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Clubs given backing to boost athletics

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UKA 2009 Logo

22nd January 2009 

Ten grass-roots athletics projects in England are ready to burst out of the starting blocks after England Athletics announced the first recipients of support from the McCain Athletics Networks initiative.

The athletics networks scheme enables funding to be given to groups of clubs who are working together to develop the sport in their area. A key focus across the networks is the provision and development of high quality coaching, and this underpins many of the other Network objectives.

The first wave of projects have goals including bringing more children into the sport, developing road running, identifying and developing talent, improving the provision of disability athletics, encouraging participants in mass running events to become more involved in the sport and supporting the recruitment and training of officials.

As well as showing how their networks will improve availability and development of coaching the projects have all shown their activities will lead to the achievement of other multiple benefits to the sport in their respective areas. 

The project is being funded by McCain and Sport England. Applications are now open for the second wave of networks.

McCain is outing £300,000 into the first wave of schemes which will also look set to bring in more than £250,000 in additional partnership and match funding.

Athletics Networks are part of England Athletics’ strategy of supporting and empowering clubs and coaches, while encouraging them to take a leading and innovative role in the future of the sport in England.

The number of McCain Athletics Networks is set to increase with England Athletics planning to invest more than £1million into the venture each year until 2013. 

Eleven-times Paralympic gold medallist Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson commented: “This is an exciting time for athletics in England with clubs being challenged to think about new ways of working and co-operating to share expertise to develop the sport for future generations. These England Athletics projects are going to set the trend for other networks to follow and for other sports.” 

The successful applicants are Avon, Armada (based in the Plymouth area), Black Country, Calderdale, County Durham, Derbyshire, Hertfordshire, Manchester, Newham and Sussex.

Clubs involved in the first wave of networks include Manchester Harriers, Durham & Derwentside Harriers, Herts Phoenix, Plymouth AC, Sale Harriers Manchester, North Somerset Athletics Club, Portishead Running Club, Chesterfield AC, Crawley AC, Hastings AC, Newham and Essex Beagles, Halifax Harriers and Halesowen A&CC. 

England Athletics chief executive Mike Summers expressed his delight at the first wave of selections: "Supporting the growth of clubs, and in particular coaching in clubs, is a top priority for England Athletics. During the next four years we will invest significant resources into both these areas of work. 

“We have been impressed by the ideas that the first wave of networks have come up with in growing participation, aiding retention and in providing the foundations for talent to shine.

“All 10 prospective club networks have recognised the importance of providing high quality coaching at all levels and across all disciplines to enhance enjoyment and satisfaction levels amongst members. The applications highlight the diversity, passion and skills, which exist within our sport. 

“The responsibility and accountability on both England Athletics and the clubs in taking this work forward is significant if we are to leave a legacy for our champions of tomorrow. But we, and the clubs involved in the launch of the McCain Athletics Networks, are relishing the opportunities that we have.” 

Niels de Vos, Chief Executive, UK Athletics said: “This is a very promising start for the McCain Athletics Networks. Working in partnership, England Athletics and Sport England have really got their weight behind a project that will deliver support and funding to the very foundation of our sport - club athletics.   

"Coupled with the enthusiasm, willingness and creativity being demonstrated by clubs, the potential of the McCain Athletics Networks is unlimited. It can achieve whatever clubs want it to, be that increasing participation, developing coaches, improving competition opportunities or raising performance levels. The possibilities are endless. 

“I am optimistic that the McCain Athletics Networks will help provide the sport with a fantastic post-2012 legacy. It has made a great start, long may it continue.” 

Nick Vermont, Regional CEO at McCain Foods said: "Right from the initial concept we really believed in the potential of the McCain Athletics Networks and in its early days it really seems capable of delivering everything we hoped it would. 

"Our consumers understand that we make good, simple food. We feel we have a role to play in promoting a healthy balanced lifestyle to families to help them be more active and involved in sport. Our support and funding from Sport England will help nurture and develop talent at grassroots level and help to find the champions of tomorrow." 

Applications for more clubs to become a McCain Athletics Network are now open with Stage One proposal forms to be completed and submitted to England Athletics by 6 February. For more details see www.englandathletics.org/athleticsnetworks 

Additional information - The selected networks 

The selected prospective McCain Athletics Networks are: 

Avon - proposed activities include increasing the number of school children active in athletics, supporting the work done in South Gloucestershire and North Somerset in talent identification and development, encouraging novice participants in mass participation events to sustain their involvement in distance running, ensuring regular coach and officials development courses and seminars are held within the County and holding regular days to bring athletes and their coaches from the county together. 

Armada (based in the Plymouth area) – activities proposed by the network include introduction of a park based series of road races, delivery of taster recreational sessions at community events and town centre sites, local Coaching/Officials courses and coach mentoring, working with Women’s Running Network to develop Ladies from jogging to competition, and cross club coaching with the Flying Coach programme to help provide support and mentoring 

Black Country – this will carry out work including improving collaboration between clubs and schools and support the training of teachers through the Elevating Athletics scheme, increasing coach recruitment and development, and linking with the University of Wolverhampton to provide sports science support for top athletes within the Network. 

Calderdale – the Calderdale network’s work will include delivering taster sessions in schools, delivering athletics coaching sessions in socially deprived areas and establishing pathways for new participants into clubs, increasing the number of coaches and develop their skills and establishing pathways for local disability athletes to progress to higher level squads. 

County Durham - proposed activities in County Durham include strengthening links with local schools, increasing the number of ‘curriculum time’ and ‘after school’ coaching sessions for interested pupils, establishing a disability athletics section within Chester le Street & District AC, funding the purchase of a pool of equipment to improve the quality of athlete development across the Network, providing opportunities for senior athletes from member clubs to compete in higher level competition, holding joint training sessions involving athletes from all Network member clubs and increasing the number of young volunteers. 

Derbyshire – the Derbyshire networks successful proposal included activities such as developing and strengthening a coordinated schools competition program for children up to the age of 16, establishing Focus Clubs for disability athletics, developing disability athletics competitions, working with event specific groups in all clubs to enhance coaching standards and establishing a series of county wide workshops for coach development. 

Hertfordshire – in Hertfordshire the proposed activities include building on the existing work done between clubs and schools, providing basic disability athletics equipment in athletics club, a shared coaching scheme, talent identification events, holding county performance squad training sessions specifically for athletes with disabilities and providing extensive coach development and mentoring opportunities. 

Manchester – proposed activities for the Manchester Network include improving club/school links, providing a street athletics programme, deploying coaches and co-ordinators into targeted areas, university and college support programmes, creating coach education opportunities, carrying out work with gifted and talented athletes from schools and colleges and holding event specific workshops for athletes. 

Newham – the Newham network’s work will include running disability athletics sessions, provision of taster sessions, increasing opportunities for young people to get involved in athletics, implementing talent identification and development schemes, holding Olympic and Paralympic open days, recruiting young officials and increasing the number of female coaches. 

Sussex – In Sussex the proposed work includes the creation of a Run England Race series and 5K time trials, expansion of Fun Run and Fun XC Leagues, an Officials recruitment and support programme including bursaries, provision of a Flying Coach scheme to clubs and schools, provision of coach development and coach bursaries.