Guiding Principles

Image credit: ESAA archive

Richard’s words show that the initial aims of ESAA still hold good today. The simple aim of providing young people with opportunities to take part in athletics was agreed at the first meetings in 1925, where 13 county representatives met.

By 1928, the association was aiming to reach as many people as possible. It published a handbook, costing only 3 pence, in which it states its intentions, “to provide helpful advice to boys and girls on the principles and practice of athletics training and performance…information which will be of material assistance in the organisation and direction of sports’ meetings…to ventilate the aims and activities of the Schools’ Athletic Association”.

10,000 copies of the 1928 handbook were sold, 900 over the weekend of the championships alone, allowing anyone with three pence to gain access to top-level coaching from two Olympic gold medallists, Douglas Lowe and Harold Abrahams, and to details of the pyramid of competitions that were being put in place for pupils in schools.

Harold Abrahams was Olympic Champion in the 100m and could provide expert advice on sprinting.

Image credit: ESAA archive

In the 1928 handbook he suggests methods that could be tried in front of a mirror to monitor performance while sprinting. “The man or boy in training takes up his position at such a distance…as will enable him to see his whole figure in it. He then practises his sprint action, indulging in what I must call ‘stationary running’…the athlete should watch every detail of movement in the arms, legs and body. Be particularly careful that the head keeps perfectly still relatively to the trunk….After warming up for a few seconds, run all out as hard as you can for fifty strides or so. Keep a good body poise at the correct angle, and make your whole movement a controlled and compact one. you should not move outside an area of about a yard square. You will almost certainly find, when you first attempt this exercise, that there is a tendency to wander all over the room; but as better balance is acquired you will easily be able to confine your evolutions within a very small space. The feet should be raised about a foot [30cm] above the ground – there should be no kick behind.”