Paralympic legend Sascha Kindred was the special guest at Tchoukball UK’s inaugural awards evening. Introduced by an inspirational video of his achievements and the speech he gave afterwards allowing an insight into the mind set of becoming a champion, Kindred was given a standing ovation from the awe inspired tchoukball community. Sascha was present as players and clubs were rewarded for their efforts on and off the court.
Sascha spoke to a thrilled audience as he recanted the adversities he had overcome to achieve success as a Paralympic swimmer and the challenges and experiences of competing at the very highest level. Tchoukballers then got to speak to the man in person after the evening's awards and many took the opportunity to chat further and to see the impressive array of his Paralympic medals.
In the awards themselves, Mike Harman was first to be celebrated. The Bury Tchoukball Club chairman was named club volunteer of the year for his work in expanding his club’s membership through a successful open evening. Player's player was announced as Liam Green for his excellent season as a key member of the Portsmouth Ducks side who returned into the top four of the National Club Championships.
Chief Executive Phil Moore announced on behalf of Tchoukball UK that in the past four years the number of players playing Tchoukball has risen from just 600 to 10,000.
On the back of this news the sport’s national governing body decided to celebrate those players new to the sport with the best female and male newcomer’s award. Eithne McCarthy was named best new female for a remarkable second season while Guy Jessett was chosen as best male newcomer for his efforts for Leeds Cosmos and the UK development squad. Team of the year went to Leeds Galaxy who once again improved upon their final standing in the national league to finish second both in the division and the championships.
Club of the year was Fareham Rhinos who came sixth in division one in their first season in the national league. Operations Director Richard Jackson explained the reasoning behind choosing Fareham:
"Many of the people running Fareham have been involved in tchoukball for the last 20 years or more and are now at the point in their lives where they are giving something back. The club actively engages with all areas of the community, works in great partnership with Tchoukball UK, the NGB, and has recently started working with schools and scout groups in the local area. It's a great example of what a club in any sport should be doing.
These clubs all need those members willing to take the time to plan sessions to improve their players and spark the interest of newcomers. One lady who is consistently doing this at both Leeds and for the women’s international side is Hannah Norman who was named coach of the year.
The penultimate awards were for the best youth players over the past year. Amongst a strong list of nominees Amber Longhurst and Mackenzie Hofberg were named as the outstanding pair of future tchoukball stars.
The final awards were for the sportsman and sportswoman of the year. Tchoukball UK awards these prizes to reflect overall ability of players that are not only great on the court but work hard off it. Ian Parker, named as sportsman of the year, was an integral part of the all-conquering Bury side that won five titles including the national championships without loss. Jo Casey was announced as the sportswoman of the year for her efforts on court with Pompey Ducks and her commitment to the UK ladies squad despite being unable to take part in the summer’s European Championships.
The event was a resounding success, allowing players from all clubs to come together outside of the sport while celebrating those that have gone and beyond, both in tchoukball and in the pools of Paralympic games. Janine Lesiak, Performance Director and key organiser of the evening this year was delighted with it.
"It's the first time we have run one of these evenings and the reaction from the athletes attending was fantastic. It's great to give something back to this group of individuals who represent Tchoukball UK and the sport so well."