North East Counties adopting a different approach

Changing behaviours in athletes, and the reduction in frequent travel has meant those in the northeast of England have had to think differently about their competition offering in the region.

The North East counties for some time have had the northeast equivalent of the Youth Development League (YDL), namely the NEYDL which facilitates competition for young athletes in the North East. However, in recent years clubs in the North East were finding they were struggling to fill team sheets and athletes were not as willing or didn’t have the time available to travel and compete further afield. In addition to this, with increasing costs for coach hire it was becoming unmanageable for clubs to afford some fixtures within the league.

The North East Counties Athletics Association (NECAA) decided to think about a solution to tackle this problem and so the North East Senior Development League was formed.

Gary Curtis the league secretary said:

 “One of the big motivators for us is having the ability to evolve and make changes to increase the enjoyment for all involved.

“The starting point was to reduce the timetable and beginning the track and field events at the same time - previously there were two hours of field events with low numbers and very little atmosphere. The new timetable now starts at 11am and should finished by 3:30pm which is already receiving praise from competitors.

“Our next step was to get the popular track events such as the 5k and 3k at start of the meeting, also increasing the competitors to four per team to boost participation levels and excitement early on.

“We will be trying to welcome more clubs and athletes into the North East Senior Development League by merging smaller clubs to make joint teams as has been successful in the NEYDL where we have 25 clubs making 14 teams.”

As we know sourcing officials and adequate numbers of volunteers continues to be a challenge nationally across a lot of athletics competitions, especially local league meetings. However, Gary has a solution:

“From officiating in another league previously we found that six attempts in field events was sometimes too tiring on the athlete and very time consuming on the meeting. With agreement from all at the AGM it was agreed to reduce the trials to four per athlete in all field events except vertical jumps.”

Not only will this development help to shorten the length of the day for the athletes and spectators but also for the officials, which the NECAA hopes will encourage more people to officiate alongside the integration of officiating courses before and during their league matches.

The league committee have also worked to take a lot of the responsibilities away from the host clubs to reduce the financial and organisational load by providing first aid, field cards, track pads, a PC, and printer. They have also had the added support from England Athletics with a £2000 grant to help with the set up of this new, innovative league.

It is set to be an exciting summer as this season will be the first trial of this new senior league structure, and feedback will be reviewed in the autumn.

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