Little Athletics evolved, like most voluntary community organisations, through the mind and conscience of one man. Trevor Billingham (now deceased) followed the pattern set by many pioneers in the field of community service. He recognised a need and introduced an idea designed to meet that need.
On an October day in 1963 three boys turned up at an athletics meeting in Geelong. They were ready to compete. On approaching an official they were told that they were too young to take part. That official was Trevor Billingham.
The disappointment, evident in the boys, left a marked impression on his mind.
The thought was forgotten; it came alive again several months later. At a coaching clinic designed for secondary school students it was noted that the majority of children were of primary school age. Reminded of his earlier experience, Trevor Billingham had an idea. The answer to the need expressed in the children would be a simple Saturday morning competition.
On the first Saturday of October 1964, he met with a small group of children on a Geelong oval. They took part in a short program of running events.
From that simple beginning, athletics for boys and girls under the age of 12, developed at a phenomenal rate. Little Athletics created tremendous interest; by 1967 the Victorian Little Athletics Association was formed.
It was not long before Little Athletics spread to other parts of Australia. In 1968 the Randwick Botany centre was commenced. Behind the scenes Dick Corish was the driving force in starting Little Athletic s in this state. He worked quietly and efficiently from 1967 after he had decided that it was time NSW followed Victoria’s lead. The centre was soon firmly established.
Just prior to the commencement of the 1970/1971 Track and Field season moves were made to establish more centres, and from October 1970 to January 1971 inclusive, competition was commenced at Blacktown, Sutherland, Eastern Suburbs, Deniliquin, Murrumbidgee (Narrandera/Leeton), Manly Warringah and Hornsby.
An interesting observation from the First Annual Report in regard to the above centres, reads “all of these centres, with the exception of Manly Warringah, which may still need a little supporting, are now firmly established………” (Manly Warringah is now one of our largest centres in NSW with over 600 registrations each season).
The Little Athletics Association of NSW formed on 8th December 1970 at a meeting at the Randwick Botany Club where a steering committee was appointed. After the acceptance of the constitution in February 1971, the general meeting decided that the steering committee should carry on the duties of the Board of Management until the Annual General Meeting in June 1971.
Under the chairmanship of Mr C D Hensley, the steering committee elected was: – Mr Lee Irvine (Blacktown centre); Mrs Winter & Mr W Kitchen (Eastern Suburbs centre); Mr A Konnecke (Manly Warringah centre); Messrs H Liu, R Singleton and F Smith (Randwick Botany centre); J Cook (Sutherland centre) with the Honorary Treasurer Mr J O Freeman and the Honorary Secretary, Mr G Soper.
Some of this committee, for various reasons, fell by the wayside but valuable assistance was received from: – Mr A McCann (Randwick Botany centre); Messrs R Hill and P Carment (Eastern Suburbs centre); Mr P Shinnick (Blacktown centre) and A Blundell.
The members elected Mr RO (Dick) Healey MP (Dec), President at it’s meeting of June 18, 1971. Mr Healey was the President until July, 2000.
No records were kept of our registrations for the 1970/1971 season, but an estimate of 2,800 athletes is recorded in our second Annual Report.
Expansion was the feature of the organisation’s achievements during the 1971/1972 season, evidenced by total registrations of 6,424 within 18 centres.
By the 1972/1973 season we had 11,365 registrations in 35 centres.
Little Athletics NSW now has approximately 36,000 members each year, who participate on a weekly basis at one of around 190 centres across the state.
Over 1 million children have now enjoyed participation in Little Athletics in NSW since its inception.