From playground to podium

For many international athletes who have come through the system, school sport will have been where their journey began.

An early and positive introduction to athletics and running can leave a lasting memory in a young person’s mind and provide the perfect springboard for future success.

“We’ve just been talking to three of our international athletes who we wanted to feature on a poster to help promote the English Schools”, said Sue Garvey acting honorary secretary of the English Schools’ Athletic Association.

“When they knew it was for the English Schools’, they were pleased to support the cause, as they had great memories of the championships.”

English Schools AA long jumperSince 1925, the English Schools’ Athletic Association (ESAA) has been providing competition at grassroots and elite level for schoolchildren aged up to 18-years. It offers opportunities for young athletes to compete across multi-events, cross country and track and field, including competitions for school teams across districts, regions and ultimately national finals.

In addition to its English Schools’ Championships and Schools’ Cup for thousands of young people, the ESAA also stages an international competition featuring England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

This is often a young athletes’ first experience of being an international and enables them to see what it takes to perform and succeed at the highest level. It also selects and takes teams, both school and national, to compete on the world stage at International School Sport Federation competitions with much success over the years.

As a charity, the ESAA’s work is dependent on corporate partner sponsorship and financial support from England Athletics.

English Schools AA runners“The funding from England Athletics enables us to run our most elite competition which is our track and field championships in the summer and cross country in the winter,” said Sue. “It’s vital that we have the support of England Athletics, without it we couldn’t produce the level, depth and breadth of competition that we do.

“In order to stage our track and field championships we have to accommodate athletes, so we try and subsidise each county to help towards the cost of travelling and entry fee for them to be able to participate. We don’t want to have athletes left behind at home because they can’t afford it. Without that funding, we couldn’t get as many athletes to our championships, so it opens that door and makes it a level playing field for all athletes to be able to take part.

“It also shows athletes that both organisations are working together, supporting one another and enables us both to pick out the best of what we offer and try and grow that.”

The ESAA also supports schools and teachers in the identification of promising youngsters at primary and secondary age and helps signpost them to local clubs.

“It’s like a building block where we have the opportunity to help teachers to identify those athletes who are doing really well and not involved in a club,” said Sue. “We direct them to the England Athletics website to find clubs in their area and, at the same time, direct teachers to look at resources and teacher training courses that England Athletics offer or if they want to get involved in coaching. It’s really to try and help the school-club link which is so important.”

English Schools AA cross country runners


‘Talented athletes’ is one of the five key priority areas which sits at the heart of the new England Athletics’ 12-year strategy for athletics and running – ‘Athletes and runners at the heart’. We are committed to working in partnership to create an inclusive, athlete-centred, integrated, aligned, clear, transparent, and connected talent pathway and develop talented athletes and para-athletes and their coaches to progress through the pathway to improve performance levels.

To find out more including what our other four key priority areas are, click here to read about our new strategy.