In 2020 I was hesitant about starting running training due to COVID-19. I coach track (regional) (University of the Sunshine Coast) and cross country (regional) (Maroochydore Cricket Club) for school children, adults, multi class athletes, autistic and Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities on the Sunshine Coast.
Athletics Australia, Athletics Queensland and Special Olympics Australia provided plans for athletes to return to sport so I followed the rules and regulations of all of the above bodies. We had reduced ratios and this increased many extra training hours to accommodate every athlete that wanted to do these events. The ratio 1-9 increased our contact time to assist each and every athlete and that was a positive as we learnt more about the athletes and how they were progressing.
We followed all of the COVID plans and I provided hand sanitizers, wipes and I did high touch cleans of the toilets and taps (out of my own pocket) and had plans for social distancing 2m and the parents had to drop off and pick up. Our squad has grown over this year even though we have had the pandemic demonstrating that there was a huge need for athletes to train in a safe, inclusive and supportive environment whereas team sport, club sport and competitions were suspended in 2020.
We have 7 different ability groups at training and a place to belong. I think the social and mental health and well being was a great benefit. They have developed into better runners and have made some great friends as well in 2020. With no races or events we created our own time trials and one race to provide feedback on how the athletes were progressing. Every athlete improved and ran faster throughout the season. We provide 65 athletes an opportunity to participate and train in a safe environment. I have a less is more approach and provide quality training sessions. The Special Olympic athletes have been showing so much improvement over the year and the enjoy doing their own personal bests. I have also started coaching senior athletes as well on the Sunshine Coast.
There was a huge need to provide athletes with the opportunity to get active and we filled the void for many children, adults and for parents in 2020. Numbers increased throughout the season and when Athletics Queensland set a date for the state cross country championships we then had a goal for our athletes to nominate as individuals or join a club and race. We also increased our tempo at training and provided athletes with realistic goals and for some to fulfil their dream of competing at the highest level.
To maintain enthusiasm we held 3 x 1500m trials during the season and a 2km or 3km race. This was to see if the athletes had improved and how they reacted to race like conditions during a period of non organised competitions. Times were recorded compared and just about every athlete improved their running speed. 22 athletes from our squad competed at the Queensland Cross Country Championships on September 5 and 11 athletes placed 1st -5th and they qualified for the nationals.
Our squad had 2 multi class athletes win gold medals in the 13-19 year 3000m event. Many of the remaining athletes ran personal bests for the race distances. It is great when parents say to you they are glad that they found our running group and that their children enjoy coming to training. TsquaD Running had more athletes compete from the Sunshine Coast than all of the main athletics clubs in our region. It was a sensational year and went beyond my greatest expectations.