Up Close With: Richmond's new athletics club for children, Mini Athletics

  Posted: 14.08.21 at 18:30 by Jessica Broadbent

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Last year a new athletics class for children started up in Richmond that introduces children to the basics of athletic movement. Now there are several classes across the borough including in Richmond, Teddington, and Twickenham.

We caught up with Director and Owner of Richmond and Twickenham Mini Athletics, Alex Marsch, to hear how it’s all going...

What is Mini Athletics?

Mini Athletics has 30 branches all over the UK (and even one in Dubai!) and runs classes for children aged between two and seven. It was founded husband-and-wife team Kirk and Clare Bowyer.

Kirk was previously a strength and conditioning coach for elite athletes and Clare was a primary school teacher specialising in PE.

When the couple had their first child they were keen to take him to a sports class. Kirk wanted to enhance athleticism/sporting participation, and Clare wanted him to build his confidence, social and cognitive skills. Soon after, Mini Athletics was born!

Between them they created a specially-designed programme for youngsters that aligns with Key Stage 1 of the National Curriculum while injecting fun and creativity into sports lessons.

Mini Athletics in action with Twickenham Green Nursery (Image: Mini Athletics)

About Richmond’s Director

Alex has always enjoyed athletics and is a keen 100m, 200m and 400m sprinter, and has trained with some of the Team GB stars!

“It keeps me fit and healthy and I love it!” he said.

“I’m one of the people who was inspired by the 2012 Olympics – that’s part of its legacy.”

He didn’t start his career in the sports industry though. Before Mini Athletics he worked in a warehouse and had various office jobs, before finding that his passion lay with working with children and getting them passionate about sport.

Hannah (left) and Saskia (right) on Twickenham Green preparing for a class (Image: Jessica Broadbent, Nub News)

He began working with Mini Athletics as a coach in Kingston and Wimbledon, and worked for the company for two years before deciding to set up his own branch in Richmond.

“I really enjoyed working as a coach, and then there was the opportunity to set up my own branch,” he said.

“Kirk and Claire gave me the opportunity to select an area and purchase the licence at the beginning of 2020.

“So it’s all very new to me – this is my first time running a business.

“From a young age I did want to run a business; it’s taken a long time to find out what I enjoyed – but this is it!”

Mini Athletics classes end with races! (Image: Mini Athletics)

Mini Athletics sessions

Mini Athletics classes aim to improve physical, cognitive, social and emotional development across three levels - 'Didee Athletes' for 2-3.5 year olds, 'Little Athletes' for 3.5-5 year olds, and 'Mini Athletes' for 5-7 year olds.

The sessions are fun but well structured, with lesson plans put together by Kirk and Claire.

“It’s a really nice introduction to sport for children and it’s one that keeps them engaged with sport,” says Alex.

“Kirk and Claire put their knowledge together to make activities and games which are so engaging.

Mini Athletics trainer Lara (Image: Mini Athletics)

“For the finale of each session the children sit in a circle and they go onto a podium and they get a big clap from everyone.”

Setting up in a pandemic

Alex purchased the licence last January and started classes in October – “It was bad timing!” he says.

“I was ready to go in March and then covid came so I put it all on hold.”

The whole company had to adapt classes to be able to run them during the pandemic. New lesson plans were put together with covid-safe measures including lanes to keep children socially distanced and individual bags for each child with equipment. They also had to reduce the number of parents who could attend to one per child.

Mini Athletics trainer Hannah (Image: Mini Athletics)

Alex said that the lanes were a good covid-safety measure but also fitted in with their athletics theme as they looked like tracks.

“The biggest battle was teaching the children for a short time to stick to their lane and not go into another,” he said. “They had their own equipment, too, and they couldn’t socialise or get too close.”

Needless to say he is happy to be getting back to normal now so classes can run fully again.

He says the best thing about Mini Athletics is the engagement and enjoyment of the children – and that is also what sets it apart from other sports classes.

“I’ve seen other classes that are a bit too focused on teaching,” he said. “They can be too formal.

Mini Athletics trainer Martha (Image: Mini Athletics)

“The kids just love it here.

“For me it’s their enjoyment and their engagement, regardless of their age, that’s the best thing.”

Mini Athletics Richmond and Twickenham's Classes

The classes are run by Saskia and Lara, who both have experience in providing coaching to children of school age and now enjoy working with younger children.

St Andrew's Church Hall Church Rd, Ham Common, Richmond, TW10 5HG
Saturday mornings

Alex Marsch (Image: Jessica Broadbent, Nub News)

Old Deer Park Sport Ground - Outdoor Venue 187 Kew Road, Richmond, TW9 2AZ, GB
Friday mornings

Twickenham Brunswick Club - Outdoor Venue Clarendon Crescent, Twickenham, TW2 5LN
Sunday mornings

2nd Teddington Scouts Hut Fortescue Ave, Twickenham, Middlesex, TW2 5LX
Saturday mornings

Find out more on the Mini Athletics Richmond and Twickenham website.

Interested? Why not book a free taster session!
To book contact Alex: [email protected]

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