Decisions to make are:
- where to hold club meetings and workouts
- what day (days) in the week to hold regular meetings and/or workouts
- what time of day (i.e., after work or Saturday mornings?)
- what type of walking program to offer, fitness or competitive or both
- how to provide variety and maintain motivation
The simplest way of recruiting membership is to affiliate with a sponsoring organization. Many national and local companies are willing to sponsor walking clubs for their employees and sometimes for community members as well. Local "Y's", Parks & Recreation Departments, and senior citizen groups offer easy access to many potential members. Affiliating with a local running club also provides backing and resources that may not be otherwise available.
If you are starting a community club without any affiliation, the principal means of recruiting members is publicity. People need to know where you meet, how often you meet and what you offer. There are several approaches to publicity:
: Make contact with the appropriate staff writers of your local newspaper(s) and ask to have your activities listed in the community calendar; encourage a reporter to do a feature article on the founding group and offer reasons why the article would be of interest to readers; send notices of all news worthy club events (including race results) to your targeted contacts.
: Create flyers about your club to put in sporting stores, health food markets, libraries, and the like. Have a business card made up for members to hand to walkers they encounter while working out, or participating in community walks.
FREE WALKING CLINICS
: Offer to put on free walking clinics at community events, schools, and charity bazaars. If an organization is sponsoring a run, ask if they will include a walking clinic and fitness walk. It's extra money for them. Be sure that your club name is always prominently displayed, that members wear club shirts and have sign up sheets and handouts.
: Putting on a community walk is a major endeavor if you are in a big city. However, if you live in a well defined community, or town, the procedures are not hard to learn and the promotional possibilities for the club are great.
- club name, logo and T-shirt
- club bulletin or newsletter
- club business meeting - monthly or quarterly
- weekly (or more) workouts
- club informational packet for promotion
- club treasury and bank account
- special activities
- club business card
- central phone with answering machine for people wanting to receive club information.
Every handout, every media submission, every club bulletin or letter should have the name and address of your club, where and when you meet, and a phone number for information. It is best to meet regularly and at the same location. It is easier for outsiders to remember that the XYZ club meets on Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m., in a specific place.
: A club newsletter serves a dual service. It promotes club activities, and it excites the interest of non members. Moreover, it networks the membership and maintains the interest of those who go inactive due to conflicting schedules. It does not have to be fancy. It can be one or two pages, include a calendar of upcoming events, report on past events, and give news of members. Many note birthdays and welcome new members.
STRUCTURING A CLUB
The structure of a club depends on the founders, at least initially. Later, when the membership grows, there may be reasons to make changes. Changes are likely if the club expands and becomes involved in many varying activities and commitments.
: Frequently, the early founders of a club simply want to get a walking program going, and assume responsibility for the basic decision making, membership recruitment and finances. They usually are primarily interested in fitness and want to avoid "politics".
There are many clubs that are run by one person or a few persons. This arrangement may be acceptable to the majority of the club membership if they are basically satisfied with the programs offered. Many just want to walk and don't want more responsibility. The only problem is that as the club expands, it places a great deal of work on a few, and it may become necessary to delegate jobs to others. At this point, the question may arise about how jobs should be filled; i.e., by appointment of the founders, or by membership election.
Another major consideration is that when money is collected from membership dues and from club sponsored fund raising activities--the money belongs to the club, and the club should have a say in its use.
: A formally structured club has a Constitution and By-Laws. The documents can be two pages or twenty-five, but their function is to formalize how the club is run. Local libraries have books on the how to's. Questions that need to be addressed are:
- club officers - when/how elected?
- duties of officers - division of responsibilities?
- standing committees (i.e., membership, hospitality, newsletter, special events, promotional, fund raising?)
- finances - club dues, how much? membership categories? renewal policy? where to bank? who signs checks? how expenses are to be incurred and paid?
- structure of meetings - monthly? bimonthly? quarterly? annual election meeting?
- election procedures?
All of these questions can be answered by simple, general sentences, or by elaborate and detailed paragraphs with sub paragraphs. The decision really depends on the expansion plans of the founders and club members.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
- Is your club to be a fitness racewalking club, a competitive club or mix both groups?
- What kind of program will you offer fitness racewalkers?
- What kind of program will you offer competitive racewalkers?
It is important to answer these questions when you are forming a racewalking club. If you offer both fitness and competitive racewalking, you are essentially offering two different types of programs. This requires more planning and supervision. Both groups should be taught the same technique, but the fitness walkers will be looking for variety and social fun.
After a while, they will not be motivated by improving technique and speed. Competitive walkers, on the other hand, will be interested in the challenges of becoming faster and in goal oriented training. Their motivation comes in racing.
If you decide you want to combine fitness and competitive racewalking in your club, you will need to have some support from others. You will need an instructor for the fitness group and another instructor for the competitive group.
The purpose in forming a club is to create a "family" spirit even if the membership is divided between fitness and competitive walkers. Ways of doing this are:
- Have one regular location for a weekly workout (i.e., a track, a measured loop in a park, or in a parking lot.
- Start and end the workout with all walkers doing a stretching warm up and cool down together. Club announcements can be made at this time.
- Encourage support and participation in each other's activities.
Workouts with competitive walkers are similar to those for runners. Your club can offer one or two coached workouts a week according to long-range training goals. Workouts can consist of technique analysis and drills, interval and fartlek speed work, ladder workouts, or distance training. Coaches can assign different workouts according to abilities so that each walker does his/her own workout under the coaches supervision. Records of all club workouts can be kept by the coach to stimulate interest and commitment. At times, it may be more satisfactory to divide into beginning, intermediate and advanced groups when support personnel makes this possible.
As the competitive walkers begin their workouts, the fitness racewalkers can workout according to a monthly or seasonal plan of their walk leader. For example, twice a month, the fitness walkers can workout with the competitive walkers staying to the right of a park path or in the outer lanes of a track . On these days, workouts can include 10-15 minutes of technique work and mobility drills after the warm up. On the alternate two workouts, the instructor can lead measured walks through the park or community to add variety. Fitness walkers should be encouraged to log in the distance they have done at the end of each workout.
INCENTIVES FOR COMPETITORS
Competitive racewalkers need to be given opportunities to compete. Club Predict-A-Mile races are fun and allow all walkers (fitness & competitive) an equal chance of getting a "prize". The winner is the one who comes the closest to predicting how long it takes him/her to walk the mile. Two mile or 5K races can be held with the walker closest to predicting his/her finishing time receiving recognition.
Another way of giving incentives is for walkers to receive gold seal, silver seal, and bronze seal certificates as recognition for time improvements. For instance, a bronze seal can be given for a 12 minute mile, a silver seal can be given for an 11 minute mile, and a gold seal for a ten minute mile. Time standards will need to be adjusted for age. Women may need to be have their competitive confidence nurtured as part of their self-improvement.
Competitors should also be encouraged to enter community competitions. Frequently, weekend runs will have racewalk divisions and give awards depending on the number of entrants. There is nothing like winning a medal or trophy to fuel interest. Also, there are regional and national racewalking championships for all ages.
Information on youth, open and masters competitive racewalking programs can be obtained through U.S.A. Track & Field, the National Governing Body for Long Distance Running, Track & Field, and Racewalking. USATF 58 regional associations bring the sport directly to its member clubs and athletes. To connect with your association, write or call USATF, P.O. Box 120, Indianapolis, IN 46206. Telephone 317-261-0500.
INCENTIVES FOR FITNESS WALKERS
Incentives for fitness racewalkers also come in achieving goals. Certificates or medals can be given for distances walked; i.e., 100, 200, 300 miles. Or walkers can pick a city in the U.S. as a distance to target, and a map on a cork board, or bulletin board, can be used to post their progress in increments of 25 or 50 miles. A Walk U.S.A. party can be held to celebrate the completion of the walks. Patches or T-shirt can be given at 100 mile intervals.
Again, the biggest incentive for fitness walkers is social. Many local events include fitness walks, and club organizers can plan nature walks, or city walks of interest.
Racewalking is a technique sport and requires practice. Because it is fun to do, people of all ages enjoy its exercise and form lifelong commitments. It is ideal if you, or someone in your club, is secure with the technique, but if no one is, the situation isn't hopeless. There are racewalking books and tapes available that can help with beginning and advanced instruction.
Some clubs use our racewalking manual "Introduction to the Technique of Racewalking" or "Walking Wisdom for Women" for instruction. The text of both provide an outline of study that can be used by a group. Besides teaching the technique, they give a series of good stretches and strengthening exercises appropriate for all ages. (These items are all available at the NARF Store
For additional information on the Foundation's resources, write or telephone us and we will help you in any way we can.