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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Why don't people join running clubs anymore?

Wayne, a keen runner wrote: "Why does the number of participants in any organised sport fall?
Because the sport fails to adapt and market itself with the changing times, the gyms are capturing a lot of the market of the physically active, there sporting teams people can get a great variety with less commitment required to a particular code.
The rise of sports centres that allow ad hoc teams to be formed by social groups for one off games or regular social games without the commitment to training that mainstream sports require I look at the harrier club i was involved with:
· not interested in runners slower than 5 min k pace,
· not interested in meeting at times that were more suitable for other runners looking to join the club,
· not interested in providing childcare,
· rigid and relatively unchanging
· I had people who were interested in harriers, but their rigidity lost them at least three new members,
· These people found more flexible people to train with.

I've seen people come and go from the club, the interest is there, to be active in some form of organized sport but a lot of it is now bypassing the major sports codes
If a lot of the clubs are like this then we will never recapture the halcyon days of running in NZ the talent is gone to other sports and more power to those codes and the people,
I haven't been able to find a running club in Auckland that meets my needs yet after nearly four years in Auckland."
Gary Moller comments:
While it is not just running club in NZ that have been on the decline for decades (Tennis clubs are an even more endangered species), it is a sad reality that running clubs are in serious decline in the face of stiff competition from other quarters. "Adapt or die"; the Darwinian rule of thumb applies perfectly to sports clubs.

About 15 years ago, I was devastated to learn that our home town's (Putaruru) running club had closed down out of lack of interest. This club produced no end of winning athletes over the years from the population of just 6,000. The head of the Putaruru club was also the President of Athletics NZ at the time. This was one of the first signals to me that all was not well in the world of running clubs. My new running club, Victoria University, which was a regional powerhouse during the 1970's slowly sputtered its way into oblivion, despite the best efforts of a hardcore of ageing die-hards. With its death death went a hundred years of history and tradition.

What is perplexing about what Wayne describes is this decline in running clubs is still happening when participation in marathons and half marathons is on a roll. Wayne does suggest the solutions if running clubs want to survive more than a few more years. To date, the clubs that have survived have done so by amalgamating with others; but this does not resolve the basic problems with lack of appeal to newcomers and poor retention strategies.

On the other hand; who really cares if running clubs die off? In the end, they are replaced by services that cater better for modern needs, some of which Wayne lists. People will go where the services that they need are provided. Where the service does not exist, some enterprising person will jump in and provide it.

I wonder what happens to the amazing collections of old trophies, photos and club records that many of these clubs have accumulated over the decades?
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