Sunderland Harriers have linked up with the Durham Association of Boys and Girls Clubs to address the problem of non-participation in athletics among youngsters.
This has been a major headache for the Wearsiders’ and many other North East athletics clubs for a number of years and it is proving a difficult situation to resolve.
To encourage clubs to get involved, a DABGC grant of £1000 has been offered to those schemes that prove successful.
This project is directed for girls but from a club practical point of view the Harriers are including boys’ and they will finance this section themselves.
Club coach Barry Lane, a former PE teacher, who heads the Sunderland Harriers project said: “Simon Healey of the Durham branch of the NABGC approached us and asked if we could develop a scheme that would encourage teenage girls to improve their fitness and to take part in athletics.
“A problem which our club is currently experiencing is that membership is quite good but the numbers participating in training sessions isn’t and the turnout in competitions poor, sometimes non-existent.
“We have accepted the challenge, formed a small group, formulated a plan, which was approved, and are about to put it into operation.
Lane, a former deputy headmaster at Hastings Hill Primary School, went on: “Our starting point is to survey our own current membership and hopefully do the same by visiting schools, also offering to provide a taster to our own training sessions either indoor or outdoor.
“The second phase will largely depend upon the outcome of the first but we have a number of ideas which we feel that we can cope with including internal winter and summer leagues, something we have already successfully done to a limited extent, and devising a suitable award and reward system.
“We also feel that we could organise inter school events. The use of personal diaries might also encourage people to reflect on their own training and competitive efforts alongside target and goal setting.’’
The steering group, which also includes Sunderland middle distance coach John Archer, sprint coach Andy Abbott and Paul West, will formally report back in July when the project is complete.