White Currants

Swimming, especially as school sport seems to be the white currant of sport. To explain, there are black currants, red currants and white currants, we all can buy the red currants, know the black currants from jam, cheese cake and juice but the white currants are hardly known. In the school sports world, here in London, swimming is hardly known to exist.

What really is important to introduce swimming as a sport to schools and having looked at the Sport England Website, they have some very good headlines like: “Swimming – Health benefits proven“, Core market – people who already play sport are hugely valuable”, “Local delivery“.

For school sport however, here in Greater London especially, there is no funding available for schools to make it a permanent feature as a school sport. Primary schools get funding for 2 years to take primary kids to swimming once per week for 45 minutes. It is actually enshrined in British law that school must teach children to swim.

Madison, who attends secondary at Bishop Challoner Girls now gotten taken swimming for one half term, that is around 6 sessions for 1 hour each per year. Madison’s PE teachers think she is not athletic enough to be put into the set 1 for PE ‘because she is only a swimmer and that is not a school sport’. [sic]. Though her school is very supportive of her swimming club lessons, starting at 6am on some mornings.

All the swimming that Madison does with her swimming club is privately funded. Parents have to pay for club membership, for ASA membership, competitions and travel there, costumes and equipment are also dear. Parents even need to volunteer to keep the clubs running, to man competition officials. For being an official parents even have to purchase their own stop watches and whites to wear and other equipment. often at competitions it is hard to get the core amount of officials needed to run the competitions.

I think that structurally swimming is chronically under-funded.

Perhaps this has to do with the fact that especially in London schools usually do not have pools inside the school compound.

Swimming has become a private sport that has to be financed with money that people earn and is manned with swimmers whose carers/family can afford to bring them to lessons, especially when they are younger.

As already mentioned in the previous post top coaches earn a good salary that an average club cannot afford. Swimming generally gets funded by lottery money or many athlets depends on GLL funding, clubs depend on the hugely important Jack Petchey foundation.

British swimming has established two British Swim Centres in Loughborough and Bath, four top coaches are employed to train there and coach Olympic teams but London, that actually has the Olympic pool has no such scheme; we merely have a Beacon program.

The Beacon program is a huge and very important step forward to get competitive swimming established and furthered in all regions of Britain. London’s Beacon program is delivered by the LACPP at the London Aquatics Centre. With the UEL running the LACPP and top coaches’ careers being at jeopardy at present because of a funding problem, we are really on edge about the future of our swimming club.

I do understand that UEL and Swim England are currently negotiating the situation and I have no complete insight how the funding works but obviously from the £100.000 Lottery funding that Sport England gives the UEL to run LACPP over 4 years, (according to the Minister for Sport), there is a doubt that the coach, who delivers the Beacon program and excellently so, can stay in post because of a lack of funding.

Swimming is chronically underfunded. In school sports’ teachers minds, swimmers are not atheltic and the ethos of swimming seems centred around those who are already famous and made it to the top. 84900739_84900738We all love Adam Peaty. But getting there literally needs years and years of almost daily training and when at the top often training twice per day. Adam is extremely athletic.

To get swimming more widely established, schools should get funding to make swimming a school sport as it would cut the health care costs that the NHS is so worried about. So the government should fund more  swimming in schools as they would save the money on NHS costs.

Parents are already investing a large part of their salaries into the swimming sport of their children, many parents simply do not have the money at all to allow their kids to swim as a sport. Recently, through cut-backs, some local councils stopped funding their local swimming clubs and that has a huge effect on clubs. Many club coaches have to work during the day and coach in the evenings to help kids into competitive swimming, they all do their utmost.

Swimming is probably the most undangerous sport that has the most health benefits and should make Britain a healthier nation, so the Sports Ministry should invest more into it.

I also think that swimming club membership keeps children off the streets and helps reduce crime.

 

 

 

 

On balance…..

There are several parts of a successful swimming environment:

  1. The team
  2. the coach
  3. the pool

Neither of those three can function to full fruition without the other. There is a fourth part that has not been mentioned and that is the facility environment. I would love to see the London Aquatic Centre being made a British National Centre for Swimming. It is the ideal Competitive environment and simply asks for British Swimming to make it the third British National Centre besides Bath and Loughborough.

I am fighting tooth and nail for this to happen.

Current plans to downgrade the LACPP to a learn-to-swim facility with a Development Squad simply cannot have been properly thought through.

I am currently lobbying the Minister for Sport to get involved and avoid a national scandal around the use of the London Aquatics Centre.

An Olympic Pool is the ideal place to coach an Olympic team or part thereof.

A beautiful pool alone doesn’t make champions, it is the whole buzz around the facility that spurns swimmers on to do better.

One can see quite easily that since training with LACPP Madison has achieved a greater improvement rate than with her previous club. Click on any of her recent Personal Best Times on her records and see how the improvement curve becomes steeper since July 2016, when she first started swimming with LACPP.

Angharad Evans achieved record speeds in the national arena after having trained regularly with the LACPP team and the national coaches there.

The presence of such wonderful swimmers like Aimee Wilmott, Michael Gunning, Jarvis Parkinson and others have a great part to play in the desire to swim faster. If that top set of swimmers is no longer there then the biggest assets of the pool are missing.

There are many great British clubs who regularly participate in British Championships without having a permanent 50m pool to train in, just to mention Chelsea and Westminster and Camden Swiss Cottage, Barnet Copthall to name a few. Hackney Aquatics now has swimmers in the national summer champs. Such teams only train a couple of times per week in a 50 m pool. It is because of their team spirit and presence of long-standing swimming aces, that these clubs achieve so much.

The LAC has the ability to make the pool the greatest national swimming legacy by training national swimmers and Olympic swimmers there. But to ‘only’ use an Olympic pool for learn to swim and development sessions is a travesty.

We’ll consider our options if Swim England and UEL decide to down-grade the club because I think swimmers swim faster if they swim with other fast swimmers; fast championship swimmers in 25m pools are faster than leaner swimmers in 50m pools.

The club is it

After long and laborious deliberations whether or not to change club, it was decided to stay at the LACPP. It isn’t so bad after all.

Sometimes it helps a lot of look around though and go through the motion of the fictional change, calculate travel time, look at training schedules and see how that would work with the usual routines.

Changes can be dramatic when changing club. Madison was at her first club for 7 years and recent uncertainties at our new club led us to seek out other clubs but what the heck, why change things that do not need changing.

We could not wish for a better coach, we could not get a better pool, we could  not get better training.

It is just much easier if a swimmer qualifies for the top tournament and goes on tour to swim with a team, like the European Champs, World Champs or Olympics; then one doesn’t need to ponder which club to swim with at all. Instead we just amuse ourselves with the achievements of others and dream to do better next season.

Ultimately all a competitive swimmer wants to do is to swim faster and looking at the Personal Best Times should be the best reward possible.

If PB’s seem to stall then a change of club could be a solution but in our case, Madison has had a lot of PB’s since joining the LACPP and made a lot of progress.

It’s always good to keep the important objectives in mind and not to get lost in little frustrations. Things like rumours or assumptions coupled with insecurities can make a  person think another club would be better.

Especially smaller children can often admire other clubs that seem happier or better organised and moan that ‘they get the sweets and we don’t’ but nice looking pictures are not everything. Happiness is our fulfillment in our achievements and trying to strive to the ultimate best time.

Stability

One of the most important considerations for me as parent is the factor of stability. Swimming was always meant to be an enhancement to the growing up process, a sport that helps improve school results and learning rather than be an alternative to education.

Children’s lives these days are marked out till at least they are 18, Nursery, Primary School, Secondary School, A-levels. University, Job.

Whilst for school we get the time-table at least 1 year ahead, we know what is expected of a pupil at all times, we can normally fit our swimming routine in with the education and group our social life around this.

During Madison’s early swimming years, she was a member of Bethnal Green Sharks and I now start to appreciate how important the stable running of that club was to us. There were always the same teachers, the schedule would never change, for years and years, we could rely on it.

We then changed to LACPP and were given a totally different routine and we managed to adhere to this as well. We were given competition schedules, great, another thing to put into the diary and something we could plan ahead for.

What is happening now is that suddenly we got an e-mail saying that the future of the club is uncertain. I got e-mails saying, “We hope you can bear with us during this difficult time”.

But there is not even a hint of when we are going to get a schedule, apparently it all depends on negotiations between Swim England and the UEL.

Yet as a parent I kind of would like to know that our time-tables and swimming schedules  and competition schedules are guaranteed for the coming year.

Unfortunately this is not yet the case. I am trying to explain why I now start to panic and ask for trials with another club that seems very stable and has great training routines and excellent swimmers, who also participate in regional and national competitions.

Considering that both our lead coaches are rumoured to be leaving the LACPP as well and we do not even know what coaches we are going to get and there are only rumours that there are going to be reduced training hours for the top squads without again providing for land training, it seems quite logical that I want to look for another club.

For smaller swimmers it might not be so impacting on their lives that some things are uncertain but for Madison who has to choose her GCSE subjects next year and start to learn for a tougher GCSE schedule than ever, we just cannot afford any more instability.

It was worth it

Considering Madison had premium one-to-one sessions and exclusive small group top quality training during her time at LACPP, I think the time and money spent on the fees was well worth it; even despite the fact that during the last 12 months we only had about 6 land training sessions.

Even though I soon can mothball the expensive LACPP kit because we are changing club, the experience and skill improvement is something that is going to stay for the rest of Madison’s swimming career.

It is a great shame that the club sort of collapsed and a long-term membership is no longer feasible for lack of any type of contingency. I just can’t plan ahead without a plan. There are no plans beyond July and we are looking at another club that seems to be the happiest club I can find.

We’ve asked for a trial and if successful will soon let you know which club we are going to join. But this time I won’t spend £125 on the club kit straightaway, it will be the t-shirt only and then we’ll see how long it is going to last.

I think it is important to stay on the lookout for the best training opportunities and rather change club than stay at the same one out of habit.