By Jed Lanyon
Yarra Ranges Athletics is seeing a surge in new members following the Olympics, where track and field events were highlighted to a worldwide audience.
Yarra Ranges Athletics hosted after-school events for children to try out the sporting events they had just witnessed their Olympic heroes take part in.
Club president Max Savill-Bentley said it was “fantastic” to see so many new families bring their kids along to take part in the sport.
“I went down there and I was blown away by how many people there were. I thought, hang on, this isn’t a Saturday morning or a cross country event, it’s a random Monday afternoon with one coach. It was really impressive.”
Mr Savill-Bentley said the club was “lucky” to host four days of their after-school event, which was eventually cancelled following the latest lockdown. The event was an opportunity for the club to ride the wave of momentum provided by the Tokyo Olympics.
“Having recently seen the stats from other athletics clubs around the area from Athletics Victoria, you’re looking at least a 50 plus increase in members per centre and a lot of places will be seeing a 25 per cent increase, which does slowly taper off over the next few years,” Mr Savill-Bentley said.
Yarra Ranges Athletics coach Kate Downward said: “Track and field athletics is a sport that remains under the radar most of the time being overshadowed by sports that have airplay, are constantly on TV, are well funded and recognised across the community.
“Yet in the years where the Olympics or Commonwealth Games or even the world championships are on to some extent, when it hits the screens there’s certainly a renewed understanding and awakening to what a great sport it is and what a diverse sport it can be in the jumping, the running and the throwing.
“It’s a sport for all abilities and ages, no matter what background you come from or how much money you have. You only need a pair of shoes to join in.
“Here at Yarra Ranges Athletics we were super stoked to see the Aussies do so well. We have little athletics all the way to the elites and we have them locally. We know how hard it is to reach that pinnacle, so we’re super proud to see our Australian track and field team do so well.”
Mr Savill-Bentley said the club’s attention will turn to motivating young athletes to strive to represent their country at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.
“For our kids in the under 6, under 7, under 8 groups, in 11 years time when we have the Brisbane Olympics it’ll be their big chance to get in on the action. It’s sort of a time for us as an athletics club to look at the current juniors and how we are going to make sure kids love athletics enough to want to go to the Olympics.
Mr Savill-Bentley said the approach for Yarra Ranges Athletics was to motivate little athletics members to achieve their own personal goals.
“We’re very much a personal best focused club.”
While metropolitan Melbourne remains in lockdown, Yarra Ranges Athletics is on the lookout for new members and registrations for the 2021-2022 season opens soon.
For more information, visit yarrarangesathletics.org.au or the club’s Facebook page.