Award-winning Ipswich club welcomes everyone

Ipswich Little Athletics centre manager Melissa Smith.


AS kids continue to enjoy Ipswich’s Little Athletics program, centre officials are keen to make everyone welcome.

One of their major priorities heading into a new season is offering sport for young people with disabilities.

“Over the last couple of seasons, we’ve had a big focus on that,” centre manager Melissa Smith said.

“We’re now starting to see more athletes with disabilities come through, giving them pathways.”

Smith said it was satisfying seeing multi-class competitors receiving opportunities to compete at a higher level and gain pleasure from the sport.

The Ipswich centre based at Bill Paterson includes an amputee sportsperson.

“It’s great to see,” she said.

“We try to include everyone . . . and just seeing them all smiling and enjoying themselves, that’s what it is all about.

“Our motto has always been ‘family, fun and fitness’.  So while we still try to cater for those athletes who are really good at their events, it’s for all ability levels.”

But while helping kids was important, Smith said the biggest challenge was securing more adults to fulfil key roles, especially being a non-for-profit organisation.

“It’s so hard to get volunteers,” the centre manager said, sharing a plight facing many sporting organisations.

“We have people who step up every week and it’s awesome.  But I don’t know whether it’s people are a bit scared or whether they’re worried that they don’t have the expertise.

“We always say come down and put your hand up.

“We are all new at some point, all have to learn the ropes, so come down and give it a go.”

As a teacher, Smith enjoys working with others.

“My big role this year has been upskilling our new committee members,” she said having benefited from years of experience passed on to her by Ipswich centre predecessors like Ann Bell.

“We’ve got some older committee members there and we don’t want to lose all their knowledge.

“Ann passes on a lot to me and I’ve got to now try and make sure the other people have got that knowledge as well.”