Little Athletics logo
|Date||October to March|
|Event type||Junior athletics|
|Official site||Little Athletics Australia|
Little Athletics is an Australian activity program that involves modified athletics events for children aged 5 to 15 (or 16 in ACT, NSW, Qld and SA, U17 in WA). More than 100,000 young Australians competed in the sport in the 2013/14 season.
The competitions were founded by Trevor Billingham, a young Australian athletics enthusiast from Geelong, Victoria, in 1964. By 1967, there were more than 35 Little Athletics clubs in Victoria, and the decision was made to start the Victorian Little Athletics Association (VLAA).
Soon after the formation of the VLAA, other states expressed interest in Little Athletics. In February 1968, a year after the formation of the VLAA, Western Australia held its first Little Athletics meet at Perry Lakes Stadium. In 1972, the states of Victoria, New South Wales, Northern Territory and Western Australia became the founding members of The Australian Little Athletics Union (ALAU), which was formed in Perth. By 1974, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Queensland had all joined the ALAU.
Available Little Athletics events vary between age groups and from state to state. The following represents the range of events available.
|150 m (younger competitors)||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Sprint hurdles (distance depends on age)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|200 m hurdles (older competitors)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|300 m hurdles (older competitors)||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
|400 m (7 years and older)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|800 m (older competitors)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|1500 m (older competitors)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Race walk (distance depends on age)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|4 × 100 m relay||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|4 × 200 m relay (older competitors)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|4 × 400 m relay (older competitors)||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Medley relay (100 m, 100 m, 200 m and 400 m)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Swedish relay (100 m, 200 m, 300 m and 400 m)||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Road relay (distance depends on age)||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No|
|Javelin (older competitors)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Turbo javelin (younger competitors)||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|High jump (older competitors)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Multi-event (100 m, sprint hurdles, 800 m, long jump and discus)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cross-country (distance depends on age)||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
Structure and governance
Under the independent governing body Little Athletics Australia (LAA), each mainland state and territory has its own association, responsible for running Little Athletics in that state. Each state body controls the relevant centres and events in their state or territory. Clubs are the lowest level of the Little Athletics structure. Clubs are sections of centres, often have separate training sections and inform athletes of upcoming events.
In October 1963, three young boys turned up at a senior athletics meet in Geelong, Victoria. They approached official Trevor Billingham, but Billingham turned them away citing their youth as a reason for them not to be allowed to compete. A few months later, Billingham held a coaching camp for secondary school students. His camp had a lot of primary school students in attendance.
Billingham decided to set up a Saturday competition for younger children. The first competition was on 3 October 1964, in Geelong. Billingham had advertised the event in the Geelong Advertiser by saying:
"Also starting this Saturday, will be the special morning meeting for boys and girls. These will commence at 10:30 a.m. each Saturday and will be open to any school age competitor. It is intended that boys and girls not old enough to compete in the afternoon will take part in these special meetings. Anyone interested in the sport may attend, including parents, while the one-hour of athletics is conducted. All of the standard athletic events will be conducted and boys and girls will be graded in each event."
After the event, he wrote a one-page article titled "Junior Athletics in Wet Conditions", which appeared in the Geelong Advertiser on 5 October 1964. He wrote that more than 80 boys and girls attended. He also wrote that there was a considerable need for such junior athletic competitions at the time, that the event was a success, and more events of the same type were to be held in the future.
By 1965, Billingham had still not convinced the Geelong branch of the Victorian Amateur Athletics Association (VAAA). In January 1965, Billingham acquired lights for the Geelong senior athletics oval, Landy Field, which was also where the Little Athletics competition were. The lights were originally erected at Kardinia Park for the 1956 Olympics; Billingham asked the Geelong Football Club if he could use the lights, and they allowed him. Billingham invited Ron Clarke to the now lighted Landy Field to break the 20,000 meters and one hour run world records, and Clarke accepted. In January 1965, Billingham also thought up the name "Little Athletics"; previously the events had been called "Junior Athletics". He took his two proposals to the VAAA, and both were accepted.
Billingham was the sole preparer for the Ron Clarke visit. When Clarke came, he broke both world records and brought fame to the Geelong Centre of the VAAA at Landy Field.
Despite his success with Clarke, Billingham still could not get support for Little Athletics from VAAA; instead, they suggested he drop the junior competition and focus on the rapidly expanding senior one. One of the delegates, Jack Frewin, encouraged him to push through with his idea, so he published a notice in the Geelong Advertiser announcing that he needed to start a formation of Little Athletics clubs. There was a meeting of interested parents, and Billingham told them that he thought an organisation should be set up based on his experience from the seniors competitions but he need some parents to help him. On 27 November 1965, six clubs were formed. They were run by parents with Billingham as an overall manager. By the end of the 1965/66 season, more than 200 boys and girls were competing regularly across nine clubs, and more than 500 had tried out at least once. The first Geelong championships were held in March 1966 over the long weekend.
There was another meeting in March 1966. John McGlynn, an executive from the Ford Motor Company, suggested that there was a need to encourage other clubs from areas outside Geelong to start up. By September 1966, there were clubs in Geelong, Belmont, Newtown, Lara, Corio YMCA and St Thomas. They were all based around local high schools.
In May 1967, the Victorian Little Athletics Association (VLAA) was formed. By 1969, there were 39 clubs in the VLAA. The first Western Australian meet was in February 1968 at Perry Lakes Stadium. In March 1968, a Western Australian association was formed. Competitions in New South Wales started in October 1968. In 1972, the Australian Little Athletics Union (ALAU) was formed in Perth. Victoria, New South Wales, Northern Territory and Western Australia were the founding members. Tasmania, South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Queensland joined shortly afterwards.
In the 2013/14 season, Little Athletics had more than 100,000 athletes and approximately 500 centres. Every year, there is a national championship for athletes under 13 years old, in which each state has a team of its best athletes.
- "Little Athletics Australia home page". Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- History of Little Athletics
- "Little Athletics Victoria competition rules and regulations (page 30 & 32)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Altona Centre results (page 3)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "NSW state records (all pages)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Queensland relay records (all pages)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "South Australia state records (all pages)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "State relay results (page 15)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "2013 relay results (all pages)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Competition". Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Western Australian records (page 2)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Tasmanian field event specifications" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Tasmanian track event specifications" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "ACT 2013/14 season records (all pages)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "ACT relay records (page 1)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "LAAas Structure". Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics History". Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Early History (page 7)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Early History (page 2)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Early History (page 2)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Early History (page 8)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Early History (page 9)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Early History (page 9 & 10)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Early History (page 10)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Early History (page 11)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Early History (page 14)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Early History (page 21)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "Little Athletics Early History (page 19)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- "ALAC information". Retrieved 21 July 2014.
- Vojdinoski, Clint (25 July 2014). "Little Athletics Australia gets on board with Jetstar". Sports Business Insider. Archived from the original on 31 July 2014. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
- Little Athletics Australia, includes links to individual state associations