FIVE new athletics clubs are being established at city schools to cope with a surge in numbers fuelled by the Commonwealth Games and London Olympics.
Three of the Capital’s main clubs – Edinburgh, Corstorphine and Harmeny – have growing waiting lists after being swamped with membership requests from youngsters keen to take up sport.
City council bosses are keen to cash-in on the spike in popularity – linked to high-profile stars such as Usain Bolt – by setting up after-school facilities.
The initiative, in partnership with Scottish Athletics, will start with groups at Liberton, Queensferry, Wester Hailes, Craigroyston and Castle Brae, with hopes it will eventually be rolled out city-wide.
Brian Winning, a coach at Edinburgh Athletics Club who also helped establish the Royal High Panthers, said clubs were struggling to meet the huge demand.
It is hoped the school sessions will take some of the pressure off the bigger organisations while also acting as feeder clubs.
He said: “The sessions are popular, but we have quite a reasonable turnover where people come and find out athletics isn’t for them, which is saving space in some of the athletics clubs. The schools train the kids in a local environment and then the ones that show they are at a higher level will then be targeted towards one of the three major athletic clubs in the city.”
The first-ever Lowland Games will be held at Liberton High today – designed to give youngsters a flavour of various sports – followed by an athletics session at the school next week.
Children who show potential at the pay-as-you-go sessions will be encouraged to enter into competitions. Similarly, the city’s over-subscribed athletics clubs will be able to refer youngsters to the after-school facilities.
Tony Segall, Active Schools co-ordinator for the council, said: “We’ve looked at new ways of working together with the established clubs to complement what they do while giving more kids a chance to do athletics more often. The schools have got facilities – they’ve got halls and playing fields – which is ideal.
“Apart from the obvious health benefits, the kids are really inspired by athletics following the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. Hopefully one day we’ll get Edinburgh’s Usain Bolt from it.”
Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s sports leader, said it was one of the council’s many programmes to support sporting activities.
He said: “Edinburgh’s athletics clubs are hugely popular and we aware that it is an increasingly popular sport.
“This is why the Active Schools initiative, which offers young people a path into different sports disciplines including athletics and Lowland Games events, is an ideal programme for supporting Edinburgh’s sporting infrastructure.”
Next step for Performance centre
A NATIONAL sports performance centre set to be built in the Capital has moved a step closer after a preferred contractor was named.
Bowmer and Kirkland, which is working on the St Andrew Square development, will be tasked with building the £30 million project at Heriot-Watt University.
The Capital beat off competition from Stirling and Dundee to win the right to host the National Performance Centre for Sport, which will offer world-class training facilities for individual athletes and squads, as well as top coaching and cutting-edge sports medicine.
The development will include a 170-bed mid-market hotel and three outdoor tennis courts on top of an eye-catching indoor Hampden replica football pitch.
Construction at the Riccarton campus is scheduled to get under way in spring, with the centre due to be up and running by January 2016.