Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: A closer look at the Atheltics Ireland membership figures...

Monday, January 11, 2016

A closer look at the Atheltics Ireland membership figures...

Athletics Ireland recently released their membership figures for the end of 2015. The national figures are shown in the graph below to make the trends clearer.
The total membership which is based on all the athletic clubs around the country has gone up by 90% in the last six years, an impressive figure. For an organisation that is largely funded by grants from the Irish Sports Council, it's important that the membership should be as large as possible to have another source of funding.

The membership is broken down as follow...
Juveniles...Children and teenagers aged under 19 year old.
Juniors......19 years old...(numbers too small to be shown in the chart above).
Seniors......20 to 34 years old
Masters.....35 years old and above

Juveniles.....As the chart shows, the number of Juveniles has grown by 72% in the last six years. This growth has obviously placed demands on the various athletic clubs around the country as they've had to cope with the influx. The net effect of this has to been to see lots of club members taking the various Athletics Ireland coaching courses and some of the larger clubs having waiting lists for children trying to join.

Masters.....The vast majority of those aged 35 and over would be involved in road races and running i.e. what is often referred to as 'recreational running'. Like the Juniors, there has been a huge growth in the number of masters as the running boom has resulted in a surge in club membership.

Seniors.....It's not all good news however as the number of Seniors nationally has dropped 12%. It's probably fair to say that the majority of Seniors will be involved in road running but it's from this group that the bulk of those involved in athletics will be...i.e. Track & Field competitions. Considering the growth in the number of Masters then it's likely that those in the Senior group in say the 30-34 age bracket probably grew by a similar amount. What doe this mean for those in say their early 20's? Those who might be considered likely to be at the sharp end of athletics? Are their numbers dropping even faster than the graph below suggests?

Juniors.....The biggest drop however comes from the number of Juniors aged 19 years old. This group are much more likely to be involved in athletics rather than road races and are the future of track & field athletics. The number of Juniors dropped nationally by 37% in 2015 (-54% in Cork). It's possible that it's just a random drop as the numbers involved are small compared to the other groups but it may well represent a real problem. In the Junior Mens Cross Country race in Cork late last year, just two athletes took part which suggests that there is an issue.

Summary....In summary, the recent stats suggest that the membership of Athletics Ireland is being 'hollowed out'. There are plenty of children involved in the sport but by their late teens, they have mostly disappeared. Adults are joining in their 30's and 40's as part of the recreational running boom but there seems to be a big hole in the middle.

I think other sports may well have a large drop in numbers as well when members reach their late teens but I'm not so sure it's as dramatic? Again consider the graphs...juveniles growing year on year, juniors down 37% this year and back nearly to where it was in 2009. If that's not ringing alarm bells locally and nationally then it should be.

It raises two questions....
1) Why did the number of Juniors drop 37% in 2015?

2) What can be done to address it?



Anonymous said...

Perhaps athletics should be promoted more in the Universities and Colleges? If the numbers continue to drop like they did in 2015 then there will be hardly anyone doing track and field as adults.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the figures reflect a very real decline in athletics in general. If it wasn't for the likes of Fionnuala Britton and Rob Heffernan, that decline would be a lot more obvious. Once they retire, who is going to be challenging for individual medals? Who is going to help teams to European XC medals?

Anonymous said...

After speaking to a few kids over Christmas and asking them why they gave up athletics up.
Answers. Having competing since the age of 8. And are now 17, 18 They now felt that athletics is what they did when they were children. Also as they got older they knew who were going to win the competitions and didn't want to be the last finishing. More importantly the time that one has to put into to the sport to be at a level playing pitch they couldn't give .; exam pressures peer pressures .
Also the fun wasn't there anymore long days at competitions was not on .especially at track and field
X country. Distances had increased so time again was the problem the time to train after coming home from school study etc.
Athletics was for kids and they now grew up Missed out on been teenagers having to miss out on social events
It just got boring .
More team stuff at this age might keep them interested so that all levels might stay in