A JUDO club in Oakham has become the first in the East Midlands to secure a quality award.
Vale Judo Club, based in Pillings Road, has received the British Judo Association/Sport England Gold Clubmark Award.
It marked the achievement and the re-launch of its extended dojo with a visit from some of the stars of the sport.
European and World Champion Loretta Cusack, Olympian and Euorpean medallist Joyce Heron and Yoko Tanabe, who has two Olympic silvers, ran a series of coaching sessions at the club in Pillings Road, Oakham.
The gold clubmark means the club can run more of these sessions, as well as training sessions for coaches and regional training camps.
The award proves the club is very well organised and meets a certain criteria including having a minimum number of coaches; performance pathways; time-keepers and good facilities.
Thanks to a Sport England grant of more than £10,000, the club has a newly-installed spring floor. The grant also helped cover the costs of working towards the goldmark.
Senior club coach Mike Newton said: “We’re only the fourth or fifth club in the country to get this award and the first in the East Midlands.
“It proves we are a well-run, well-organised club which parents want to know and it also helps with funding bodies who recognise the goldmark.”
Vale Judo Club has been going for nine years and achieved its bronze clubmark in 2006 followed by silver three years later.
It has about 200 members, including 170 youngsters.
And it has ambitions to grow to about 300 members in the next few years.
It has been based at Pillings Road for six years but Mike is hoping one day to have a new base.
He says they have been in talks with Rutland County Council about facilities for sports clubs in the county and if anything was created, the club would hope to be part of it. The new spring floor is moveable so that’s not an issue.
Saturday’s training session with the judo stars was a hit with the youngsters who Mike said left the session “buzzing”.
The under 10s were treated to a series of exciting new games and drills, and were thrilled by a display of Yoko’s medal winning throws.
The older juniors and senior players experienced a traditional Japanese warm up followed by training in the champions’ favourite groundwork and throwing techniques.
Club members also asked the stars questions and organisers say it was a truly inspirational visit.
For more details on the club, visit www.valejudo.org.uk.