At our recent Athletics Leinster Meeting Geraldine Nolan gave an excellent presentation on the new Fit4Life Youth initiative, advising of the following:
- Background to the initiative:
- The initiative came about due to concerns raised around the:
1. Fall off in the number of Junior men and women, in particular mid distance and cross country.
2. Scarcity of the ‘Training to Train’ phase in terms of L.T.A.D. as cited by Itsvan Bali. Athletes exit the system without ever reaching their potential, often despite many years of ‘club structure and input’... Too much / too young / too soon.
3. Level of consideration and lack of understanding given to various ranges of maturity / physical / mental / emotional within club athletics structure.
4. In adequate provision for ‘ease of entry point’ for teenagers into club athletics. If an athlete is not started into athletics as U12 to U14, what is the likelihood of them joining into an already well established training group from U15 to U18 years?
5. General fitness of Irish teenagers, particularly girls and boys who do not play ‘team sports’.
- Fit4Life Youth is not aimed as a ‘quick fix’ attempt to the falling numbers but rather a long term view of looking at the bigger picture and complementing what is already working in juvenile / junior club athletics with the focus on:
1. Instilling and helping to foster an awareness of fitness and an enjoyment of running over a set period of weeks, with the aim to build up to 5k in a ‘Learning to Run’ programme that is paced and carefully monitored, while increasing incremental distance.
2. Giving opportunities to explore field events as part of the programme i.e. Shot / Javelin / Jumps and encouraging participants to understand that ‘Athletics’ encompasses other disciplines other than ‘running’.
3. Identifying talent and encouraging participants who may naturally have developed an interest / aptitude for a more structured approach or a particular event into the club that bests meet their need.
4. Helping to foster a positive attitude to health and fitness that will become a ‘life skill’.
5. Helping build confidence and self esteem with future possibility of linking in a self development workshop to encourage confidence, motivation and positive attitude. Thereby supporting new skills and empowering participants to continue to commit to regular and ongoing exercise, whilst tapping into previous unrealised talents / strengths and natural abilities.
- Geraldine also outlined how Clubs can start up a Fit4Life Youth Programme, giving advice on who to target, how / what to advertise and when / where to host this proposed programme.
- Who to target:
1. Find 4 to 6 equally committed individuals from Fit4Life / College/ Athletic club who have a genuine interest in teenage fitness, an understanding of ‘the bigger picture’ who’s willing and available to commit to the programme.
2. Attempt to find a gender balance in ‘leaders’.
3. Encourage all leaders to complete the Child Protection and Code of Ethics Course, while also have them Garda vetted.
Clubs and Counties can forward an expression of interest for this new Fit4Life Youth initiative through Pat Ryan – RDO with Athletics Ireland (firstname.lastname@example.org), with same to be followed up with Geraldine.