rick Betts, left, talking to BBC Tees' Paul Addison.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 21, 2013
Words:724
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