Since its formation in February 2015, when a group of like-minded friends at Cross Flatts parkrun decided to form a free running club, South Leeds Lakers has thrived. Providing free organised runs for over 14’s every Tuesday from Beeston Co-op, the club now regularly has between 80 and 100 attendees.
The previous club chairperson Martin Lee, had a vision to form a junior section at the Lakers. He had seen first-hand, the impact that running, particularly running socially within a club environment had made to people in the South Leeds area. His plan was to extend this positive impact to the young people, providing an opportunity to get them active and enjoying the physical and mental well-being in a supporting environment.
Having secured funding from England Athletics the hard work started. The club were able to send a small team of volunteers on courses to gain the required Athletic qualifications. Rachel Clarke-Williams became an Athletics Coach, Martin Lee and Amanda Binns Assistant Coaches, and Richard Harrison and myself Athletic leaders, with a view to becoming Assistant Coaches.
Thanks to Leeds City Council and Rob Dixon, Head of Cockburn School, the school grounds were secured from 6-7pm every Thursday, providing a safe and secure home for the new junior club.
The newly qualified coaches formulated session plans for the first 10 weeks. The importance being that during the development age of 8-14 year, children are involved in multi sports and across as many event groups as possible. Therefore, the new juniors were to concentrate on running, jumping and throwing activities, and not just with the emphasis on running. Equipment was sourced and the word was spread to local schools, Junior parkrun and to family and friends of the Lakers club, with the big start date on 18 April 2019.
Looking back to the start 13 weeks ago, and for the first few weeks we were saw an average of 15 children turning up, which was great for a new venture. Now we have seen this doubled, at last week’s session we had almost 40 children all enjoying “Swap Jump”, “Chicken Relay”, “Quick Start” and “Push Throw Relay”. The word has got around, and every week we are seeing new children turn up all wanting to see what it’s all about.
The sessions always start with a welcome and a celebration of ‘well dones’, sometime with special wristbands for anyone achieving a PB on one of our recording/measuring weeks. Prizes are also handed out for good attendance and then the children do a Group Warm-up (Bulldogs being a particular favourite).
The children are then split into groups of similar abilities and rotate around four pre-prepared (Run, Jump, Throw) activities, spending ten minutes at a time with each of our coaches. Every few weeks the children are timed or measured in each of the disciplines and are encouraged to try and improve on their previous efforts.
Some weeks we break things up, and last week all the children enjoyed trail running in Middleton Woods (the younger ones searching for bears!). Parents or guardians are encouraged to stay on site and support the children, and occasionally participate should they wish to.
Mum of Isaac and Jacob, Andrea said: “Juniors is a hit in our house, the boys love it!”
Cat, mum of Chloe, said: “we’ve signed up for a Colour Run”.
Noah and Riley’s mum said: “Just wanted to say thanks for making Noah and Riley so welcome last night, they really enjoyed it. I was also impressed! Thank you”.
Mum of Peyton said: “Thank you for a great night, my children loved it, we will come again”.
Ruby’s Dad said: “Ruby is buzzing, she loves these Thursdays!”
Ellie Harrison even won the club motto competition suggesting ‘TLC – This Laker Can’, which has now been printed onto T-Shirts to raise money for Wheatfield’s Hospice.
The hard work by the team continues as we try to bring Lakers Juniors to different parts of our community. Next year will bring the next phase of our vision, to provide accessible sporting opportunities for young people of South Leeds, by going into schools and local communities to talk about who we are and what we are doing. At the Beeston Festival recently, we saw plenty of interest on our stall, especially in our throwing game and make-a-smoothie bike.
A mention must also go to another regular sporting event for juniors in our area, which is the Cross Flatts Junior parkrun. Many of our Lakers Juniors enjoy challenging themselves at the Sunday morning run, putting their new skills to the test and picking up a PB here or there in the process.
South Leeds Lakers Juniors meet every Thursday between 6-7pm at Cockburn High School. Children can register by going to runtogether.co.uk or the “Run Together Runner” app on Google play store and Apple App Store. The sessions are free and for children aged between 8-14 years, who must be accompanied by a Parent or Carer.