Inside track for athletes

1st November 1996 at 00:00
An ambitious plan to give schools athletics first priority in June is under consideration by the Scottish Athletics Federation's competitions group. All other competition would be outlawed for 13, 14 and 15-year-olds in a move that is very much part of the thinking behind the Scottish Athletics Development Initiative.

A draft document entitled Excelling as a Sport, which outlines a future strategic direction for athletics, will be set out in a series of road shows up and down the country, starting in Glasgow on Monday. The document recognises that the competition structure has evolved rather than been planned and this has had an adverse effect.

"The pressure of competition is astronomical and not commensurate with the youth development model we are all trying to put in place," former Scottish long jump champion Ken McKay, a member of the steering group, says. "Schools have little flexibility in their timetables so if the governing body can show flexibility it would help.

"Putting pressure on 13, 14 and 15-year-olds in the month of June is contrary to the philosophy. We are looking at changing the type of competition for this age-group and perhaps not having a championship event as such. We need to provide competitive opportunities which are not so cutthroat as having semi-finals and finals and giving medals for first, second and third."

McKay's ideas have been reinforced by a seminar on the development of the young athlete organised in Dundee last Sunday by Impact, the Tayside sports development scheme.

The seminar was addressed by Michael Chia from Singapore, a member of Professor Neil Armstrong's Exeter University research group on the physiological development of the young person. The aim is to prevent creating "comets", young stars who burn brightly at a young age then shoot off never to be seen again.

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