Last week, it was announced that Meri Middleton has won British Rowing's regional (Yorkshire) volunteer of the year award 2020 and is also on the shortlist, consisting of nine volunteers, for the national award.
Meri has the title of women’s squad leader within the City of Sheffield Rowing Club (CSRC). However, her role far exceeds those to which her title pertains.
Having only start rowing a few years ago, Meri jumped into the deep end and filled the vacant squad leader post after her first full year at the club leading those much more experienced than her. In her short time in this role, she has succeeded in getting more women rowing at Henley Women’s than has been seen for a long time and has increased the number of younger rowers in a squad.
However, Meri has never let that be the extent of her volunteering. Often, you can find her on the banks Damflask Reservoir of a Saturday morning from 07:00, stood in the cold and rain filming the men’s squad rowing, so that later she can return home and organise them into a YouTube data base for rowers to review in their own time. It has been a personal mission of hers to get more video footage of rowing for all members and organises someone, mostly her, to be there every session to ensure this is done.
Although she is the women’s squad leader, she also ensures that the masters men have a cox each week to steer them around the dam as well as ensuring that all the clubs cox boxes are charged and available for each session. It should be noted, the club has no electricity, so this involves taking them home most days and bringing them back for first session regardless of who is rowing. Meri also takes responsibility for organising boat sharing between CSRC and the two Sheffield University Rowing Clubs, and in doing so has forged even stronger relations with these clubs that has helped all three clubs move forward over the last few years.
Recently, Meri filled the shoes of entries secretary for South Yorkshire head and took on the role of organising all the volunteers for each of the three divisions. This was done while also carrying out the duties of women’s squad leader and racing in the club top boat.
On top of all of this volunteer work, Meri makes sure that she completes the same training load as everyone in her squad, if not more, leading by example while still learning herself along the way.
It would be impossible for us all to give back as much as Meri does, but by volunteering in some way, we can all make a big difference to helping everyone in the club achieve their aspirations whether that's sitting on the committee, running erg classes, coxing, coaching, launch driving or filming.
*The presentation ceremony scheduled to take place on 21st March 2020 has been cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19, so Meri may have to wait sometime before she can be pictured in a club blazer receiving her reward.