Supporting young athletes’ development in Staffordshire

Last month, a pilot project organised by the Staffordshire Athletics Network launched to develop young athletes within the region, supported by England Athletics and renowned middle-distance coach, Jenny Meadows.

The project will be supporting over 20 local athletes throughout the next 12 months, providing them with training and opportunities to feedback and improve their athlete experience within the club network.

The first session saw coaches, parents and athletes aged 12-16 from five local Staffordshire clubs attend. The session started by Jenny Meadows giving an overview of her career and sharing her own experiences as an athlete. Within her inspirational presentation, Jenny emphasised the ups and downs of being an athlete and explained how she was relatively late to peak in the sport around 29 years old. She highlighted to the young athletes that it can take time to reach your full potential when you persevere and stick at it.

The sessions on the day

The athletes took part in a range of different activities on the day, including a practical-based session exploring warm up drills and a variety of exercises.

Afterwards, a classroom session was delivered, exploring the perceptions of athletics through the eyes of athletes, parents, and club representatives. The session provided opportunities for everyone to speak honestly about what they enjoyed, what could improve and how they could be supported in the future.

England Athletics Club Support Manager, Rich Ayling, said:

“It was really encouraging to see 22 young athletes, as well as parents and representatives from five clubs across Staffordshire attend on the first session. I was really impressed with the feedback we got from the athletes in the room, and I believe this insight can really help clubs and coaches provide training sessions that motivate and engage young athletes.

The athletes and club volunteers were fantastic in highlighting thought provoking, tangible ways that England Athletics and clubs themselves can work to improve the athlete experience. The athletes highlighted the following:

  1. Training – Coaches to be flexible and consider adapting sessions to suit their individual needs. They also want to understand what the purpose of a session is.
  2. Race Day Nerves – Race day is often quite a stressful experience so support rather than pressure is key.
  3. Social – The social element of athletics and running is massive for them. They enjoy training and competing with their friends and like additional opportunities to socialise with one another away from the track.

As we look towards the next 12 months, there will be additional sessions to support the development of the young athletes, focusing on:

  1. Helping to retain young athletes and providing additional opportunities
  2. Identify learnings that clubs and coaches may consider to further support athletes attending sessions
  3. Support clubs to create a vibrant training environment

Rich Ayling shared his views on the project:

“It was great to work alongside the Staffordshire Athletics Network and Jenny Meadows and I’m keen to see what is next over the coming year. At England Athletics, we want to support the clubs involved and help them consider what they can do as a club to provide a vibrant training environment for their members.”

Staffordshire Young Athletes