Decathlon legend Daley Thompson believes the sport needs to become more appealing to youngsters

Daley Thompson says athletics is “turning the corner” after a period “in the doldrums” but it has to be daring and appeal more to youngsters if it is going to keep its place as one of the nation’s most popular sports.

“Despite the success of London 2012, I think athletics has been in the doldrums for a while and not on people’s priority list like it once used to be,” he told AW this week.

“But hopefully it’s turning the corner. It has some great people and I’d love to see it take off.”

The 1980 and 1984 Olympic decathlon champion adds: “To do that, I feel it needs to change more and try to become more appealing to kids. I’m not an expert, but I see all these fun runners and wonder why we’re not getting more of them into clubs.

“When it comes to youngsters, they don’t have the same attention span as they did years ago. Kids who were happy to do sport for five hours a few years ago maybe prefer only 90 minutes or so today.

“I sometimes see kids at a track being coached and I think ‘why is that bloke talking to all those kids while they stand in about two degrees when all they want to do is run around? It’s too formal, too stuck in its ways and it has to change – although that applies to any sport and not just athletics.”

He continues: “We’ve got to drag the kids into the sport and make it as much fun as possible. Then, once we get them to a certain depth and level, we can expose them to the harder training.”

» This is an extract from an interview with Daley Thompson published in the February 5 edition of AW magazine which is available to order here or read digitally here

» Daley Thompson was speaking at training day hosted by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation ahead of the Vitality Bath Half Marathon. The race is now sold out, but Laureus still have limited fundraising places available – visit www.laureus.com/run