Award inspired club to push on
DEVON Racqueteers Wheelchair Badminton Club chairman and head coach Sharon Hawkins says winning an accolade at last year's Express & Echo Sports Awards helped inspire her club to better and bigger things in 2012.
Hawkins won the unsung hero category, beating off competition from Exe-Calibre club chair and grants officer Edward Donohue and Heavitree Darts League secretary Mo Mortimer.
However, despite the prize being given to Hawkins, she said it was recognition for everybody's work at the club and helped the players achieve greater things in 2012.
"It (the award) just inspired us to take on more challenges," said Hawkins. "We travel all over the country playing in tournaments and a couple of our players travelled to the European and World Championships last year.
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"It was very humbling to get the award, but I do feel it was for everybody. Not only the players but the officials, parents, husbands, wives and partners. It is very much a family club."
Devon Racqueteers is now the largest wheelchair badminton club in the country and has the No. 9-ranked player in the world among its members as well as several who represented England at the Four Nations Para-badminton Championships.
But the award has also inspired other players at the club, according to Hawkins.
"I think it has benefited the whole club, because everybody wants to achieve the best they can do," she said.
"For some of the members it is the only social or physical activity they are able to do a week, so obviously it inspires them and I think by getting the award, it is a collective award, and it inspires us to go on and try and do bigger and better things.
"We have upped our training sessions from when we won to two a week. We are doing core, elite training on the Thursday night, with the club night on a Tuesday. We also hope to expand the court facilities just after half-term if possible."
Speaking about the awards ceremony, Hawkins said it was one of the highlights of her life.
"It was fantastic. I just loved meeting Steve Cram who, in the 80s, was my idol," she said.
"It was just very special, being in the Olympic year as well the place was decorated with Union Jacks and red, white and blue. It is one of the highlights of my life."
She also urged people to get their nominations in for this year's awards.
"I think it is great people go out and nominate others," she said. "I didn't receive the award for myself, I received it for the club, but it's nice to be recognised because obviously everything we do is voluntary and we wouldn't even expect to get any financial reward for it.
"Our reward is just seeing the delight it gives the players. And if we get success, which we are getting a lot of now, the award is the icing on the cake."
You can nominate people for this year's Echo Sports Award by visiting www.exetersportsawards.co.uk. The deadline for entries is Tuesday, January 22, with the ceremony being held on February 26, at the Rougemont Hotel in Exeter.