When Valerie Farrugia first ventured down to her local track to watch her son compete in his school’s sports day, little did she know that it would be the beginning of a journey that would see her named Malta’s 2013 winner of the European Athletics Women’s Leadership Award.
“When I saw that my son was talented, I decided to help him improve by attending courses and reading about athletics,” Valerie recalls. “Eventually, I started coaching him and later on other kids.”
Her initial foray into coaching led to an officiating course and then the opportunity to officiate abroad in England and eventually a position on the Council of the Malta Amateur Athletic Association, where Valerie found herself at the heart of athletics activities in her country.
This involvement now extends to being her country’s only female Chief Starter, acting as Chef de Mission for various national teams and key organisational roles in several international events including the European Athletics Calendar Conference in 2007, the European Team Championships in 2010 and the European Athletics Convention in 2012.
Another activity Valerie says is close to her heart is her membership of the core group responsible for delivering the annual Malta President’s Charity Fun Run, an event that has succeeded in promoting running as a way of life while simultaneously contributing to a charitable cause.
All her activities in the sport have demanded time, dedication and leadership skills to work with and through others. But though Valerie is proud of her organising work, it is helping athletes and seeing them succeed that she finds most motivating.
“Every moment in athletics is special,” she says. “I enjoy when I’m surrounded by athletes and helping them to reach their objectives. I treasure in my heart the times when I travelled with the national athletes to represent Malta in international competitions.”
“I must admit that the joy of seeing the Maltese flag blowing in the wind during the presentations is immense and the satisfaction of seeing our junior national team succeed and bringing back good results fulfilled my life.”
Speaking of her award from European Athletics, Anthony Chircop, the recently retired long-time president of the MAAA, says: “Valerie has a very charismatic personality and has always been very popular at local events and when she has accompanied athletic teams for competitions abroad.”
“She makes important contributions to all our local activities and she has played major roles whenever we have hosted an international event,” he adds.
“I feel honoured and I wish to thank the MAAA Council for nominating me,” says Valerie.
“I feel that this award is the biggest personal achievement and will definitely encourage me to pursue my career and keep my involvement in athletics permanent.”
Valerie’s wishes for the future include seeing other women become more involved in running athletics in her country.
“Maltese athletics is run mostly by men and there were occasions when I was the only woman on the MAAA Council,” she says. “Normally, this did not create difficulties because I always felt that I was working for the benefit of athletes and athletics and the rest of the Council always appreciated my work.”
“In the future though, I would like to see more women involved in committees and in the general running of the sport, as I am sure they have a lot to offer.”
The European Athletics Women's Leadership Awards
The aim of the European Athletics Women's Leadership Awards is to recognise the behind the scenes work and accomplishments that have helped to make the winners role models for other women in athletics. Coaching young athletes, officiating, setting up and managing clubs . . . their achievements are as varied as the individuals themselves.
In 2013, 26 women including Valerie were selected for the award by their national athletics federations.