Cambridge Athletics marks a very special birthday later this month with the knowledge the club is thriving. Steve Landells spoke with chairperson Andrew Langman to find out the secrets of their success.
Cambridge Athletics Club proudly celebrates its 100th anniversary later this month and thanks to its forward-thinking committee, is doing all it can to ensure a vibrant club will be in place for future generations.
Formed in 1918 as the Cambridge Athletics and Cycling Club, the club boasts a long rich tradition with 2010 Commonwealth Games 800m and 1500m silver medallist Nikki Hamblin among its members through its senior Harrier arm.
However, Cambridge Athletics Club remains at its core a thriving kids club with around 330 youngsters aged three to 14 attending weekly club nights every Wednesday at the homely facility situated on the corner of Vogel Street and Hamilton Road.
First connected to Cambridge Athletics through his daughters who joined the club, Andrew Langman, became chairperson of the club’s junior section four years ago and led the amalgamation of the junior and senior sections of the club into one entity.
The progressive committee were keen for Cambridge Athletics Club to commit to the Athletics NZ Club Development programme in which 16 clubs around the country are given support from the governing body to create strong sustainable clubs.
“We have a big club, but we have not always had a sustainable structure behind us,” explains Andrew. “We have bits and pieces of documentation with minimal policies and processes. Signing up for the Club Development Programme was about future proofing and creating a solid vision for the club going forward.”
“By aligning to the club development programme we hope this will help with the structure of the club and benefit the future generations of committees.”
It is still early days in terms of seeing the fruits of the arrangement but Andrew believes progress has already been made.
Boasting a 400m grass track, separate 110m and 80m grass tracks, two discus cages, two shot circles, six long jump/triple jump pits, Andrew believes the club is fortunate to have top-class facilities.
However, he insists improvements can always be made and work has started on laying down a 20m synthetic lane to allow for hurdles practise – without the need to drive to Hamilton which has a synthetic track – and a 30m synthetic lane for long jump after acquiring rolls of second-hand all-weather track. The club also hopes to lay down an all-weather high jump D in future.
Improving the facilities is one of the ways the club works to retain and attract new athletes on club nights. Another has been adopting Athletics NZs Get Set Go and Run Jump Throw programmes in 2015.
“Prior to adopting Get Set Go in 2016 the under six-year-olds only did two or three 50m race in a night,” explains Andrew. “It was basically just something for the younger siblings to do when the older ones were doing athletics.”
Yet the Get Set Go and Run Jump Throw programmes have the twin benefit of keeping the kids constantly active while also teaching them the fundamental skills of running, jumping and throwing.
“Get Set Go and Run Jump Throw are the hook to getting not only the athletes enthused but also the parents,” admits Andrew, who says the club now has a number of trained people to teach the programmes. “In the past we’d get athletes at the age of seven freaking out because they didn’t know the basic skills for say, shot put and discus but now because of these programmes they have the transferable skills from a younger age.
“The athletes and parents love it and the proof is in the figures. Before we ran Get Set Go we had under 100 athletes (aged three to six). Now we have more than 180.”
The Cambridge Athletics Club has about 100 children in the seven to 11-year-old section the Run Jump Throw fundamental skills programme has undergone some modification in recent years.
The club did fully adopt the old Run Jump Throw programme three years ago but it was met with a mixed to negative response according to Andrew. This was primarily because of the lack of competitive or measurable elements to the programme. The athletes became bored with just doing games. We lost membership through this period.
However, since the revamped programme was introduced two seasons ago, in a slightly modified form, it has proved a huge success.
“We now have the Run Jump Throw programme implemented along with an actual measured athletics event,” explains Andrew. “We find by doing this the kids are learning the skills needed to then set PBs. During one night 20 athletes in one age group completed the Run Skills programme. Straight after learning the skill they ran a times 200m race and every single athlete ran a PB.”
“As a club that’s what we celebrate...PB’s. As long as the athletes feel they are getting better we are happy and what better way to do that than to set a PB.
“This focus on PB’s has been the guiding principle behind the club over the past few years. Having this emphasis has given our athletes a greater belief to be the best that they can be, but not needing ‘to be the best’. Through this focus it has been great to see in the last year a number of athletes stepping up to compete at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships. We also had athletes compete in combined events champs last year. We are looking at having up to eight athletes compete at the North Island Combined Events this year. This would have been unheard of three years ago.
The club will mark their 100th anniversary on October 17 with a cake-cutting ceremony. Commonwealth Games 5000m and 10,000m athlete Camille Buscomb and club patron Melba Pentelow. Cambridge Athletics also plan to toast their centenary celebrations with an additional event on the first weekend of December.
These will be occasions marked with the satisfaction of knowing the club is in good health and, according to Andrew, with some very simple principles at its core.
“Cambridge Athletics is all about family and communities and it is about striving to be the best you can be...and attaining PBs,” he adds.