The English Schools' Athletics Association will also (hopefully) have their centenary year in 2025. Despite foundings in 1925, including future royalty, a string of high profile sponsors and a period with the track and field championships live on Sky TV, the association is under threat, post Covid.
At SAAM, we are extremely grateful (during our own centenary year,) to all the dedicated volunteers, working tirelessly, to ensure ESAA can host a full championships this year in Manchester. Whilst last year's 'Covid' version of the championships, were still expertly put together and enabled Middlesex athletes Ann Oerlemans (JG200), Teddy Wilson (JB100), Zico Jones (JB300), Emmanuella Quaye (IG100), Nia Wedderburn-Goodison (IG200) to take national titles, there was something most definitely missing...
Our amazing sprint group took individual titles, but could not take part in the true athletics team event - the relays. No conversations of 'what might be' during team travel on our 70+ seater coach, two nights accommodation and meals together. No whole squad in the stands, buzzing at top level performances, supporting each other in the warm-up area and during the athletes parade (that memorable moment for those at the 2018 champs when Jak Mensah challenged everybody to lift the Middlesex banner, with a single straight arm!)
The ESAA Track + Field Championships are often described as 'the school Olympics' or as a vital stepping stone for future Olympians. The championships provide much more than the opportunity to display athletic prowess. For many, being away from home with a large, elite group, the two days of competition/three days of travel and accommodation are a taste of what might materialise: the life of the professional athlete. For all of those incredible athletes who do not make it to professional level, they still experience something the like of which, they may never experience again. Truly amazing, long-lasting memories.
This article by Chris Cohen CBE in Athletics Weekly, highlights the importance of the survival of the association and it's support of school athletics. Whilst the track and field championships may grab the headlines, ESAA organise support materials and advice, cup competitions in track and field and cross country for hundreds of schools. They also organise national championships for cross country, race walking and combined events and support county schools associations, such as ourselves, in our events. English Schools teams are selected, which in turn provide the country's best athletes a first experience, of competing on the international stage. All this outstanding work, by volunteers.
Middlesex athletes - read this article! In it, Reuben Arthur (ESAA JB100m Champion, 2011 - the champs on Sky Sports!) describes with such detail and passion, the essence of what it means to be an athlete at the track and field championships. How travelling with the best in your 'pond' and competing against the best in other 'ponds' can massively influence the rest of your life, whatever path the 'big fish' takes. A truly inspiring article, by an ex-Middlesex Schools' athlete.
Ex-athletes, please offer your public support to ESAA and their championships. Parents, coaches, athletes and officials, use any connections you may have to support ESAA this year and in finding commercial partners, to ensure their future. ESAA have a GoFundMe page, in order to raise funds for 2022, to ensure our athletes can benefit from travelling, competing and living together and experience what it means to compete at the highest level. However, ESAA and the championships, need much more than this to continue to produce these amazing experiences, for our very best.
Support ESAA! Save our Schools!