Top 4 steps to get your child started in athletics

Monday, June 6th, 2022 08:50 | By
Iten Camp
Young athletes at Iten camp, Elgeyo Marakwet County. PHOTO/Katami Michelle/Twitter.

World Under-20 800m champion Emmanuel Wanyonyi has yet again shocked the athletics community by shattering the Diamond League in Rabat, Morocco on June 5 2022.

At only 17 years of age, many would sideline him as just a young lad with a lot ahead of him. Well Wanyonyi has proven many wrong that being young is just but an attribute.

If you are ready to have your child or teenager follow in the footsteps of Wanyonyi, these are the steps you should take.

1. No right age to start

National age group track and field competition starts with the Primary age group (12 and under in Athletics meet arranged by Athletics Kenya in conjunction with schools or training camps).

But, while there are many children that train and compete seriously from this age, track is a very forgiving and flexible sport: Kids who get a later start are not missing out on crucial skill-building years as they are in other sports.

2. Kids runs/Charity runs

A great way to begin the sport is to look for kids' fun runs that are often held in conjunction with local road races/Charity races like the. Stanchart marathon.

The Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon.

The distance might be as short as less than 5km and parents can often accompany their child on the course. All-comers meets are also excellent starters. These are relaxed track & field meets which have events for competitors of all ages.

3. Picking the right camp/club

Once you've narrowed your list down to clubs that are geographically feasible for you, you should visit their practices to get an idea of how the program operates, what the coaches are like, etc.

Eliud Kipchoge (right) training alongside Kenya’s pacemaker Noah Kipkemboi within the grounds of the official marathon hotel and biosecure bubble for the elite-only 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon to be held on 4th October. Photo/AFP

You can also check the results of regional and national meets to see which clubs have had the most success. A good place to get this kind of information is at Athletics Kenya offices in Nairobi.

4. Avoid over-training

Find out the training schedule and get an idea of a typical workout. Including warming up and cooling down (a period of easy jogging and more stretching to end the workout).

The total running distance should not be more than 10km for children younger than their teens. As older children begin to compete in longer distances they may do a bit more mileage but I would be wary of exceeding 20km per day on the longest days.

There are many opportunities for a child to experience athletics without going straight in to an organized club program.

Once the decision to join a club is made, Athletics Kenya is a terrific resource center for finding clubs local to your area. Observe the clubs and talk with the coaches to ascertain their training schedule and philosophy.

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