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LSA Juveniles A year of virtual events

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The last year has given us opportunities to try out new activities whilst trying to stay active and connected.

May 2020 saw our first virtual challenge: could we as a club, run, walk, cycle or scoot the distance from Vesnovo in Belarus to Dublin in aid of Chernobyl Children International (CCI)?  This also gave us the impetus to set up Strava for our adult group and it encouraged many of our juveniles and their parents and guardians to be active.  We very quickly covered the 2600km, and found ourselves doing laps of Ireland to extend the route to the end of May.  Even better, we raised over €1000 for CCI.

November 2020 saw our Juveniles take part in the Virtual Cross Country organised by Athletics Ireland.  Although Level 5 restrictions were in place, childrens’ training in pods of 15 was permitted, so this gave us the opportunity to set up a 500m course on the GAA pitches in the grounds of Newbridge House and Demesne.  We arranged for this to take place at the time as our regular juvenile cross country training session.  It was a fun event and gave all our athletes an opportunity to meet socially distanced in training pods and try out cross country running.

Onwards to 2021 and with the ongoing restrictions our juveniles were unable to meet for training.  Whilst some of our older training groups continued to follow their training plans on their own, we wanted to do something to unite all our juvenile athletes and coaches during March and April.  The Athletics Ireland virtual challenge, with our own Olympic 2021 spin, gave us the ideal platform to do this.  Our “Three Week Olympic Challenge” aimed to capture the spirit of the Olympics, friendship, solidarity and fair play, uniting people from all over the world.

LSA was honoured that the CEO of Sport Ireland, sporting legend John Treacy, Silver medallist in the 1984 Olympic Marathon, took the time to introduce the challenge to our juvenile athletes.

The challenge involved our 64 Juvenile members, ranging in age from 7 to 17. The idea was to form eight teams of eight and to mix athletes from different age groups and abilities.  A coach and a team “country” was assigned to each team. Over three weeks we assigned three “events” for athletes to do in their own time, and asked parents to send the results to their team coach: Speed Bounce, 60m sprint and 300m time trial.

How it worked:

  • We split all juveniles into virtual teams, each with a country name.9
  • Each team had a coach who co-ordinated the group
  • There was one activity per week completed by the athlete in their own time
  • Parents/guardians sent the athlete’s result to their Team coach on the temporary Team What’s App group by the weekend (and were asked send a short video clip of the athlete doing the activity if they wished).
  • We published Team results but not individual results.

Each challenge was released on Sunday evening for the following week and kept everyone updated on team position.

There was a prize for the best team, most original video, most successful coach… !

  • Team France ����
  • Team Spain  ����
  • Team Brazil ����
  • Team GB ����
  • Team Italy ����
  • Team USA ����
  • Team Norway ����
  • Team Ireland ����

The Team names reflected a mixture of the diversity of our coaches and athletes, the geographical location of some of our members, or, as was the case with Norway, the nationality of our coaches sporting heros!

We were very fortunate to be able to set up a temporary “race track” in the local area where athletes could run in their own time and record their results.

Team coaches encouraged their eight athletes with advice and tips throughout the three weeks.  The challenge was less about the competition and more about getting to know each other across the juvenile section: athletes, coaches and parents.  It really delivered on that front and was a very rewarding experience.  We were especially pleased with the level of participation of our Juveniles, from the oldest (17)  to the youngest  (7) and those who had been in the club for many years to those who had just joined and hadn’t yet attended a training session in person.  Some of our older Juveniles are assisting us with coaching as part of their Gaisce Bronze and Silver awards and their assistance and example was key.

The many photos and videos we have from the three weeks are testament to the level of participation and how much fun everyone had.

The success of the event really depended on the inspiration of the coaches.  Assigning eight coaches helped share the workload behind the organisation and let their coaching and other talents shine through!

The mixed ability and age group team format gave everyone an opportunity to participate at their own level.  We compiled the results on a Google Sheet that could be accessed by all team coaches.  We updated the Team positions each week (taking average performances based on the number of participants), but we didn’t highlight individual performances.  The final team scoring was calculated using a league scoring (10 points for first place, 8 for second, 7 for third and so on).  The final result was

1st Team Brazil

2nd Team GB

3rd Team Spain / Team Italy (joint)

We compiled videos or photos and posted a compilation of each event on our social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube).

From one parent:

“She loved the team idea as it meant the kids had to do their different events and couldn’t let their team down.  Thanks to everyone involved”

And from Team Italy coach:

“I hope everyone enjoyed the challenge and the fun as much as I did”

And from the Team France coach to parents and athletes:

“I would like to thank every single one of you for giving it all you had in some very challenging circumstances.  I also want to thank all the parents and guardians for their formidable support.  While it might be disappointing not to make it onto the podiums this time round I would like to leave you with a quote attributed to Pierre de Coubertin “ The most important thing in the Olympics is not winning but taking part!”

The Team Brazil coach even threw in some Portugeuse motivational messages:

���� Grupo Brazil ����

Vocês foram todos incríveis

*You were all amazing *��

Esforço de equipe fabuloso

*Fabulous team effort* ��

Estou muito orgulhoso de �� Grupo Brazil ����

From Team Spain coach ����

Firstly, a MASSIVE well done to each and every one of you – we got a fantastic response from the team with brilliant commitment, a ton of great efforts and several videos submitted. This represented really excellent engagement in the Challenge and you should all be very proud ��

Secondly, we congratulate the winners (Brazil), the runners-up (GB) and all the other teams who also contributed to the Challenge. It was brilliant to see so many athletes (and parents) getting behind the Challenge, especially in these times when our sporting options are limited – it definitely created a really positive buzz, which you all played a part in creating ��

Finally, a huge thanks to everyone who supported the Challenge – it goes without saying that without the support of the parents the Challenge it would have been a dead duck.  Thanks to all the coaches who supported their teams, especially Dara and Xavier who set out courses for the events ��

Looking forward to seeing you all back at training, hopefully sooner rather than later ��

Well done team Spain ���� ����

And from the Team Italy coach:

Congratulations and well done Team Italy ���� Joint 3rd Place and well deserved ���� ����

Thanks to all the team coaches who were fantastic throughout and to the athletes who really embraced the whole spirit.

A big thank you to our RDO Collete Quinn and all at Athletics Ireland for the resources to set up this challenge.  It was a rewarding experience for all involved and was an excellent event to prepare us for a return to training.

“The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.” Olympic Creed

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