Athletics boom follows the Olympics

Last updated 09:08 20/11/2012

FULL FLIGHT: Budding members of Mana Amateur Athletics Club make a run for it at a recent club night. Across the front of the picture are, from left, Irakli Maheridis, Lochlan Stevens, Nina Harris and Jack Hawkey.

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Mana Amateur Athletics Club is enjoying a post-Olympic membership boom - but it's on the retention of talent that coaches are focusing.

Since the season began, up to 200 kids can be seen running, leaping, laughing and munching on the odd sausage at club nights each Tuesday at Adventure Park in Whitby.

Club treasurer Joanne Thomson says they encourage an inclusive family atmosphere and cater to a lot of different kids.

"Tuesday nights are about giving it a go. The inter-club events are more competitive than club nights."

She says membership fluctuates a bit. They had about 160 members last year, and are presently around 200.

"By the end of season it will wane a little. We always get a few more kids after an Olympics."

The club also recognises it is too bottom-heavy with youngsters. Joanne's husband Richard, the club captain and coach, says a third of the club is aged 5 or under.

"We would like to retain more of our athletes, try to offer them something in the future and bring more balance to the club," he says.

Adult members are welcome and Richard is introducing a more intensive coaching programme that utilises the skills and experience of the club's standout performers; their children, triple-jumpers Scott and Anna Thompson. Aged 20 and 17 respectively, both are now seasoned campaigners, involved in athletics since they were 5.

"If the athletes buy into it, I think they'll get a lot out of it," Richard says.

Athletes will be broken up into groups and receive more concentrated mentoring than he was previously able to provide. A fourth coach, Allan Taylor from Taranaki, will also be helping out, splitting time between MAAC and home.

"We're encouraging the kids to carry on," Richard says. "In the past they'd have to go to colleges in town [Wellington City] to get any coaching. It's quite a new concept out here."


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