I thought as we have passed a significant milestone with the Juniors and Teens, I would give you an update on what we’re doing with the children and how we got to pass 100 Junior and Teens members. For those interested, we started with about dozen children, 3 to 4 years ago (see previous blog for the story : link )
A few months ago, our Waitlist was getting very long - equivalent to about 3/4s of the number of children participating. So that the Waitlisted children would not have to wait years to join, we needed to look at how we could expand our capacity. In the summer, when our sessions are outside and in daylight, the constraint was really only the number of coaches and helpers, and we had enough parents willing to help out to make increasing the capacity number in the summer possible.
The problem is the dark months when we move inside for part of the sessions, for both Juniors and Teens. We couldn’t increase the number significantly, using just Kingshill school sports hall, as it would become hazardous, with so many children doing activities, even with splitting up the children.
Kingshill school sports hall
So we needed to expand our “space”. We looked at a variety of options, e.g. the Cirencester Arena, but due to limited availability mainly; although the cost could was a factor; we decided to hire Watermoor school hall in addition to the Kingshill (KH) sports hall.
The Watermoor (WM) hall is less than half the size of the KH sports hall, and is not a sports hall, although the school children do PE in it. So we knew we would have to do different type of activities in it, compared to the KH sports hall, more underpinning Strength and Conditioning activities in the hall.
This meant that for the children to get the opportunity to do more athletic event based activities they would have to move from one venue to the other, periodically. We also needed to increase the number of safeguarders and parent helpers.
Watermoor school, next door to Kingshill, not in Watermoor!
We decided to split the 8 week mesocycle into two four week blocks, so children would do similar but progressive (load or technique) activities for four weeks in one venue and then swap with the other group at the other venue. Although, having effectively two groups doing different activities, doubles the session design planning workload, one would only need to do four weeks worth every 8 weeks (in theory!). The running activities were done separately too, as although in theory we could have brought the kids together, there are some movement challenges, plus 50 child running on a footpath might create a significant hazard for dog walkers and other pedestrians. We don’t have any lit facilities so we use the local footpaths, although we do bring additional lighting, warning signage and reflective bibs for the children to wear when using public footpaths.
Example schedule for running for the Teens - there's a different one for the Juniors.
The first month, October, has been a learning period for us. We had a couple of weeks where attendance was low, which helped us "cut our teeth", especially at the new venue: Watermoor. But last week, I had 28 children in Watermoor hall trying to play sharks, which didn’t really work well, so we need to adapt our common warm-ups there. We do use the space immediately outside the hall as well for activities such as running over agility hurdles.
Speaking of equipment, there was a significant challenge in using Watermoor. Whereas, at Kingshill we have access to their sports equipment, we don’t at Watermoor. Therefore, we needed to buy a set of new equipment we could use in the hall, and quality sports equipment is not cheap. NB The Club does not support any Charities, but does subsidise the costs of the Juniors and Teens and provided nearly £2,000 for new equipment : Jump boxes, balance boards, med balls, light dumbbells, resistance bands, agility hurdles of various sizes (we had some already) and additional lighting (we needed two sets instead of one).
There’s still a few things to do to improve how we do things and we’re looking at a few issues now:
Safer release of (Junior) children back to parents at pick-up time (there’s also Teens arriving in the same area) [producing Procedures for both venues]
Ensuring can manage safeguarding requirements [examining alternative safeguarding compliance approach]
Participation of underage siblings [creating policy for comment]
Ensuring have sufficient and competent helpers [developing and implementing a Parent Helpers competency framework]
Improved communication of who’s doing ‘what’ and ‘when' (we’ve cracked ‘where’, hopefully, although children have turned up at the wrong venue!) with a core team and occasional helpers
how we manage the sessions when one venue is not available, e.g. Kingshill on 29th November
Providing coaching and athletic technique advice for our Duke of Edinburgh Award Teens helping with the Juniors’ sessions
How we progress the older Teens from Foundation to Event Group development levels and into the Seniors, or elsewhere, if their interest is track and field.
Managing the Waitlist and trial sessions
Keeping track of the children’s attendances and event participation for the Juniors and Teens Achievement Awards.
I would like to acknowledge all the people who help make the sessions happen, in particular:
Paul Robertson and Karen Ryland who help develop and lead the delivery of the Juniors and Teens sessions
Core Team members (who 'pitch up' practically every week) :
Tim Stickney, Mike Whelan, Gemma Conway, Rob Brown, Andy Neal, John Fraser, Mark Garrett for the Teens,
Aaron Willis, Lara Thompson, Keeley Wilkins, Leo Crawford, Rob Forbes, Sarah Hayward and Anna Zaparka for the Juniors.
Also, thanks to the parents who help out periodically:
Fritha Stavrakakis, Cheri Edwards, Calvin Fuller, Amy Bath, Janey Lumley, Daniella Drew, Cath Brace.
Last but not least, our Duke of Edinburgh Award students :
Lyra Elliot-Jones, George Whelan, Theo Drew and Tom Hoskins.
We aim to make all the sessions fun for all the children and that really depends on the helpers' commitment, enthusiasm and encouragement (and adapting the plan, when the coach has devised something that doesn't work!).
Question : What’s the secret, boys, of getting faster?
Answer: relay hand-overs in the dark!
Lastly, how many more can we take? We still have over thirty children being processed, i.e. waiting on the list, 12 of which are not yet 8. We have about 10 inactive members, due to a variety of reasons, so we may be able to accommodate everyone on the list; but each week I get another enquiry!
PS Out of interest, Miss Lola Boyd was our 100th member, according to Brian’s records.