RDA Coaches scoop top awards

Three RDA Coaches have received awards at the charity’s annual Coaching Conference. Lizzie Bennett of Cambs College RDA was awarded High Performance Coach, Sarah Healing of Penniwells is Advanced Coach of the Year and Judi Ralls, Greater London Driving rep, received the ‘The Extra Mile’ award.

The RDA National Coaching Awards are designed to recognise the significant impact that coaches make to RDA Groups and their participants through their dedication as volunteers. High performance Coach of the Year, Lizzie Bennett, is a Vaulting Coach at Cambs College RDA and was recognised for the impact she has had on increasing Vaulting activities within RDA. 

Lizzie’s involvement with RDA began when she joined Cambridgeshire College RDA as a participant. At the age of 22, Lizzie was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which is a genetic condition that affects her collagen and is in about 98% of the body’s cells. Although she was only officially diagnosed with the condition in her early twenties, she had suffered with symptoms all her life.

Holder of 12 national para-vaulting championship titles, Lizzie turned her sights on coaching and qualified as a vaulting and riding RDA coach and is now the vaulting coach for Cambridgeshire College RDA.

The judges were impressed by Lizzie’s commitment to the cause, single-handedly reviving vaulting at the group, travelling across the country to gain experience and even buying a vaulting barrel to share with the group.

She spends weeks choreographing routines, making videos to help vaulters learn their moves and planning costumes, as well as raising funds to secure the future of the group.

Perhaps most important is the impact that Lizzie’s contribution has made to the lives of some of her participants, including one who no longer requires painkillers for her bad back, and another who came second at the RDA National Championships – despite her doctor laughing at the thought of her taking up vaulting.

With inclusivity being at the heart of everything RDA does, friendship and camaraderie are central to the success of Lizzie’s vaulting team.

Said Lizzie: “I am so grateful to the RDA for all the opportunities it has given to me. I started as a participant five years ago, was volunteering within a year and moved to coaching over the last two years.

“There is something special about coaching, especially coaching vaulters, because we really have to work as a team and so we are especially close. RDA vaulting has been genuinely life-changing for several of us and although there does need to be someone like me as a coach making it happen ‘on the ground’, we wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of RDA higher up!”

2019 has been an incredible year for Lizzie as she also features in the RDA 50 Faces campaign to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the charity. The campaign tells the stories of some of the amazing people who make RDA the extraordinary organisation it is today.

You can read Lizzie’s story, and meet the other 49 Faces of RDA at rda.org.uk/50-faces

50 Faces has been supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.