Club Racing

Winner of Sports Volunteer of the Year: Wendy Dodson

Congratulations to Wendy Dodson for winning the ‘Sports Volunteer of the Year’ award.

Wendy is the head racing coach at Addlestone Canoe Club (ACC) and has spent the past 50 years dedicated to the sport, firstly as an individual athlete and in later years as a passionate coach. Wendy, along with her husband Andy, joined the club in the mid 1990’s and together founded the ‘Racing’ section and developed it into the successful program that it is today.

Wendy has been a World Class canoeist competing in numerous international events for Great Britain, including the Sprint World Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria, 1977 and winning the Marathon World Cup in Gudina, Denmark, 1983. She was also a formidable runner, top placing in the Nottingham Marathon in the early 1980s. Over the years Wendy’s passion for the sport has not waned and she still competes in National canoe marathon events as a veteran and runs with her friends weekly.

Wendy’s dedication to the sport has impacted many people’s lives. As the head race coach within the club, for over 25 years, everyone who races for ACC begins with Wendy’s coaching. From the many juniors that have been involved with the club over the years, six junior racers have gone on to represent Great Britain at International events (Sprint & Marathon) and a few have been chosen for the National Talent Program. As a small club, we have over-indexed in GB team representation verses club size, when compared with larger ‘Racing specific’ clubs. Additionally, Wendy has coached three crews (six people) in preparation for the gruelling Devizes-Westminster 125 mile endurance race.

During a recent audit of volunteer hours given by members, Wendy stood out from all others, with a mighty 467 hours per year or 9 hours per week, which she dedicates to our club, the community and the sport. Within the ACC, this includes coaching, supporting members at races, club maintenance, environmental clear-ups, committee meetings, safeguarding and first aid. Alongside her commitments to ACC, Wendy is on the British Canoeing National Sprint Regatta Committee and gives 4 weekends per year to running National regatta events plus sixteen hours at the planning meetings associated with these events.

In addition to her coaching work, Wendy is the club welfare officer, a critical role, with key responsibilities such as ensuring all adults working with vulnerable people have up to date DBS checks in place. She is an active member of the club committee and helps to organise our ‘come and try it’ days run by ACC, which encourages ‘newbies’ in the local community to try out many different forms of paddle sport, hopefully joining us as new members to enjoy the sport all year round. She also coordinates the purchase and distribution of club racing kit and branded casual clothing.

Addlestone Canoe Club is highly regarded in the canoeing community and Wendy was instrumental in the club attaining the British Canoeing award of ‘Club Mark; by leading the team writing our policies and procedures. The attainment of ‘Club Mark’ status was key to unlocking the potential of the club, enabling us to acquire funding to provide more opportunities for paddle sport in the community. Following on from this, Wendy then built the ‘development & talent pathways’ for Junior racers, which guides individuals and coaches through the stages of development from beginner to elite athlete. Addlestone Canoe Club has now been awarded ‘Talent Club’ status from British Canoeing.

Through her work in the club and the Canoeing community, Wendy has been a driving force behind bringing visibility of the sport to as many people as possible in the wider Runnymede borough. Wendy was instrumental in ACC (jointly) hosting the National Hasler Final
British Marathon Racing in 2022. This took place in Runnymede and lead to the club getting recognition from the public and both local and county councillors.

Wendy’s passion for all aspects of the sport, meant that she also championed for a clean and safe environment and initiated river clean up days from ACC. These involve general litter picking and the removal of non-native invasive plant species such as floating pennywort from the local waterways. These days are fun, educational and also benefit the local community by maintaining a valuable local amenity, the Wey Navigation. Such is the popularity of these events; they have been expanded from being run in the school holidays for junior club members, to hosting locally based global companies such as Sky TV for their staff activity volunteer events. These days have been recognised by British Canoeing who presented ACC with the ‘Clear Access, Clear Waters’ award.