Sports

Kelowna Track Club merges with leaner Okanagan Athletics Club

Athletes like this Watson Road student can participate in track and field events with the Okanagan Athletics Club after the new club merged with the old Kelowna Track and Field Club. - Capital News file
Athletes like this Watson Road student can participate in track and field events with the Okanagan Athletics Club after the new club merged with the old Kelowna Track and Field Club.
— image credit: Capital News file

After nearly 30 years in operation the Kelowna Track and Field Club will cease to exist this season, paving the way for a new and more streamlined track club for local athletes.

The Kelowna Track and Field Club has merged into a new track club called the Okanagan Athletics Club. The friendly merger will allow the new track club to pay coaches and administrators and will breathe new life into a club that supports close to 100 athletes.

One of the biggest reasons for the change-over was the constitution of the old club which stated that it was a 100 per cent volunteer run club, meaning there could be no paid coaches.

That philosophy may have fit the times in 1983 when the Kelowna Track and Field Club opened its doors, but the executive of the club is looking to offer coaches at least some pay and moved to strike a new track club.

"Sports generally have become more and more professionalized with more options available to kids," said Pat Sima-Ledding, the founder of the Okanagan Athletics Club and a long time coach and executive member for the old club. "We want to be competitive with other sports and offer top level programming as well as something to offer recreational athletes. Our new constitution will allow us to have some paid positions and through that have more quality coaching and bring the club into this century."

To start the Okanagan Athletics Club will pay a head coach and a manager as it kicks off its inaugural season with the outdoor track season coming up in early April.

Sima-Ledding says they have been in touch with new and old members of the Kelowna club as the process to switch to a new club moved along.

She says there was full support from the existing executive and the new club has already created a wave of energy.

"With the new name and the new colours it brought  a new energy," said Sim-Ledding. "We've got a lot more parent volunteers stepping up. It's really exciting. I just found the last few years the Kelowna club was deteriorating with the lack of volunteers and commitment. I think the club was resting on the shoulders of about six people. They were giving everything but that's not realistic to demand of volunteers. Now we're on target to have higher membership numbers that we've had in the past seven or eight years."

The Okanagan Athletic Club will take over hosting of the annual Jack Brow Memorial Track and Field Meet which brings athletes from as far away as Australia to Kelowna each summer. It offers programs from athletes starting at age nine.

Registration is now open for the club. To contact the registrar email kelownatrack@gmail.com. There is more information at wwwkeownatrackandfield.com.

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