Athletics: The National Athletics Track in Thimphu is buzzing with excitements.

It is 9am. Some 160 students from 15 different primary schools in Thimphu have gathered at the ground to take part in the kid’s athletic programme.

Two students from Pelkhil School are busy discussing their strategies for their next event with their friends.

“Speed must be the key,” says one. “Our school is losing. We need to gather more points.”

In the next group, hurdles and sprint is the event. A student suddenly falls, fumbling over the hurdle. The lead is so lost. Her group encourages her to get up and finish the run. They win the round in the end.

Organised to promote grassroots level athletics among children aged 7 to 12, Bhutan Amateur Athletics Federation (BAAF) conducts kid’s athletic programme twice a year.

The initiative is in line with the federation’s strategic plan to promote and develop kid’s athletics programme in primary schools throughout the country.

The kit used for the programme includes athletic equipment such as hurdles, javelins, shot put and discus all made up of soft materials ideal for kids. The kits were donated by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Today, BAAF has successfully distributed the kits in all the 20 dzongkhags to conduct similar programmes.

BAAF president, Tsewang Rinzing, said that the age group of 7 to 12 is the primetime to help develop a child’s motor skills and also to generate interest in athletics.

Tsewang Rinzing said that in order to generate quality athletes in the country, training must begin from a very young stage. “We have the potential among our children. All they need a proper training and right guidance.”

He added that today most of the athletes are trained only after they cross their teenage. “Currently we are selecting our best from the worst. We need to change this and produce best from the best to compete internationally,” said Tsewang Rinzing. “If we want our athletes to win medals from the international competitions, we need to start from now.”

The kid’s athletic porgramme that began in 2004 was materialised only when the federation managed to train their coaches including some physical education teachers in schools. Although the shortages of trained coaches are still a concern for the federation, achievements in the national level have been improving over the years.

“The most important thing for us is that we receive equal support from parents and teachers to encourage students to take up athletics,” said Tsewang Rinzing.

Athletics, as a mother of all sports, is also a preventive measure to stop our youth from taking up unhealthy practices said Tsewang Rinzing. “A child is kept mentally and physically fit if they are into sports. Ultimately our aim is to produce better citizens.”

Zilnon Namgyelling Lower Secondary School came first in the event followed by Kuensel Phodrang LSS. Dr Tobgyel School came third.

The event was conducted to celebrate the 61st Birth Anniversary of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

Younten Tshedup