Right now the Olympics is a hot topic. There are lots of experts and analysts commenting on how our Irish athletes have performed in London 2012. The question is being asked as to what we as a nation could or should have done to improve the standard or quality of the athletes being sent to the Olympics every four years. Politicians such as Senator Eamon Coughlan have proposed that a programme should be rolled out in schools to introduce children to athletics and Minister of State for Sport and Tourism Michael Ring has emphasised the need for more money to be invested in our athletes in the future.
Three years ago Mayo Sports Partnership (core funded by the Irish Sports Council ) and Claremorris Athletic Club devised a programme called ‘Introduction to Athletics for Primary School Children’. This primary school programme invites schools throughout south and east Mayo to come along to Claremorris athletic facilities within school time to partake in this unique programme. The programme introduces children from various backgrounds to the many disciplines within athletics. Children as young as four years of age are shown how to throw ball, throw the javelin, the shot putt, they are shown the technique of long jump, high jump, hurdles, relay, as well as being coached in running.
“So far over 1,500 children have participated in this unique introduction to athletics initiative for national school children,” said Anne Ronayne, community sports project worker with Mayo Sports Partnership.
This is a wonderful partnership between Mayo Sports Partnership and Claremorris AC which provides coaches who are highly skilled and trained at a national and international level and who work on a volunteer basis. This programme is an example to other counties as to how perhaps a good start can be made in developing future national athletes and possible Olympians. The schools that have participated so far are thrilled with the initiative which also ties in with the school curriculum.
Success is palpable
Jim Ryan, chairman and coach with Claremorris Athletic Club, commented: “Through this introduction to athletics’ programme we have created a much greater awareness of athletics in primary schools throughout south and east Mayo. Its success is palpable. There is no reason why this programme which we devised in Mayo cannot be replicated throughout the country. Following on from the local coaching element then and with a greater emphasis on coach development at a regional and national level there is no reason why we cannot anticipate many Olympians from all corners of Ireland in the future. We need to encourage children early to take up athletics and hope that they form a great love of the discipline that suits them.”
Lorraine Grimes, sports coordinator, St Joseph’s Primary School, Ballinrobe, emphasised that the introduction to athletics programme has made a significant difference to the children at their school.
“Over the past three years the children from all classes at our school were introduced to athletics disciplines which they would previously have had no familiarity with; such as hurdles, relay, long jump, high jump, shot putt, and many others. The children’s athletic skills have improved so much in the past few years with many of them becoming members of their local athletic club as a result. Some of them have even gone on to have wonderful success at local, regional, and national level through the club.”
“Cooperation between the schools, Mayo Sports Partnership and the local athletic club is the key to the programmes success. We would be delighted if this initiative could be used nationally to expose children to disciplines which they might not get a chance to normally do,” added Mayo Sports Partnership co-ordinator Charlie Lambert.
This autumn phase five of the programme will be offered to schools in the south and east Mayo areas. If you would like to learn more about introduction to athletics contact Anne Ronayne one 094 904 7022 or email [email protected]