Little Athletics evolved, like most voluntary community organisations, through the mind and conscience of one man. Trevor Billingham 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. The official was Trevor Billingham.
The disappointment, evident in the boys, left a marked impression on his mind.
The thought was temporarily 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 primary school age.
Reminded of his earlier experience Trevor Billingham has the germ of an idea. The answer to the need expressed in the children would be a simple Saturday morning competition.
On the first Saturday of October 1974, 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 12 developed at a phenomenal rate.
LITTLE ATHLETICS WAS BORN… AND ON THE MOVE
Little Athletics created tremendous interest. By 1967 the Victorian Little Athletics Association was formed and within five year there was an Australian Little Athletics Union (formed 31/3/72). The Union was formed to coordinate the activities of all state and Territory Associations.
NEW SOUTH WALES
In 1967 the Randwick Botany Centre was commenced. Behind the scenes Dick Corish was the driving force in starting Little Athletics in this state. He worked quietly and efficiently from 1967 after he decided that it was time NSW followed Victoria’s lead. The Centre was soon firmly established.
Just prior to the commencement of the 1970/71 Track and Field season moves were made to establish more Centres and October 1970 to January 1971 inclusive, competition was commenced at Blacktown, Sutherland, Eastern Suburbs, Deniliquin, Murrumbidge (Narrandera/Leeton) Manly Warringah and Hornsby.
The Association was formed on 8th December 1970 at a meeting at the Randwick Botany Club where a Steering Committee was appointed. After the acceptance of the Association’s 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, comprised: Mr Lee Irvin (Blacktown Centre); Mrs Winer and Mr W. Kitchen (Eastern Suburbs Centre); Mr A Konnecke (Manly Warringah Centre)l 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. Carmen (Eastern Suburbs Centre); Mr. Peter Shinnick (Blacktown Centre) and A. Blundell.
NSW TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
The First NSW track and field championships was held at Hensley Athletics Field in March 1971 and were opened by Mr. R.O Healey MLA, President of the Little Athletics Association of NSW.
The Championships attracted 1,331 entries for individual events and 62 entries for relays.
Entries were restricted to three per event from each Centre and the Blacktown, Denilliquin, Hornsby, Manly Warringah, Eastern Suburbs, Randwick Botany and Sutherland Centres all strongly supported the Championships. Events were held in the Under 7 to Under 12 age groups. Randwick Botany was the most successful Centre gaining 811 points, Hornsby second with 441 points and Blacktown third with 290 points.
In the Under 12 boys, Michael Whitney gained 1st place in the long jump and second placings in the high and triple jumps. (Michael went on to represent his State and Country in cricket)
In the Under 11 girls, Beverly Wilkins won the 800m walk. (Beverly went on to represent Australia in the Commonwealth Games as a walker.)
The first interstate meeting took place in Melbourne 1970. Randwick Botany had enquired whether their athletes could compete in the Victorian Championships or if it would be possible to arrange a match with one or two Victorian Centres.
On March 25, 1970, Western Australia and NSW competed against Victoria in an U12 Interstate match at Olympic Park in Melbourne. The team was a mix of U11 and U12s.
On April 4, 1971 after only four months in existence, LAANSW hosted a very successful Interstate Meeting at the Hensley Athletics Field.
The Australian Little Athletics Championship (ALAC, previously known as the Interstate Meeting) is still held every year hosted by each State on a rotational basis.
GROWTH OF THE ASSOCIATION
No records were kept of our registration for the 1970/71 season but an estimate of 2,800 athletes is recorded in our Second Annual Report.
Expansion was the feature of the Association’s achievements during the 1971/72 season, evidenced by total registration of 6,424 within eighteen Centres.
They surpassed 10k registrations in 1973, 20k in 1978 and 30k in 1983. For the next 37 years, the numbers generally remained between 30k and 40k. The peak year was 41,557 in 2013. A trend was a boost in regos post each Olympics.
Similarly with the number of Centres, they first surpassed 100 in 1979, 150 in 1983 and 200 in 1995. Since then they have hovered around 200 Centres, peaking in 1997 with 2007 Centres.
The first Annual Conference of the LAANSW was held at the Oceanic Hotel, Coogee in August 1972.
The Little Athletics Association of New South Wales became incorporated on 19th January 1988.
Compiled by material from Jim Arkins, Grahame Down, David Tarbotton & Graeme Allen