Among the clubs on the latest series of visits by England Athletics Chief Executive Chris Jones was Marshall Milton Keynes.
Club Chair Mick Bromilow explained that the club now has around 800 members with this number split fairly evenly between Under 18s and over 18s. When Chris visited the club was busy preparing for their Milton Keynes Festival of Running – an event involving a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and 20 mile event which saw more than 4200 people taking part and well over 100 club volunteers making sure the event ran well.
The club membership also sees a mixture in terms of how long people have been with the club. He said the club has a lot of people have been members many years. But the club felt a very specific London 2012 uplift – Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford is one of the club’s members. Mick said the club is still seeing people coming along to the club due to the excitement and awareness that Greg’s performance created.
But turning interest into activity means that the team at the club have to be well organised. Rick Townsend has been Community Coach for Marshall Milton Keynes AC for 8 years. He also goes into schools to do visits – he explained that this can be a challenge for some in having people able to make the visits as they have to be available from 3-4pm to lead the activities. But in his role for the club he is able to do this.
One of the activities he puts on is a group for young athletes with special needs which is held at the club using a nearby sports hall through the winter months. Dave and Helen Whitehall, have a son who attends this group. They said, “We found out about it through one of the Special Educational Needs people on a course we went on as parents. We were looking on it as a way of him releasing some energy.
“He loves it and looks forward to it every week. He has gone up four sets at PE since he has been doing it.
“We can see the improvement in everything. He has grown in confidence. Everyone is very friendly and relaxed.”
Rick is down at the club for a while and as one set of youngsters leave the next are coming in. Another of his groups runs for Under 11s, although some older ones attend with their sibblings.
Alison Fulton, has two children, Daisy, 12, and Mac, 10, who started coming to their group last September. She said, “Mac is very sporty and I knew he would enjoy it. Daisy is not so sporty but has got into it and enjoyed it.
“They enjoy the variety and doing different things all the time. They are learning but not realising it.”
Nicola Tapp, also has two children, Betsy, nine, and Lily 12, who attend. When Chris visited the group were on their last few weeks of indoor activity. Nicola said, “Betsy is looking forward to getting outside again. She has decided she wants to be a runner and get on the track. She did gymnastics to quite a high level and then suddenly decided she wanted she wanted to be a runner. My husband knew someone at the athletics club so we came along.
“I was worried when they came indoors that Betsy wouldn’t enjoy it as much but she really did. They really keep them active for the full hour.”
Alison said, “Mac does a lot of football and wanted something else to do. We came independently but then found Betsy already came here. There tends to be four groups and they move around so they each get to do everything.
“It is very inclusive. The children are at different levels but are all involved and enjoying it."
Out on the track one of the coaches in action was Jim Bennett. He explained how the younger athletes are part of the Under 11s structure Chris had seen in action. Another Coach, Sharon Edgehill, then looks after the endurance side of things with the group when they are 11-13 year olds.
Jim explained how the structure sees youngsters moving through and developing. “Then when they are about 13 or 14 she decides when they are ready to move into the development group.”
For endurance this is done by Kyle Bennett and Barry Hearne.
Jim continued, “The throws and jumps come through the same way. It works well. You know you are not going to get an athlete come in who is 12 years old and has not done anything – who has never done drills.”
Jim has a busy coaching schedule with Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays as well as meeting athletes on a Sunday for steeplechase work and older ones meeting up then to head out for a run and core work.
His son Kyle is now also involved at the club and coaches endurance as well as sprints and combined events. Kyle came from a background as an endurance athlete. He did his first leaders award when he was around 16 then moved on from there, completing further coaching qualifications while he was at Manchester Metropolitan Uni. Kyle said he is now enjoying passing on all he learned as an athlete ‘good and bad’ as well as skills learned through his subsequent training and experiences. “I prefer coaching, it is much better.”