By Scott Mills
On Monday 14th November 2016 at the Kingston Borough Sports Awards ceremony, one of the most prestigious awards in the borough was presented to a very special person.
At an event that celebrated Kingston’s most successful athletes, coaches and sports clubs, it was an absolute honour to see Jenny Archer MBE of the Weir Archer Academy being awarded the Eileen Gray Award.
Now for those that don’t know, the Eileen Gray award is given to a coach or an athlete who has motivated and been an inspiration to others to reach their potential, something that Archer has dedicated her entire life to.
In fact a prime example of this is the Weir Archer Academy itself.
Formed in 2013, David Weir Cbe and Jenny Archer MBE had a vision not only to improve participation rates in disabled sport but also to be a dominant feeder club for Paralympic athletes.
Since then Archer has worked tirelessly hard every single day of her life to make sure that her athletes realise not only their full potential but also their dreams.
You only have to go back as far as this year’s Paralympics in Rio to see the result of Archers work with the likes of David Weir Cbe, Mo Jomni and Mickey Bushell MBE all representing Great Britain.
Many of her other senior and junior athletes have also represented their countries this year at major events from European Championships to the Muller Anniversary Games and the fact that a large contingent of the academy were in attendance at the awards to support Archer speaks volumes.
To the outsider, many may think the role of a coach doesn’t go beyond that of the athletics track for practice or in a competitive environment, but for Archer this isn’t the case.
No matter whether it’s rain, snow, sleet or shine, Archer will be at Richmond Park every morning without fail to train and support her athletes whilst also being at Kingsmeadow Athletics track on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
From following over ten athlete’s at one time in Richmond Park to ensure their safety and give them advice to giving them a shoulder to cry on in times of need, I don’t think I have ever seen someone who works so hard at putting her athletes before herself more than Jenny Archer MBE does.
In fact, writing this article I genuinely find it hard not to talk about what she has done for me personally, because without the support, advice and dedication she has given to me in the past I would not have achieved what I have this year.
When I entered to compete in the 2016 London Marathon, I had never run 26.2 miles before and needed someone who would help me prepare for it.
Having worked with Jenny from the ages of 11 to 16 as a young footballer, I knew she would be able to help me, and getting in contact with her again was the best thing I ever did.
Even in the harshest winter conditions, she was out in Richmond Park in the morning and at Kingsmeadow athletics track in the evening not only coaching her academy but also helping me.
Whenever, I needed to speak to her whether it be about running or even about what was going on in my personal life she was there for me and no matter what she was doing, she would always drop everything in order to provide her athletes with support.
Now I haven’t told anyone this before but as I got fitter and the Marathon drew ever closer, I mentioned to Jenny the desire I had to run my first ever marathon in three and a half hours because I knew that if anyone could help me make this goal a reality it was her.
Achieving the time of 03:22:15 in my debut marathon, I wanted to thank Archer for everything she had done by giving her some small gifts to show my appreciation.
However, no matter how big or small those gifts were, I still believed that it was nowhere near enough compared to the work she had put in for me, let alone all the other athletes goals she was helping with at the same time.
But it was then that I fully realised how special and remarkable this coach was and how her motivation for what she does is helping others and seeing her athletes achieve what some people perceive as unachievable goals.
One of the greatest ever athletes Great Britain has produced is also another athlete that Jenny worked with to make his dreams a reality.
After falling out of love for wheelchair racing for a short period of time, David Weir Cbe called upon Archer to help him turn into one of the greatest Para-athletes of all time.
Six Paralympic golds and six London Marathon wins alongside Commonwealth, World and European Championship gold medals later, Weir is now mentioned among the greats such as Tanni Grey-Thompson.
Although receiving the Eileen Gray award is a fantastic symbol of recognition, one could only dream of having the impact that Archer has had on people’s lives in their lifetime let alone one season.
As British Athletics once quoted “sometimes just a few words can speak volumes. ‘Hardworking, dedicated and world-class’ and these are just some of the traits that will see Archer go down in athletics folklore.”