THE last 12 months have been stop-start for athletics clubs across the country but Dunfermline Track and Field are confident of running into better things in 2021.

While their Pitreavie Athletics Centre base saw much less of their membership during the previous year because of CVID-19, officials have been buoyed by an upsurge in interest from kids ranging in age from five up to 12.

Not only did that lead to them establishing a ‘TrackStarz’ run, jump and throw programme – which, prior to Scotland being placed in lockdown, they had hoped to begin last month – but also look to hire a club coach and development officer.

The role, in partnership with Scottish Athletics, sportscotland, Fife Sport and Leisure Trust and Live Active, would develop, promote and develop the new run, jump and throw sessions but also recruit new parent helpers and coaches for the club.

With around 120 members currently, Dunfermline Track and Field are seeking to grow further and, speaking to Press Sport during a training evening prior to current coronavirus restrictions being put in place, president David Steel is positive about the future.

Having noted that the club had a waiting list for its new programme, he explained: “Up until about two years ago, there was a run, jump, throw programme that ran in here.

“It was the leisure trust that ran it, and that kind of got disbanded. We then didn’t have that first step on the ladder, I suppose; there wasn’t really an entry point.

“We applied for grant funding for the post. We’re looking to run two nights; 5-6 o’clock before the main training sessions, and another night up at Kinross at the community campus.

“It’s quite a big step for us because we’re all volunteer coaches that’s doing it at the minute. It’s into the realms of paid provision, so it just all has to work financially as well, but the demand seems to be there.

“Our limiting factor on the club side is on the coaching side of it and getting volunteer coaches. That’s their other strand of their work; to get folk pushed on and try to recruit more volunteer parent helpers and volunteer coaches.

“It’s having someone there to push that on. The club pays for any coaching qualifications and, like I say, I think we’re quite excited about it.”

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Coach Vicky Stephen (pictured above receiving the Coach of the Year prize at the 2019 Dunfermline and West Fife Sports Council awards), who is also the club’s coaching co-ordinator, commented: “We get a lot of younger kids that want to come.

“There used to be run, jump, throw here, and then obviously that got cancelled, and they had no outlets. It was really up to the clubs to put something on.

“In terms of capacity, we couldn’t do it without bringing somebody in that’s able to build coaching capacity as well as membership capacity.

“It’s really exciting.”

Before Christmas, from around August, coaches and members alike had the thrill of being able to return to training in line with guidelines but online training sessions have been the norm for the bulk of the last year.

“They loved it,” Vicky said of her athletes.

“A couple of times I had to cancel because of my work and things like that, so they were devastated, and a couple of the senior athletes actually took a few of my programmes and led the session on Zoom. It was their getaway from their school work; they were still doing home-learning so it was their getaway for those 40 minutes!

“I was doing three or four Zoom sessions a week with my squad but you miss a lot. You don’t have that face-to-face interaction so it was nice to keep in touch, find out what they were doing and see how they’re getting on but it’s far better seeing their faces! We were doing a lot of core work and building up strength but when it came to the running, I put a schedule on the team app and you were trusting them to follow the schedule themselves in terms of the running part.”

Two of those athletes, Ellen Ranklin and Elliot Wilkins, found the online sessions a positive to take from a tough year, with Elliot, 18, noting: “It’s not as enjoyable as doing it at home as it is on the track but it was really good considering everything.”

Ellen, 17, added: “It was quite a struggle to get used to having to do online Zoom calls doing group sessions and core and conditioning.

“The sessions worked great but it was weird not being able to come here.”

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Club members, such as Elliot and Ellen, saw their regular training disrupted significantly last year.