With the growth in junior running and athletics and with so many running clubs now hosting junior sections it is timely to provide some practical information on growth spurts in adolescent athletes and how issues may be addressed not only by the coaches/leaders who are required to manage the changes but also for the young person involved.
Leicestershire Running and Athletics Network collaborate with member club coaches to host the first in a series of workshops aimed at raising standards of the younger age groups as well as providing an opportunity for practical coach education.
John Skevington coach and coordinator of the Leicestershire Running and Athletics Network teamed up with Rob Griffiths, lead coach at Network member club Saffron AC, to invite the best East Midlands under 13 and under 15 middle-distance runners (selected by strict time criteria at 800/1500) to experience a squad day where they could mix with their fellow “elite” from across the region.
The day opened with the distribution of the specially printed “East Midlands Elite” T-shirts which had been provided by the event sponsor New Balance and was followed with a track session where the 58 young athletes were split into ability groups. Then a timely talk by physiotherapist Brian borrows which was followed by a most interesting Q&A slot with two-time Olympian Nick McCormick and European and world junior athlete Amy Griffiths.
A brief talk by Penny Briscoe ,Team GB Chef de Mission for Paralympic sport, opened the post-lunch programme and the afternoon session was kicked off with an insight into the importance of good biomechanics and core stability, from former international athlete Tim King, before moving on to a practical drills session which was led by coaches and club athletes with critique input from the observing coaches. The day was wrapped up with a really interesting talk by New Balance about their shoe range and was concluded with a “heads and tails” game where one very lucky young athlete won a pair of New Balance running shoes!
Coach education – a key focus
An important part of the day was the coach education element and 12 coaches from across the region accepted the invitation to, not only observe the day’s proceedings, but also to take part and hone their coaching skills during the afternoon drill sessions. Feedback from everyone attending was that they found the day of great interest and felt they had been exposed to new ideas and initiatives which they would be incorporating into coaching regimes back at their clubs.
John Skevington commented “Rob and I had been discussing pulling an event such as this together for some time as the general feeling among coaches and athletes alike was that there would be a real benefit to everyone involved”. He went on to add “the feedback that we have had from the day was that the young athletes have gone away enthused and inspired, having been able to work with some of the Premier exponents of the sport, and were also thrilled to meet athletes who were able to give an insight into what it’s like to be a full-time athlete working at the highest level”
Suggesting that these days would become a regular part of the East Midlands programme of athlete and coach development, coach Rob Griffiths (also father of junior international Amy Griffiths) added “the day has been a real success and a special thanks must go to New Balance who have been such great support with the supply of T-shirts, goody bags and branding which all contributed to the professional atmosphere which we hoped to promote. The success of the day will inevitably be a springboard for at least a follow up session and we would love to be able to work with other partners to help progress the great start that we have made”
John Skevington concluded “we were both thrilled by the, generally, open attitude of clubs across the region who were happy to promote the day to their athletes and to send their coaches along as part of their education as well. The network is committed wholly to coach education but also firmly believe that to make coach education work properly, athletes need to be educated and enthused along the way so that we can reduce the dropout of our best young athletes”
The need for sun cream was far from everybody’s mind during the third Leicestershire Running and Athletics Network summer running camp held at New College; however, the unseasonal weather didn’t stop the two days of running, running games, running drills and a great deal of fun being a huge success.
The group of 35 runners ranging from age 8 to 13 were admirably looked after by network coach John Skevington and assisted on day one by Will Goodbourn; a young up-and-coming coach being supported by the network through his qualifications to become a fully licensed coach. Will took the lead throughout the second day, under John’s supervision, and everyone declared him a great success. The days were also ably supported by a variety of athletes who had attended in previous years and enjoyed it so much that they wanted to continue their involvement in the event.
Everyone looked resplendent in the branded T-shirt individually printed with their name; something that made each of the young athletes feel especially important!
Highlights of the two days were definitely John Skevington’s famous games “Spring the pack”, “the 1-5 game” and “rats and rabbits” which were repeatedly requested throughout both days!
The summer camp has now become a firm fixture in the network calendar as part of its programme to develop young athletes in a fun atmosphere and will be on doubt be back again next year, hopefully in more seasonal weather!
Network coordinator and coach John Skevington explained “the days that the network host are an important part of our development of young runners, many whom will inevitably become club runners and will be competing on the track and over cross-country in just a few short years. Combine this with our initiative to progress our up-and-coming athletes through primary school to secondary competition and we believe we have created a true pathway from having fun with running to proper competition in later years” He also went on to add “the other real positives are that we were able to recruit the services of an apprentice coach to help him experience working with a large group of young people and also to be able to call on willing helpers in their teenage years who were already keen to give something back to the sport”
As a follow up to the session on Youth Endurance with Jenny Harris, held in December 2015, England Athletics have produced a FAQ document. The views of the Network are included in the document as comments. A key message is that although Run Leaders can include runners from the age of 12 in their groups, they should not seek to coach them for performance.
UKA have released some FAQs to clarify aspects of the rule changes that were introduced in April. One that will interest many is that they say that bone conduction-type headphones are exempt from the ban on headphones operating in races run on roads open to traffic.
Apologies about the late notice regarding the cancellation of the second Quadkids match, however for safety reasons with lightning hitting the stadium along with a flooded track and impossible to rake long jump pits, and also on the strong advice of Saffron Lane staff it was the only decision available. I will be looking at trying to find a suitable date to reschedule to.