Early specialisation and pressures put on children in sport is a highly topical subject.

Children are not young adults and require programmes that follow the stages of their physical and emotional development.

The subject is one I have been interested in throughout my time in New Zealand. On the six-week voyage to New Zealand I read Tom McNab's (no relation) excellent book Modern School Athletics and have attempted to implement the activities and concepts within my teaching programme and with the athletes I have coached.

I was also fortunate to have Rod Thorpe as a tutor at Loughborough. Thorpe visited New Zealand about a decade ago and spoke about his book Teaching Games for Understanding which looked at development and skill leaning in games. The
presentation and content was outstanding.


I revisited this topic when I was approached by my cross-country club captain Marseille Bowie. Bowie is in the leadership group of both athletics and cross country and asked for an interview on the subject which she is researching as part of NCEA Level 3 Scholarship in Physical Education.

In asking me for and others for an interview she stated "My report topic is early specialisation in sport, mainly focusing on New Zealand children and adolescents in their development stage".

Bowie is the type of athlete essential to the success of any team. Her best individual performance was finishing 8th in last year's Road Race in Dunedin.

This was Collegiate's leading scorer in the team that finished second. Bowie brings leadership and dedication to any group and while never coming close to the podium as an individual has been rewarded with team medals in the road and in cross country races.

I was of course delighted to be interviewed and at the same time it pushed me into looking again at this vital area of sport for younger children.

It also reminded me to stick to my long-held beliefs that sport is important educationally but also the importance of adopting a long-term developmental view to development.

It is pleasing that Whanganui Athletics attempts to practice what we preach. Under Jodie Brunger's excellent leadership with the able support of Mannie Mahara and others, the Children's Club night follow a sound developmental programme.

The early part of the Monday Children's Club nights at 4.30pm is based around a multitude of movement and fun activities that provide important fundamental skills for the younger children.


At 7pm the older children of primary/ intermediate school age (years 6-8) have athletic activities that develop those skills in athletic activities and races but at the same time develop skills in a wide range of different event disciplines.

A feature of the Mondays is the help given at both sessions by older secondary school athletes such as Paris and Connor Munro, Sophie Andrews, Kieran Pere, Thomas Conder, Lyla and Lucy Brown and Emma Bedford.

Many of the children take the opportunity to attend regional Children's Ribbon Days and the opportunity to compete at the annual Colgate Games. Many have over the years built a family holiday around these games. Some of the older children, especially Year 8 students, in the term prior to attending secondary schools choose and are welcome to the Senior Club on Tuesday.

On the Tuesdays they have a chance to sample the club night's programmed events and compete in ability graded fields.

The Tuesday evening events followed a published programme which appears on the club website.

It is hoped the success and growth of the Children's Club nights over the past 18 months is reflected in more coming on Tuesdays. The growth and the widening of participation being a key aim of the club. The activities offered provide not only a sound foundation but the opportunity to achieve success at a higher level.

Club Nights start in October. There will be announcements soon on the website and in this column next month.

In publicising the inclusion of Ashleigh Alabaster and George Lambert to the New Zealand Schools team to Slovakia next year for the ISF World School's Cross Country I should have mentioned that rising track star Ana Brabyn was named as a non-travelling reserve.

I travel to Australia at the weekend to attend the Australian Cross Country Championships in Wollongong, New South Wales and will report on how our five Whanganui athletes in the 24-strong team perform at Kemba Grange at the weekend.

On Saturday they run in the individual championships with NZ Schools fielding teams at both under 18 and under 20 level. On Monday the athletes will be running in relays against Australian state teams.