A key strand of our work is providing opportunities for youngsters to get involved in running and athletics. We host regular meetings for Network coaches with an interest in young athletes and two county road running clubs have gone on to launch successful junior sections.
Primary Schools Cross Country
Leicestershire is blessed with the biggest and best primary schools’ competition in the country; in fact we recently recorded our 100,000th finisher! Over many years, George Smolinski, Dave Dewdney and their small band of loyal helpers gave tens of thousands of kids in years 3, 4, 5 and 6 the chance to do something better with their Saturday morning. Most of our young athletes (and many now not quite so young) took their first steps as competitive runners in the series. When George took his well earned retirement, the baton passed to the Network and the series entered an exciting new era at Prestwold Hall. The venue, which boasts all weather parking, a safe but challenging course and excellent viewing opportunities regularly attracts fields of over 1500 runners. To find out more, visit the dedicated PSXC website.
Transition from primary to secondary schools Cross Country
The drop-off in participation from primary school year six competition to the first year at secondary school in year seven is substantial. Much of the problem is due not, as many people may believe, to our young runners losing interest but more to a lack of information and concerns about stepping into the unknown. For example many of the County schools are of a rural nature and so naturally very small with sometimes only a handful of year six pupils, many of which take part in the primary school events. These pupils, when they move to a huge secondary school Academy, often take a few weeks to find their feet and way around; by this time they may have missed the opportunity to take part in the first couple of races and so are possibly put off as they have not been able to be part of the structure. It is then very difficult for them to find their way back into the sport.
Over the last three years the Network has been working to make it easier for those going to secondary school in year 7 to continue their schools cross-country career by hosting free events which provide all the necessary information; including dates and how to take part in the races. The workshops which typically last for about three hours include training sessions where all the participants can get to know each other whilst working in groups and this is followed by an interactive presentation highlighting the differences between competing at primary and secondary school. The dates of the following seasons secondary events are also distributed along with links to the Network Secondary Schools Cross Country website. Rather than the event be fully adult led we always have two or three young people who have made the transition successfully to answer questions from a young person’s point of view.
This year we have been lucky enough to be able to select the top 10 from each age group to take part in a national final which means that we now have, rather than sending information via the school, direct contact with the athletes parents making communication much easier.
There is still a great deal of work to be done in bridging this important step up in age group and we will continue to seek ways of supporting the athletes of the future to continue in the sport.
Quadkids and sportshall
Since its inception the Network has been a keen supporter of competition for young athletes. We have hosted three Quadkids events each year and these have grown from around 50 competitors in the first match to well over 200 in each of the last three matches. These events are very much Network led but are ably supported by the County Association. The individual year 5/6 winners of the league are invited to compete in the County Combined Events Championship thus demonstrating a pathway through to multi events competition. The Network also provides event management services to the County Schools final. More information and results.
Sportshall athletics works very much in the opposite fashion with the network supporting the County Association in hosting the sports hall league for clubs. Our involvement is very much from a practical level where we source and book the venue and arrange transport of our kit for use at the events. The highest performers from these events are invited to represent the county at regional level demonstrating, again, a pathway through to continuation in the sport.
Each summer, Network coaches organise a popular two day running camp for children from years 3 to 8.