“Revesby Workers Little Athletic Centre promotes fun, fitness and skills development in a friendly competitive environment while encouraging family participation, community spirit and values.”

 30 Years of Little Athletics at Revesby – An overview

(from 2009/10 annual report)

In 2010 it comes as something of a surprise that we can now record 30 years of Little Athletics in the Revesby and adjoining areas. That it comes as a surprise is due, I think, to the inevitable turnover in a centre’s athletes and office bearers. However, I think there is another specific reason at Revesby, and that is a sense that there always seems to be something more to do to improve the running of little athletics, that there is some unfinished business. Every year the centre’s committee finds itself addressing the same problems but usually with a new twist- how to improve equipment and facilities, how to improve athletes performances, how to improve parent participation, how to have a good time. There is never a complete answer so each year new (and sometimes, advertently, old) solutions are found, so every year we live in the present, unaware of our history. Every sporting body has its ups and downs, but providing a local sporting program for 30 continuous years, helping thousands of children to grow as athletes in a family friendly environment, is a considerable achievement.

Revesby Workers’ Little Athletics started as East Hills Little Athletics in 1980. (Incidentally, Revesby Workers’ Club was originally named, though for short while, “East Hills Workers’ Club”.) The impetus for the centre came from members of the East Hills Rugby League Club and it was to operate at Smith Park, East Hills. During the early to mid 80s there were about 100 athletes each season, but numbers picked up from around 1986, with just on 200 being registered by 1988/89. Clearly there was a demand for athletics but the facilities at Amour Park Revesby were never adequate and where by then clearly so. Around this time there were suggestions that Revesby Workers’ Club might develop a proper athletics facility at Marco Reserve. To gain access to such a facility but more generally to have the support of a large organisation, the members of East Hills Little Athletics voted at the beginning of the1989 season to affiliate with Revesby Workers’ Club, which had enthusiastically agreed to this. So Revesby Workers’ Little Athletics Centre came into formal existence in October 1989, adopting the maroon and white colours of the Club and its sporting bodies.

The 1990s were marked by continuing growth in athlete numbers and the search for new ground. A lot of the success in the early 90s was due to the energy of a relatively young President, Robin Ball. Robin and her committee had to cope with the growing numbers on the inadequate Amour Park site, but undeterred Robin worked hard to raise the standards of athletics, with more coaching and better competition through greater participation in at the Little Athletics NSW’s zone, region and state competitions. In doing this, she was encouraged greatly by John Burne, the Southern Metropolitan Zone Co-ordinator, who constantly prodded Revesby Workers’ centre to lift its game, including strengthening its financial position. The number of state champion, listed on the centre’s website, is one measure of its increasing success.

While athletics prospered, the pursuit of proper athletic facilities absorbed a great amount of time of officials, especially Kevin Channell’s, both before and during his Presidency (1995-98) and for another three years on the centre committee. A grant was received from the NSW Dept of Sport and Recreation, to be matched, by Revesby Workers’ Club, towards improved facilities. Kevin and others looked at many grounds in the south Bankstown area, and finally the centre came to an arrangement with the University of Western Sydney to develop its oval at its Milperra campus. Negotiating all this took many years and it was only in the 2001-2 season that weekly competition was moved to the new ground. The university had assisted by undertaking ground works to create a suitable size circular track. The centre contributed its available grants, and its own funds, for lighting, track leveling and the long jump area. The centre, largely with volunteer labour, later built a canteen area and the throwing cages.

 Great excitement was generated by the new facilities, with the prospect of being able to offer more to the athletes, including a wider range of events. One fear was that the Sydney Olympic Games would generate enormous interest in athletics and see a huge increase in registrations, but thankfully this did not occur. While the bigger facilities could accommodate more, there was not the personnel and expertise to handle such an increase. In 2001/2 there were 399 registrations, but the number declined to the low 300s in the following years, and then to around 250+, a trend experienced at other centres. In fact this was in some ways a blessing, allowing consolidation and the bedding down of improvements in the organization, facilities and the conduct of events. The full range of events sanctioned by Little Athletics New South Wales was introduced, including race walking, triple jump, javelin and hurdles on the circular track. Recording of performances was improved with more computerization, the impressive website developed and put to good use, fund raising increased, and better equipment gradually acquired – in the1980s a small tractor /ride-on lawn mower would have been unimaginable. The evidence of these improvements is available in the centre’s annual reports, which have became more professional over the years and the envy of many organisations.

 The centre has enjoyed many benefits from the support of Revesby Workers’ Club, including an annual grant, the capital commitment, professional advice, use of the Club’s facilities etc. It has also been fortunate to have had a succession of capable and hard working Presidents and Secretaries but the many parents who have served, usually for a number of years, on the executive committee should all be proud of their achievements in building the centre. Their real success is the enjoyment and healthy activities they have continually provided for the young athletes and their families. Little Athletics is, by its very nature, only a pathway for young people and unfortunately we lose contact with most little athletes soon after they finish, most at 15. Increasing the age limit to 17 has been a mixed success, but has shown that a number of the athletes do appreciate the competition and fun aspects of the programs. A major thrust in the last few years has been to help the “senior” athletes develop leadership and other social skills, with the introduction of club captains, involving the older athletes in assisting and mentoring the younger ones and generally trying to involve them in the centre’s decision making. We can hope that today’s little athletes will remember their happy experiences and bring along their children at the appropriate age. If Revesby Workers’ Little Athletics is still around in another 30 years to play its role that will be a great tribute to all who have and who will yet contribute. Certainly it will have the full support of Revesby Workers’ Club.

John Rodwell

Life Member (1996)

Liaison Director

Revesby Workers’ Club