How did it start?
Track Academy was founded by Commonwealth Games Triple Jump Bronze Medalist Connie Henry. She has designed it to be a programme that provides children with a positive alternative from a life in gangs, drugs, crime or complete lethargy. Offering sports activities, mentoring and study support, the Academy hopes to bridge the gap between sport and how it can be used to motivate a young mind to believe it can achieve in other areas.
At first, in 2007, Connie just wanted to create a simple athletics training squad. She contacted her colleagues from the world of international athletics and put together a group of coaches that were unmatched anywhere in the country when it came to coaching junior athletes. This was known as the Willesden Junior Athletics Squad (WJAS).
However it soon became apparent that the young people walking through the door needed a lot more than just athletic coaching. The coaches were spending more and more time mentoring their athletes and the balance became unworkable. It was clear that some mentors needed to be brought in. Soon the obvious need for some study support was also identified.
All this extra support began to take a toll on the Director Connie Henry and the small community organisation of WJAS. After frantically searching for help there was still not enough funding for the project or hours in the day for one person to run it all. In 2010 Connie Henry had made the painful decision to shut down the WJAS as she could not sustain the responsibility anymore.
At this point the West London Sports Trust, a charity established to help young people through sport, approached WJAS to create a partnership. The Trust were looking to revamp itself and go London wide and it was impressed by the statistics and results that WJAS had both on and off the track. Both projects were retitled in order to reflect their true goals. West London sports Trust became The London Sports Trust and Willesden Junior Athletic squad became Track Academy.
Together the two organisations were able to secure enough funding not only to sustain the activities of WJAS but to help them flourish as Track Academy. The official Launch of Track Academy was on May 23rd 2011.
Track Academy will always be indebted to the London Sports Trust and its Director Ulick Tarabanov for believing in its goals and helping it though its most difficult time.
Special mention also goes to Beverly Reid who backed WJAS by putting her name to the fledgling community group and to Pat Fitzgerald of Thames Valley Harriers Athletic Club for his endless hours of support.
Track Academy is now a well structured, stable, Community Interest Company, with a great track record of changing the lives of hundreds of young people.