15.May.12 Sussex Athletics Network implementing Athletics 365 programme
Clubs in the Sussex Athletics Network were first introduced to Athletics 365 when they took part in the piloting of the programme in October 2010. Since then a number of the Track & Field clubs have gradually implemented the programme in ways which complement their weekly club coaching sessions. For several of these clubs Athletics 365 now provides the building blocks of introductory athletics coaching for athletes under 13 or 15 years of age.
Network Coordinator Zoe McKinnon was instrumental in launching the programme to the county-wide Network in 2010, organising an initial workshop which explained the rationale, the principles, unveiled the resources and answered the many questions on how to start using Athletics 365 in a club setting. Subsequent workshops were held with the Track and Field clubs who wanted to experiment with the programme to see if it would meet their needs. From the outset it was evident that no two clubs had identical requirements and each would implement Athletics 365 in varying ways. During an early workshop the sharing of how each of these clubs intended to use Athletics 365 in itself proved a useful exercise.
Workshops run by Zoe’s successor Trevor Simcox and more recently National Youth Development mentee Hazel Gallagher have provided coaches with both information on how the programme can be implemented and also ‘how to coach Athletics 365’. This included demonstrations and coach participation in the many skills, drills, exercises and games. Once again coaches took the time to share and discuss how they were using the resource within their clubs, what problems they were encountering and ways in which they were tackling the challenges.
Haywards Heath Harriers introduced Athletics 365 to their 85 young athletes aged 9-15 in the winter of 2010. Despite their modest training facility of a 4 badminton court school hall they successfully followed the programme to the letter, monitoring each athlete’s progress. Coach Linda Tullett thinks that “Athletics 365 is a brilliant programme which can be followed rigorously even in a small training area involving lots of athletes, however we found that when we moved outside to our grass track at Whiteman’s Green we needed to deliver a little more event specific coaching in preparation for the competition season. We still rely on the resources and cards which are now an integral part of our event group coaching.”
Brighton & Hove AC have taken a two pronged approach; a completely new training group has been created on a Friday evening consisting of young athletes new to the sport, whilst on club evenings their athletes up to the age of 15 have been introduced to Athletics 365 by junior coaches who liked the structured approach and resources which Athletics 365 provides. The 100 under 15 athletes are split into a number of groups which rotate round junior coaches. As almost all the coaches at Brighton & Hove AC have embraced the Athletics 365 principles, the implementation has progressed rapidly. In facing the same challenge as many clubs regarding preparing athletes to compete in the Track and Field season, Brighton & Hove AC have introduced a system where every third week each Athletics 365 group and their junior coach join an event group coach. The junior coach works under the tutelage of the event group coach helping the young athletes gain some skills required to compete in forthcoming competitions. In this way both the athlete and the junior coach are benefiting. Coach Iain Barton who devised the system says that “it will increase our coach development as well as the athlete development and create stronger links between the junior and session coaches”.
Lewes AC have created four school club link projects where coaches Chris Pilling and Robbie James visit schools and delivers an 8 week coaching block of Athletics 365 to children in years 5 to 8. Robbie is experimenting in the schools with the testing and monitoring of the athletes and the charting of their progress. This is an area where Lewes AC and many other clubs struggle with the task in Athletics 365 of monitoring the progress of a large number of athletes. Chris oversees the Athletics 365 Under 11’s Academy coaching on club nights providing coaches with the session plans based around a school term of 6-7 week blocks. Chris reckons that Athletics 365 is a great coaching aid although he admits “we have found that coaches still require help in constructing an overall term plan. This is where I have assisted in ensuring that the programme is progressional and composed of the right building blocks delivered in the right order. The cards, game and skills are very popular with the children and are helping the coaches to better prepare the athletes for when they join an event group and start specialising”.
Horsham Blue Star Harriers have adopted a model whereby a lead coach, Kim Milnthorpe, organises a group of 4 coaches who deliver Athletics 365 to an Under 13 group. “The winter months have proved to have been a good time where progress has been made in the ‘colour’ areas and the athletes are improving their balance and coordination markedly” says Kim “it has given us a good focus throughout the winter. “
The Sussex Athletics Network will continue to support its clubs in learning more about Athletics 365 as coaches from Worthing & District Harriers AC, Crawley AC, Steyning AC and East Grinstead AC who currently use the resources in part, are keen to introduce the programme in ways similar to how the clubs mentioned above have done so.
The consensus seems to be that Athletics 365 is a good resource which needs to be used in a flexible manner to suit each athletic club’s coaching programme. Athletics 365 certainly provides the building blocks with which to develop athleticism in young athletes in preparation for whatever athletics future they aspire to.
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