England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones visited Corby AC to find out more about the club and their plans for their facilities.
Moving fast is a fundamental part of athletics. But sometimes to trying to do too much too quickly can be a bad idea and working at a more sustainable rate is more sensible. Watching more than 100 new runners heading out from the club’s base at Rockingham Triangle as part of a recently launched beginners’ running group it would be easy to assume that big things can happen quickly all the time.
But as the club looks at taking on management of its facility with local football club Weldon United club chairman Ian Merriman is clear on the need to progress at a sustainable rate, “In any industry you want to move from here to there at 300 miles an hour. But it doesn’t work like that. You have to move at the speed you can go at.”
Working on taking on the stadium facility has not been a quick process but with a lease lined up that is set to run until March 2054 the club is now seeing changes. Ian explained, “We have a new clubhouse coming which will be a purpose build facility at the start of the home straight. The planning permission should be going through in the next 2-3 weeks.”
Corby AC will share the facility with Weldon United football club with a trust fund set up to pay for maintenance and repairs of the facility.
Ian said, “You have got to put money aside. We want to make sure that athletics remains an affordable sport - whether we are talking about track & field athletes, people keeping fit or as a way of keeping kids off the streets.
“The council will give us money for the next five years to help us get started until we can become self-sufficient. We are trying to put money into the infrastructure. We want to get one main sponsor for the stadium. That way we can keep membership costs affordable. We can get people into the club that way.”
The club worked closely with Corby Borough Council who did a report on sports facilities, people and the wellbeing in the area and this work was used as part of the funding application to Sport England.
The club has an Academy, with more than 30 youngsters, which meets on Wednesdays making use of the Stadium and the nearby Kingswood School. Two coaches lead on this work, with assistance also provided by other coaches, which currently has a waiting list for youngsters.
The club has training nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the track. There are also Sunday sessions at the track and some sessions done by groups on a Saturday.
The club is looking to ensure it does not stretch resources, including volunteers and athletes too far and looks to grow and develop at a sustainable rate. For example, it has taken a decision that in the Youth Development League it will only partake in the younger age group and will use other competition opportunities that are available for older athletes as it does not feel it is able to properly resource multiple teams at this time.
But there are clear plans in place as to how the club will develop. There are plans to develop and expand the academy and wider club through developing Satellite Club links with local schools, training new coaches and continuing to support the development of the coaches the club already has.
Work is being done to increase the opportunities available for disability athletics. The network of clubs put in a funding application for racing wheelchairs and was awarded money for this. There are already people interested in giving it a go. Development officer Bill Boyd explained, “After the Olympics and Paralympics we were contacted by a number of people including from the other side of Peterborough and all around. So we have been trying to set something up in Northamptonshire. We had a day we did in Northampton with Northampton Leisure Trust.”
They have planned a launch event involving the local disability groups, “We’ll get them all here and say ‘this is what we have got to offer’.”
As part of the track development work some of the funding is to level out around the throws cage to make it accessible and install the anchorage points needed for seated throws.
The club has wider plans for development and is working with Triathlon clubs to support them in using the stadium facilities for their training. It is also looking to create open days for people from the local community to come in to try athletics as well as providing a fundraising opportunity.
Bill explained what had happened to lead to what Chris had seen, with the group of 100 people who were new to the club heading off on a run. He said the group had started two weeks previously and the promotion of this had seen more than 100 people showing up, “The idea is that at the end of the three month programme they join the club.”
Even if just a smaller percentage of them do that would go a long way to the club’s schedule membership growth for the year.
Chris commented, “Many clubs face challenges with facilities and it is good to see what Corby are doing and the plans they have. There does look to be a strong balance between proactive work that is having a big impact straight away, such as seeing so many people heading out for a run as part of their work to attract beginner runners, and having longer term ambitions that they recognise will take longer to come to fruition.
“It is always good to see the enthusiasm of volunteers in our clubs and to also see how many of them bring professional values and business principles and apply these to what they do with their club. As well enthusiasm, expertise and proper planning for the short, medium and long term are becoming fundamental tenants of how successful clubs are operating.
“I wish Corby every success in all that they are looking to achieve and would congratulate them on everything they have achieved with their athletes in competitions and the coaching that is delivered, but also on the behind the scenes work that is being done to ensure that athletics plays a strong part in the future of the town.”