Carraig na bhFear AC focusing on retaining their juvenile members
Children love to run and jump with their friends. Athletic clubs provide a structure and organisation to develop these skills of running and jumping but typically clubs find that children will drop out of athletics (and other sports) at age 14 or 15. However it’s not inevitable that this will happen and there are proactive steps which clubs can take to retain their older athletes.
Carraig na bhFear AC is based in the village of Carrignavar situated 6 or so miles outside Cork City. The club has 134 juveniles and juniors and 46 adult members drawn from the village and the surrounding areas of Glanmire, Glenville and the northern suburbs of Cork City. The club was founded in 1980 and originally focused on cross country but now offers coaching in all track and field disciplines while maintaining its commitment to cross country.
Carraig na bhFear AC is fortunate to have a number of committed coaches, parents and supporters from the local community who share the workload of club administration and coaching. For running based training the club has the use of playing fields at Sacred Heart College in Carrignavar and divides into 3 age sections which encourages age appropriate training and friendships to develop amongst the children. For sessions at CIT or the Mardyke the club stations coaches around the track to coach pods of athletes in hurdles, long jump, high jump etc. It is noteworthy that nearly all athletes initially come to the club as runners and then diversify into track and field events. The club has now started to experience good underage success at provincial and national level in a range of track and field disciplines including race walking, discus, hurdles, javelin, long jump, high jump, multi events and pole vault and xc age groups.
A key focus for Carraig na bhFear AC has been retaining its teenage juvenile members. To this end the club has a number of deliberate strategies founded on the premise that athletes will stay involved if they find their training and competition to be fun and group based. Athletes are encouraged to compete at whatever level their abilities dictate. Overtime this approach develops the athletes’ potential and self-confidence. A welcome side benefit has seen many of our teenage athletes’ friends also attend at club training to try athletics for the first time. This has become a significant source of new members for the club.
The club actively supports the athletes with access to club and external coaches and facilities, organised strength and conditioning classes and group based training events. Carraig na bhFear AC keeps its social media sites up to date with detailed weekly reports, photographs and a ‘performance of the month’ accolade. This helps to drive interest and involvement amongst athletes and indeed their parents. Teenage athletes in particular expect that the club’s social media is fit for purpose!
The club participates with East Cork Division in the National League. This is a recent and popular initiative to help junior athletes within East Cork clubs to transition to senior competition, again with an emphasis on team rather than individual performance.
The experience in Carraig na bhFear AC is that athletic clubs can succeed in keeping young members interested and actively involved in athletics at all levels.
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