Being a dedicated marathon runner, sport in general and running in particular have helped me to establish contact with people in most of the places where I have been, and to bring me to many of these places. My work in 2010 and 2011 as a coach of a group of distance athletes in Laos (and an Australian runner and vet that joined the squad there) have ended by bringing me to Darwin, in Australia. But the true is that at this moment I live here, where I work as a development officer of Athletics Northern Territory. Of course Australia is not what many would denominate a ‘developing country’ and the situation here is obviously very different to that where I have worked in the past. But given the relative low amount of people doing athletics in the territory, and the isolation in which many rural communities live in this part of the world, this job has many similitude with previous jobs in the development sector. And at the end of the day, sport is one of the most powerful tools to boost personal and community development, isn’t it?
The Athletics NT Development Program for which I am responsible aims to provide athletes from entry level to the age of 23 with the tools they need to advance their outcomes and realize their aspirations in athletics. Two key pillars form the backbone of Athletics NT’s Programme:
- Athletics Play and Active After School Activities designed to teach of the skills of running, jumping and throwing through organised play and game based experiences and aiming to bring excitement into playing athletics.
- The Development and Academy Squads, which are designed to recognise and select athletes with talent and potential in the sport and to support them and their coaches in their future development in athletics by organizing activities that include specific coaching clinics, workshops, training camps and assistance in the participation at Athletic events such as Australian All School Track & Field Championships, Australian Junior Track & Field Championships and Australian under 23 Track & Field Championships.
Sounds professional, doesn’t it? Well, my real deep motivation is to introduce kids in the territory to athletics, that they enjoy it and that it contributes positively to their personal development. The Northern Territory is huge (1,349,129 square kilometers), and getting to the different sites with associated clubs or where to implement this program is not easy. The vibrant capital city of Darwin, which has been hand-picked by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s top 10 cities to visit in 2012 is closer to Asia than any other capital city in Australia. And, Alice Springs, which has two club in the association, is on a 2 hour plane ride from Darwin. Other places that I will have to visit are Kathrine (just three hours ride from home) and Arnhem Land, which is located in the north-eastern corner of the territory and is around 500 km from Darwin. During my time in Peru, some young runners I trained with gave the nickname of ‘padrino rapido’ (fast godfather). But given the legend of the Flying Dutchman (a ghost ship that can never make port) looks like the story of my life (I also seem doomed to sail over the oceans forever) and that I may need to fly to do part of my job, I think soon I will get the nickname of flying coach-man (the name of Arnhem Land comes from how the explorer Matthew Flinders named the region after the Dutch ship Arnhem). By the way, and three weeks already after the Marathon of Amsterdam, I do not feel rapido or flying at all!!