Athletics involves so many disciplines that everybody can find something to suit them. A mainstay in NZ schools, athletics is an easy sport to start for most kids.
What is Athletics?
Athletics involves many disciplines including running, jumping and throwing which makes it a great sport no matter what your body type. It covers everything from sprinting 60m to running 100km, jumping long or high, and throwing different implements. You might be extremely fast over the short distances or able to run for a long period without getting tired. You may be able to jump high or throw things far – there is something in athletics that most people can do.
Effectively the sport has two seasons – the summer track and field season and the winter cross country season. Whether you take part in just one season or all year will impact on the cost and time involved.
Athletics has been a sport since the Ancient Greeks – however it has altered its form over time. For example, we’re lucky that we no longer have to do the long jump with heavy weights in our hands! Some other early events, like discus, have hardly changed at all over hundreds of years.
Where do you do Athletics?
Primarily the sport is done through joining a club. However you will find that almost every school will have athletics and cross country days and from that you will have the opportunity to represent your school at regional or national level.
When joining a club you will start out with fun club activities. As you get better you can represent your club at interclub events and possibly get selected to represent your centre at national events.
What age can your child start Athletics?
Officially most clubs will accept athletes from the age of 7. However, many clubs are now taking athletes younger than this particularly if they have older siblings involved in the sport. Some clubs now have sessions for children from the age of five.
Athletes can stay in the sport as long as they wish as there are grades for Masters competitors: these are participants 35 years or older. Athletics is a sport that can be (almost!) done from the cradle to the grave – there are world records held by athletes over 100 years old!!
How do you progress over time?
In athletics you progress according to your age. From the ages of 7 to 14 you compete against people of the same age. Until the age of 20 you will normally be competing against other people in a two or three year age range e.g. 17, 18 and 19 year olds compete together. From 20 to 35 you compete as a senior athlete and then from 35 the Masters compete in 5 year age brackets (but you can still compete as a senior athlete if you wish!).
As you move through children’s athletics to senior athletics the range of events in which you can compete increases. As you get older you can run further, or start doing events like pole vault and hammer. New challenges are always there in athletics.
If you enjoy variety and are a good all-rounder, you may like to progress to “combined” athletics events. This includes the decathlon (10 events) for men and the heptathlon (7 events) for women. For children there is also a pentathlon (5 events) and an octathlon (8 events) for men under 16. The winner in each of these events is the person with the highest total score, achieved by having a good all round performance, rather than excelling in just one or two events.
What gear do you need?
To start with, all you need to participate is a pair of running shoes, shorts and a singlet. As you progress and improve you may well look at buying specialist shoes for the discipline in which you get involved. The basic shoes, shorts and singlet can be purchased from any shop that sells sporting gear. Generally the club supplies any other equipment such as javelins or discus.
How much does Athletics cost?
Cost varies according to the club you join. Depending on your age you will most likely pay between $25 to $80 for the year to join the sport. You will probably need to purchase a club singlet (approximately $30) to wear on club nights and at interclub events.
Athletics (especially running) is one of the cheapest and healthiest sports in which you can be involved. You will have a sport for life that is fun and can be done almost anywhere.
How much time does Athletics take?
Usually when you begin you might have one club night a week for a couple of hours and a Saturday morning or afternoon interclub competition. This does however vary according to the province and what activities they plan.
Throughout a season there will be opportunities to travel away and compete against competitors from other regions, if you wish to.
The summer season generally runs from October to March and the winter season from April to October.
Great Athletics Websites
This is the website for all information about the national organisation and everything that is happening in Athletics across the country. It has links to other websites that have more information on the various aspects of the sport, as well as providing contact details for clubs.