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Sport: Little Athletics
Interviewee: Trish Bright, born 1956
Date of Interview: 14th Oct 2010
Transcription: Glenys Murray, Dec 2010
What was life like generally in the country in the 1960ís and early 70ís when you were growing up. What sort of insights did you get into the hardships and the challenges for country people?
Challenges probably were as far as sport was concerned. It was an hourís drive before you got anywhere to do it. I used to do most of my sport through the school time. When I was at primary school I used to have to travel to Turill and Gulgong and Coolah. We used to do our netball comps and the boys did cricket and football. From where we lived to get to them, all on the dirt road as well it was a long trip. I suppose that I was lucky in the fact that where we did live and the opportunities I did have in relation to that. The boss of the actual property had a house down at Merewether Beach in Newcastle. So we used to go down there for holidays. We were lucky in that sort of way. It didnít cost us anything. Then when we did go down to Newcastle for sports we used to stay at the house then as well.
When you went to high school what kind of an education did you receive there? Was it Merriwa High School?
Merriwa High School I went up to year ten. By that stage Iíd moved into town anyway or the family had. So it was only up the street. It was in walking distance and then again we did all the sport or what ever was available.
So when you finished high school what was the next step for you?
I tried obviously to get a job. When I was in year 4, fourth form, year ten nowadays I was lucky enough to talk to the councillor there and he said ďwhy donít you do the secretarial courseĒ?. So the next year I did that. I used to travel down to Muswellbrook every day down to the technical college. I was able to get my secretarial certificate and started at Merriwa Shire Council. It was good and I enjoyed it. Some of my experiences mightnít have been so crash hot. But still had activities we had the basketball; we used to go down to Muswellbrook and play and had the football that I was involved in up there. I was there probably for about nearly ten years I think. There wasnít much of an opportunity social wise in the area so you had to find a job somewhere else. Thatís how I ended up coming down to Sydney.
When did you first come to live in The Hills Shire and how did that come about?
We moved out there I think it was July 1987. My husband and I we used to live at Dulwich Hill at the time which was just in a semi, a one bedroom place. So when my son came along we needed the space. So youíre looking into what you can afford. Trying and wanting to stay around the area. I was still doing part time work at Lane Cove Council and his parents lived at Willoughby. We worked our way out to Castle Hill which was more affordable for us. I liked the open space being a country girl so I wanted the extra area for my son to enjoy as well. So thatís where we went to and weíre still there.
Was it really like the country?
In those days it was. One of the main roads when we drove down it was just properties. Whereas now youíve got all the houses and a lot of development a lot of people now are selling their properties. They had big acreages putting them down to maybe two and a half acres whereas beforehand they would have had a hundred. Behind us was a chicken farm and itís all gone now. Understandably because youíve got houses all around you donít want all the chooks and their diseases spreading around. I can understand that. But thereís not enough space, open air space in the area to what there used to be.
What were the sporting facilities like in the Shire when you first arrived?
At that time I only had my son he was involved in soccer so we found that was fine. There were some other fields around for cricket and everything else. Since then thereís more people so theyíve built a big basketball stadium. Put in more soccer fields in the area. Up in that one complex with the basketball stadium other suburbs within the Shire itself have also built a netball stadium which incorporates indoor soccer. So there are a few more facilities around at the moment in that sort of aspect. Thereís new developments going on, on the other side of Castle Hill. Out at Rouse Hill theyíve now put in some more soccer fields, AFL another athletics field. Theyíre building to accommodate all the new people in those areas.
What about bike facilities, bike riding, are there enough tracks for that?
Not enough because the area that I live in thereís no footpath either. Itís obviously one of the older areas. You couldnít ride your bike on the road because itís too dangerous. I think that is one of the things that is missing. I donít like having the specific bike (track) on the road. But if they had a specific bike track it would make it a lot easier.
How did you get involved with Little Athletics?
I was just looking around for something for my son, who was just an outdoor type of person like most children are. I used to work with a woman who was involved with it at the time. She said ďcome downĒ. They advertised it in our local newsletter for school. So I went down there, he enjoyed it, he enjoyed the company. So Iím still there nineteen years later.
What was available when he started going there?
Most of it was whatís available now all the events that he could do. They probably interact a lot more now because children nowadays are more involved in doing other championships outside the actual club itself. So they know people from schools, they know people from their basketball. At that time it was a good way for him to mingle with children from other schools instead of just being with children from his own school.
How old was he when he started?
He was in the under six age group when they started in the September and he turned six in the December. One of his best mates from school ended up being in an older age group but he is still friends with and still talks to some of those kids from when he was under six and heís twenty four now.
Now youíre an age manager itís called now with Little Athletics. What is an age manager and what do you have to do to be an age manager?
Age manager I came into the fact because the current one he was leaving. Iíd been helping out all the time knowing what was going on. So I saidĒ OK Iíll put up my hand to do itĒ. Itís just showing the children the correct procedures. Iím doing long jump. Iím doing all the throws and everything else. Iím trying to put them into heats. At that age group we probably had around 15. Youíre putting them in heat compared with their own rank. You donít have the fast running with a slow kid all the time. Helping them select their events when it comes up to the zone. Youíre only limited to four events each. So you say ďwell look I think youíre best at these events, these are the ones I think you should go intoĒ. Thereís the state relay which selects just four members for track so youíve got to try and work out from your group who you think is going to get the better result out of those ones. Just helping the kids taking them to all the different events that was good.
So the age manager classifies the kids into age groups?
The centre's classified into age groups so therefore I was just the age manager for my sonís age group. They're separated into gender as well. So it was only boys that I was in control of.
What sort of training is required to become a coach in Little Athletics?
What I first did was the Basic Events instructions which give you a basic idea of what all the events are about. Procedures, whatís a foul. Also little exercises or little fun games that you can do in between their events, helping them with stretching their muscles before the event. Then you can go up to the level ones which are done outside of the club by a gentleman that is with the Australian Track and Field Association. They can take two weeks to get to the level one and then level two might go over two weekends. Level two you can be a specific event. You might want to only coach sprints or you might want to coach jumps or the throws or the walks. It depends if youíre willing, if youíve got the time to be able to do it. Itís a good achievement. Weíve got one guy there whoís done it and heís still there even though his children are no longer there.
Are coaches all volunteers?
Yeah although we are looking at the present trying to work out how to get more coaches. Whether it is feasible to be able to pay them. I do know some of the local centres around one guy left his job and thatís what he does. Heís just a coach for that centre. If he has people outside Athletics he might charge them because you might have some children doing soccer who just want sprints training. So if they want to come in heíll charge them but he doesnít charge the Athletics club.
Tell me a bit more about Little Athletics? Whatís its philosophy and how many different events do they have?
They have a lot of different events. The motto for Little Athletics NSW is ďFamily, fun, fitnessĒ. Youíve got all your different runs, short distance, middle distance, long distance. Youíve got hurdles. In your jumps youíve got long jump, triple jump and high jump. Your throws are shot putt, discus and javelin. Sometimes youíll get those children that are good at sprints. They can also be good at the long jump as well.
Philosophy is youíve got the family it does bring the families together. The fun, we try to encourage the children that itís fun for them regardless of where youíre placed in the race as long as youíve done your best. Obviously when it gets to championships the children like to win those or be up there. Also the fitness we have some children who arenít elite athletes but they enjoy the company and itís giving them exercise as well.
What positions have you held in The Hills District Little Athletics?
On the committee Iíve been secretary for fourteen years now. But I enjoy it. My husband keeps saying to me ďI think you should get outĒ. Because my children donít do it anymore. Itís a little bit of a hobby for me at the moment. I enjoy watching the children. I enjoy the organisation of it.
So whatís the age range of children from the youngest to the eldest?
They can go from three years right up to seventeen. In the early days they used to be from seven up until under twelves. Obviously as there was more children and there was not much else for them to do afterwards. The Association has increased it over the years and the under seventeens have been there for the last three years.
How many kids are members of Little Athletics in The Hills District?
In The Hills at the moment weíve got about 380. Over the years that has fluctuated from the 350 up to weíve had 600 children there. Obviously around the Olympics, Commonwealth Games times you tend to get more children wanting to join up. Then again over the last three or four years the numbers might have gone down due to the fact that there is another new centre out at Rouse Hill that has opened up. Whenever you start getting new centres youíre going to have people out in that area that used to come to us finding itís a little bit easier when itís only up the road from them. Plus the Rouse Hill one is on a Friday night and weíre on a Saturday morning.
That 380 or so kids that you mentioned. Does that include Rouse Hill?
No thatís just in our club itself.
Your club is situated where?
Hills District so weíre actually situated at A H Whaling Reserve at Baulkham Hills.
Is it a good reserve that one? Does it serve the purpose?
It is from the history as Iíve been looking through it. It started about 1974/75 I think it was. The Council had obviously fixed up the reserve. Itís right near the local swimming pool so it makes it good in the summer time. The kids can go to the pool afterwards if needed. The Council has done improvements on it since so itís now a full four hundred metres circular track. Whereas before it was only about three sixty metres which made it difficult in timing and setting out the actual tracks themselves. So between the ones in The Hills District area weíre the only ones whoíve got the full four hundred metre track.
What surface is the track?
Itís grass. It does make it a bit difficult with security. People with graffiti and in the early days we used to have people driving their cars on it. That part of it has stopped. Itís a good track and the Councilís just recently upgraded it for us. Hopefully it will last for a few more years.
So what happens when a child is subscribed into Little Athletics? Whatís the procedure for the child and its parents?
When they register they have to show their proof of age. Due to the fact that itís segregated into age groups. You canít have a tiny tot thatís using a two kilogram discus. So we need proof of age to make sure that theyíre going into the correct age group. The parents signing to say that theyíre allowing their children to be either photographed or we put them into newspaper ads and things like that. Also to help volunteer. The carnivals themselves donít run by the ten people on the committee. We need the parents to volunteer as well in helping out either the age manager themselves or recording, canteen, barbeque or whatever is available.
What about insurance is that a factor?
Insurance is covered in their registration fee. It used to be just the club itself but nowadays itís all involved with the association. Part of the fee that they pay we send to the association which does cover their insurance which can last until the child is twenty seven. So if theyíve injured themselves and they might find ten years out. If that injury happened at Little Athletics theyíre still covered for that as well.
Where are these events and competitions held? Are they all at the Whaling Reserve?
Our main centre of competitions are held at the club. At A H Whaling Reserve. You have some championship events which is like the state relays and state championships. Theyíre held at Homebush because theyíre run by the Association. The zone carnivals are always held at our ground due to the fact that weíve got the better ground to all the other ones. Then the region is held aroundÖ each year it goes to a different spot. Weíve got four different zones within our region so one year it might be up at the Central Coast, other than that itís Manly, Parramatta or our zone. We have held the region down at our ground as well.
How often are these competitions held?
Our competition's held every Saturday morning. We start at 8 and usually finish about 12 oíclock. The others youíve got our zone is always held at the end of January each year. Region is in February and then the state is in March. In the meantime the Association also runs what they call a multi event. When youíre doing your zones you specify which events you want. In the multi event everyone does the same. The majority of the time they're always held in the country area. Itís a good opportunity, you get away have a good weekend with families within your club. We have formed good relationships with parents from those areas as well. Theyíre fun.
Can you give me an account of all the different kinds of events that are held in running, jumping and throwing? How many events are there in each of those?
In running you start off with itís a fifty, seventy metre for the young children. Youíve got a hundred metres, two hundred, four hundred, eight hundred, fifteen hundred and a three kilometre run. The walks are eleven hundred and fifteen hundred walk. Hurdles you have well they go from depending on the age group, seventy, eighty, ninety a hundred metres and two hundred metre hurdles. In the long jump youíve got long jump, triple jump and high jump. In the throws are the discus, shot putt and javelin. Then youíve also got the walks events as well.
How do you time all those track events? How are they recorded?
Usually the circular track are recorded by having a multi timer. So that the gentleman that is there he can actually time the whole eight people in the race. Also weíve been fortunate enough to be able to purchase timing gates so we use those on the straight tracks. A gentleman just sits at the end looks for the starter, hits the button so as soon as the children come through their times automatically come up for each separate lane. This makes it a little bit easier otherwise you would have had to try and find eight to ten timekeepers each week which was part of the problem.
What do the uniforms that the kids wear look like and what can one surmise from the patches on them?
The uniform is shorts and singlet obviously for the boys. The girls can wear crop tops, singlets, shorts, little pants. They have an age patch that they put on them plus their registration number on the front. On the Saturdays it helps us distinguish which age group the child is in if they are all running in a race. When youíre in a carnival it helps distinguish which centre theyíre with. So the Association knows this should be so and so in this race. When you are at a championship event it helps you to, even though you mightnít know who the child is, you can still support the child from your centre. You just sing out ďcome on Hills DistrictĒ in those instances.
What are the facilities available at the A H Whaling Reserve? What have you got there?
In the club house we have the canteen, storage area, toilet facilities both indoor and outside. They used to have the showers there but a lot of the showers now they donít get used because they donít have the hot water running into the showers. A lot of the time on the weekends the children will just go home anyway. Then weíve built another building so that we can accommodate having a disability toilet which weíre able to store a lot of stuff in underneath. Up the top we have our committee rooms. It is a big place; it obviously needs a little bit of improvement on it now.
Is that the amenities block that youíre talking about?
Yeah the amenities. It used to be the club house where you hold your meetings and everything else until we put in the new building.
When is the season for Little Athletics? How long does it go for?
It goes for roughly six months. It incorporates the spring and summer months. It goes from September through to March. After March youíve got the cross country season. The children can still do that. The cross country usually alternates between country and city and they hold the championships in July.
So itís a winter activity?
Thatís the winter activity they usually do that on a Sunday morning. Obviously not at ours because itís not cross country. So they usually go down to the Crestwood Reserve and it varies from one up to three kilometre runs that they do depending on their age group.
Whatís the training and coaching regime for the young athletes? How often do they train?
Our club doesnít make it compulsory because itís up to the child if they want to have the extra training in the actual events. We do have the sprint trainer. He can do sprints, he can do hurdles, he can do everything. Then thereís another guy thatís just come in recently. Heís doing the throws for us. Usually the coaches say anything under nine years old itís not suitable for them to do that extra training. Their bones and muscles havenít formed properly anyway. He recommends round about the ten or even the under twelves up. If they want the extra training then thatís suitable for them. So thatís during the week.
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