It is fitting at this time to review the year and look at the progress we have made as an Association. It has been an extremely busy year with much happening. This report reflects much of this progress and looks forward to building on a solid foundation for the next couple of years.
The new Board meet for the first time in January under the independent chairmanship of Gary Owens. This Board reflected the changes made at a Special Congress in December 2005. There were six of the previous Executive; President Michael Heery, and five others who became chairs of new committees; Patsy McGonagle (Coaching), Paddy Marley (Competition), Michael Quinlan (Finance & Risk), Liam Hennessy (High
Performance) and Breda Synott (Juvenile). There were four provincial reps: Neil Martin (Ulster), Michael McCormack (Munster), Ronnie Quigley (Leinster) and Ray Flynn (Connaught). The board welcomed Michael Hunt (Schools), Ian O’Sullivan (Universities) and John Allen (NIAF).
There were two changes in personnel after the April 2006 congress. Mary Coghlan became Chair of Finance & Risk and Sean Naughton was the new Munster rep. Eric Brady became the new University Rep in November 2006.
It is important to acknowledge the years of service of those replaced on the Board as well as members of the previous Executive.
The other significant change to the structure of AAI was the expansion of the remunerated staff. Brendan Hackett commenced as CEO in January 2006. There were further additions to the staff namely John Holian (Financial Manager), Gary Ryan (Director of Development), Stephen Maguire (Director of Coaching) and six RDO’s. The staff have been responsible for the implementation of a number of new programmes which are detailed in the sections below.
This has been one of our most successful years at international level. Derval O’Rourke’s gold medal at the World Indoors and her European Silver Medal propelled athletics into the limelight. The year has ended on a high note with the silver medal of Fionnula Britton at the European Cross Country Championships.
The men’s track and field team were promoted to Div. 1 of the European League while the Women’s team retained their Div. 1 status.
The European Championships highlighted the emerging senior talent with eight athletes making finals. Ireland were ranked 5th in the table of athletes achieving seasons bests in Gothenburg. The IAAF also commended Ireland as one of only 11 countries who had representatives at every IAAF Championship in 2006. It was also encouraging to see the Ferrybank Junior Team taking honours at the European Junior Club Championships
The high performance programme has been expanding and continues to provide support both for athletes and coaches on the panel.
The appointment of five international team managers in May was a significant development. Patsy McGonagle (T&F), Ann Keenan-Buckley (CC), Br. John Dooley (U23), Peter Sinclair (Junior) and Geraldine Nolan (Youth) have already established a strong rapport with their respective teams.
There are two aspects to coaching: the coaching of athletes and the training and development of coaches. This is one area of the Association where we are making up for lost ground. There has been a deficit in the development of our coaches at the higher levels in recent years. This is very noticeable in the technical events particularly.
The redevelopment of the Coach Education Programme was the first step. There have been 15 Athletic Leader courses to date with 355 newly qualified personnel. There were 6 Level 1 courses with 125 newly qualified coaches. The launch of a Level 3 course was a welcome development and there are 15 participants on that course.
There have been courses held in a number of third level colleges including DCU (PE Course) Mary I and St. Patrick’s Drumcondra (Primary Teacher Training) as well as leisure courses in Cork and Letterkenny I.T.
There will be courses throughout 2007 but one of the most important steps will be the provision of Level 2 courses. There are large numbers of Level 1 coaches who will have the opportunity to develop their expertise and knowledge on these courses. There will also be a strong drive to recruit ex athletes and current athletes onto coaching courses.
The resignation of the Director of Coaching on health grounds affected the roll out of the coaching squads. There are now five National Event Coordinators with responsibility for developing their respective events. Paddy Fay (Speed Events), David Burke (Endurance), Michael Lane (Walks), Drew Harrison (Jumps), Dan Kennedy (Throws) are the people in position at present. Chris Regan is taking responsibility for combined events.
The Event coordinators will be organising coaching workshops for coaches, publishing relevant information for coaches and holding some event specific coaching clinics for athletes and personal coaches.
The Regional Coaching Coordinators are now in place and they will be organising coaching clinics and squad days in their regions. John Sheilds (Dublin), Enda Fitzpatrick (Leinster), John Sheehan (Munster), Stephen Maguire (Ulster) and Mary Barrett (Connaught) are the current personnel. They will invite athletes to these sessions from all disciplines.
It is intended to hold monthly squad sessions in each region. There have been excellent weekly coaching sessions in Santry under the guidance of John Sheilds and it is hoped to replicate these on a nationwide basis.
There have been a number of successful grant applications this year. We received €209k from the Sports Capital Programme at the start of the year. New electronic equipment was purchased, a photo finish was installed in Tullamore, pole vault and high jump equipment were purchased for Nenagh. We were awarded €250k in June towards the purchase of athletic equipment. This equipment is being distributed to clubs in the form of Little Athletics Packs and Juvenile Packs. This will continue in 2007. We recently received a further €250k. This will be used for the purchase of high performance equipment, coaching equipment, a van for transporting the electronic equipment and promotional equipment which will be used by the RDOs to market athletics to young people.
There was €100k Women in Sport grant from the Irish Sports Council to fund the Fit4Life Programme. This programme was run in 13 Clubs but we will be asking more clubs to become involved in 2007. It is important to highlight the role of the Irish Sports Council in funding the core activities of the Association. We received a total of €820k for the core grant and another €450k towards the High Performance Programme. Athletes on the HP Programme received over €300k in individual carding grants. The ESB sponsored 12 athletes in a €60k per year deal for 3 years. We also successfully negotiated approx. €150k for a number of H.P. athletes and coaching interventions through the Institute of Sport.
There were two sponsorships in 2006 for competitions. Woodies sponsored the National Senior Track and Field Championships and McMahon Galvin sponsored a number of National Cross Country competitions. Asics continue to sponsor the Association in a prominent way. We are grateful to them for their support.
The setting up of a Development Department was a new initiative for the Association. This department launched the Coach Education Programme and has been responsible for running the courses to date.
It has also overseen the Fit4Life Programme in 13 clubs, the Little Athletics Programme now in 50 clubs and the Club Equipment Programme. There have been over 100 applications for equipment to date.
The RDO’s co-ordinated the Development Plan meetings in October held at 8 venues. The feedback from these, plus the staff and Board feedback will be added to the Technical Plan in the production of the AAI Development plan.
The RDO’s are Eamon Harvey, Paul Mc Namara, Jackie Stokes, Bart Rogers, Ryan Montgomery and Pat Ryan.
The appointment of a Financial Manager has enhanced the financial operation of the Association. The biggest challenge in 2007 is the move to online registration of members and clubs. Details have been circulated this week and all club secretaries will receive instructions on the system. Clubs are being asked to register all athletes online and we are building a new database. This will have enormous benefits in the years ahead particularly in the way we communicate with members.
The introduction of a new online competition entry system in 2007 will improve admin efficiency as presently all entries are received by post and entered manually into the system.
There have been two major events organised through the office in 2006 namely Congress and the EACA coaching conference. These required major inputs form the admin staff. The office staff were also responsible fro the administrative work behind the 37 National Competitions that came through the office. The work was co-ordinated by Bernie Dunne and her dedication beyond the call of duty is commended. The admin team assisting her are Fintan McGee, Aoife Hoey and Geraldine McGarr.
The website was redesigned in April and it has been widely used as a result. There was a high of 100,000 hits daily during the European Championships. There is much still to be done in this area. It is important to acknowledge the work of Brian Murphy the designer and Liam Hennessy who has contributed most of the articles in recent months. Der O Donavan has been appointed as webmaster for 2007 and those who know Der’s work in this area will agree that 2007 will be a great year for web readers.
It has been a good year both on and off the track. Performances by our athletes have given us a positive profile. Our governance structure has taken time to adapt and this is understandable. The expansion of the remunerated staff has demanded considerable time and energy and it will take another year to see the real benefits.
There has been a significant increase in funding from external sources. Over €1million has been generated through grant applications and sponsorship. This is due in large measure to building our reputation as an organisation that is well run and delivering results.
The aim of the Association is the promotion and development of athletics in Ireland and the people involved in it. The energy, dedication, ability and enthusiasm of thousands of volunteers make this possible and my wish for 2007 is that the staff can help you in your quest to be the best that you can be.
On behalf of the Board, the staff and myself I would like to thank all the athletes, coaches, officials and administrators for making 2006 a great year and best wishes for Christmas and continued success in 2007