Getting em at a young age is vital


A well-known Arrowtown sports­man has high hopes for junior athletics in taking up a top role at Athletics Southland.

Simon Spark has been elected chairman of the regional governing body’s children’s committee – and he plans to give junior athletics a much-needed shakeup.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been run poorly but the sport’s been let to decline a wee bit,” Spark says.

“Athletics doesn’t have the place that it once had within our schools and … community. That’s a bit of a shame and we’re trying to change that.”

Spark, current Arrowtown Rugby Club president and a driving force behind the Wakatipu Sports Users Group, is also convenor of the Remarkable Runners Children’s Athletics group.

The local kids group – with 130 members last year – regularly has the biggest turnout at interclub events throughout Southland.

Spark felt the Wakatipu needed some representation on Athletics Southland.

“We wanted a bit more of a say in how things were run because it wasn’t run that well and it declined over the past 10 years.”

He particularly wants to boost promotion of the sport further south.

“We’re trying to change a few things and get the communities aware of what goes on out there.

“There’re a lot of kids that are good at running and jumping and stuff like that but they may not know that they can do it competitively as a sport.”

As the new athletics season kicks off, Spark is working on a strategic plan to try to get more kids involved.
About 80 Wakatipu kids registered their interest in athletics at a recent club open day.

“Our primary school age kids from five-10 are our biggest market and after that they drop off so we’re trying to address why that is and try to solve that issue – whether it’s a coaching thing, a peer pressure thing, or something else,” Spark says.

“We want to isolate the reasons why kids give it up.”