How to Introduce and Retain Juveniles in Your AC

December 11, 2023

Getting children involved in sport at a young age is key for the physical health of a child, but it also gives kids social skills that will stand to them throughout their developmental years. I spoke to people at Carraig na bhFear AC in Cork and asked them about the strategies used to get juveniles to join their club and the ongoing battle it is to keep them there.

Tadhg Crowley, PRO, told me that the club ‘take members from ages 8 and up, this is down to capacity both in terms of our coaching resources and the space that we have. We place a strong emphasis on members trying out all athletic events i.e. hurdles, steeple or field events so they can find their area of interest.

‘We try to lean towards an enjoyment of athletics rather than a focus on competitive success. The goal is to grow a lifelong love of the sport and we understand that young athletes develop at different rates and at different stages. By making training, competing and being part of the club fun, we hope that young people are more likely to stay involved in the sport. ‘

The Cork club currently has 139 juvenile members, and Chairperson and Coach Willie Walsh told me that ‘Getting kids involved isn’t the main issue. Retaining them is.’ We explored the possible reasons why it can be so hard to retain members, with Willie putting some of it down to the lack of team competition until senior level. ‘Part of this could be down to the fact that in the main there is no team aspect to track and field for underage. Kids tend to leave the sport before all the 22 T&F events are open to them at under 17 level. There is no team competition until senior.’

The competitiveness of the events was pondered as perhaps being another issue, with Willie telling me ‘the same kids are winning everything. Eg. Under 12 long jump, high jump, sprint & distance all will be won by the same athlete.’ If there is a discipline being dominated by one athlete, children are naturally going to less motivated to compete.

Tadhg spoke about the strategies used by the club to get children involved and keep them involved with their club. ‘In recent times, we have found a real interest in joining our club has come from children who have participated in our Summer Athletics Camps. For the past two years we’ve collaborated with Athletics Ireland on these week long summer camps that are a fun way to introduce athletics to children. The week sees children participate in active games and try their hand at long jump, high jump, turbo javelin and hurdles amongst many other events.’

Tadhg shared his appreciation for the Junior Parkrun events around Cork that are helping get a new demographic involved with athletics clubs, ‘We have 4-5 junior parkruns here in Cork now and it’s a nice fun way to get kids into the sport. The 2k distance is manageable for both kids and parents! This introduction has led to an increased interest in joining athletics clubs.’

There is no doubt that getting children involved in Athletics Clubs is mutually beneficial for both sides. Your children gain the physical and social benefits that will last a lifetime, while the Athletics Clubs gain members and can keep providing incredible coaching and services to their local community. Summer Camps are a huge driver of numbers for registration to clubs, with Junior Park Runs also being a strong event in a similar way. Get your children involved with your local AC and connected with your community today!

Featured Image taken by Michelle Whooley

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