History in the making

The new LAC based swimming club is in the making and we are going to take part in the newly compiled competition schedule for next season.

What a priviledge, not only could Madison participate in the first and only level-3 age group the old LACPP hosted at the LAC with Newham on 13. October last year, with medals that must have extreme rarity value, but she will also be part of the new club that is being developed.

This is true Olympic legacy, history in the making and very significant for Madison that she can swim for the first independently run swimming club that operates at the LAC.

We can hardly wait to learn who the new coaches are going to be and what the next season’s competition schedule will be.

I am sure that many swimmers are going to watch this new development closely. This new club is the most exciting swimming club development in Britain today.

 

 

keeping up the momentum

Those 6 weeks holidays are the first year ever that we have had no club training for the whole of August. Kids are just used to being told what to do. But this year we are taking the initiative and get in some much-needed fitness.

All the progress we’ve made last season is going to be lost if Madison just spends the whole month out of the pool.

For younger swimmers it is harder to just go training by themselves. But just 1 hour each day is manageable at the moment and it keeps the momentum going.

I am not sure whether the coach was joking when he said: “Enjoy the time away from the pool”[sic]. Since when do coaches like to see their swimmers away from the pool?

Beware of jokes from coaches swimmers, they sure don’t mean it sometimes.

 

Not sure what to do?

Whenever I am in doubt about anything to do with swimming I only seek advise from registered swimming or club officials. Trying to talk to various other parents only helps to deepen the mystery and increases the amount of rumours that are in circulation about things.

Be rational, take a factual approach, use measured results, calculate outcomes on proven criteria and make a decision on that basis rather than on emotional grounds or on information you heard somewhere.

If you talk a lot to moaners you’ll get mainly negative feedback, if you talk to officials they usually are supportive and positive.

One problem that often can exacerbate a situation is the fact that parents can sit and watch all swimming training and sometimes feel bad about something. The biggest mistake a parent can make is to go on those emotions and have a word with the coach, who is just trying to conduct the lesson.

In schools, parents are not in the classroom and cannot watch the lessons, parents act on what they heard from children and need to talk to teachers after the lessons or to head-teachers upon appointments.

Try to use a distant approach with swimming coaches; just because you can see them all the time doesn’t mean you can approach them all the time whenever you feel like it. This is counter-productive.

The only time I approached coaches is when I could proof my point.

For example in swimming clubs kids get promoted to squads and usually their time is the trigger factor for promotion. I noticed that a coach promoted other swimmers despite my swimmer having had faster times in competitions. I complained about this and made a good impression and gotten the result I wanted.

Supporting your swimmer

For all  parents who come from a non-swimming background, the amount of time spent around the pool slowly increases with training intensity; this becomes more the older the swimmer gets.

Non-swimming and swimming lifestyles are quite different. I could also differentiate and say that sporting and non-sporting lifestyles are quite different. Yet with swimmers, you do spend a lot of time around the pool, which is a quite special environment.

By supporting my swimmer I don’t mean interfere with the coaching, at least if it is fair, but try to understand the frame of mind my swimmer is in.

The time needed for swimming training is considerable and takes large chunks of time out of each day. When teenagers have to do their GCSE exams and preparations for those, trying to juggle time to fulfil schooling and swimming training, requires exact tuning of every useful minute of the day. Even the sleep time has to be calculated to fulfil minimum requirements for a young person, who need more sleep than older people.

It took us several months to get used to a twice daily training routine with getting up at 4:30 to 5:00 AM twice a week. Of course I do not want to send my swimmer for early morning training without any breakfast.

My swimmer’s days are non stop activity-laden days without stopping.

  • Getting up, having breakfast
  • early morning training
  • school
  • homework
  • afternoon training
  • homework
  • sleep

Of course my swimmer talks about what’s happening during training but I as a parent do not want to get involved unless it is really necessary. In a good club parents do not have to get involved a lot in the training side of things in the sense of discussing what the coach should be training. Parents always want to ensure their child is safe.

  • Parents should get involved in voluntary roles within the club and help at competitions.
  • Parents should ensure that the swimmer gets healthy nourishment and the right equipment.
  • Parents should help or organise travel to and from training and competitions.

It is very rewarding to help enable a swimmer to reach their sporting potential and also help others rather than just your own child to compete. Getting to know the rules and enforcing them, gives a sense of fair-play throughout the sport.

Swimming is not necessarily adverse to academic achievement, there are many sporting careers that stem from swimming. Children can take sport GCSE or study sporting related medicine and sporting discipline at university. There are many careers in swimming related sports.

Swimming is never a lost cause and never a waste of time. Yet I strongly suggest that parents do not force their children to do swimming but rather find a sport that children really like. If it is swimming the better but if it is not, look at what is out there.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

The good people of Britain

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Keep calm and carry on
Keep calm and carry on

Just received a reply from the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, showing that my communications where not put before the minister but answered by a member of the Ministerial Support Team, telling me that Sport England invested £400.000,– of Lottery funding between 2015 – 2019 (this works out as £100.000,– per year).

Sport England works with the University of East London to make the program sustainable. This means they can’t spend what they don’t earn.

Running a swimming club is very expensive. A top coach receives around £60.000 per year in wages. The more swim classes, the more coaches you need. Of course learn-to-swim coaches are not quite so dear but the Living wage, goes up and up.

Some clubs, that do not receive any prop-up funding constantly scrape their financial barrels, kids are seen spending the weekends fund-raising.

Clubs which can manage better usually have rich sponsors, either because the Billionaire parents can afford to bolster their club’s spending or because a club is fortunate enough to get charity funding. Many clubs increasingly rely on Jack Petchey support.

Whichever way you look at it, fact is top performance needs top coaching but there are coaches who need to work in day jobs and who coach after work in the evening, sufficiently tired. Nevertheless it must be said that most coaches I ever dealt with where very passionate about their swimmers and always wanted their best.

I think here at LACPP, the future of the top-coaches is very uncertain.

I therefore invite anybody interested in supporting the future of the LAC as a National

Olympic Park
Olympic Park sign near the LAC

Swim Centre, which would attract funding for top coaches to approach Sport England about this. Now is the perfect time to achieve improvement for the LAC as things are getting settled at the moment.

It would be great for all local clubs, here to London to get the LAC as National Swim Centre because our local swimmers could continue to train locally if they make it to the top.

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.

@Repton for swimcamp

Today I delivered Madison to Repton school near Derby for the Mel Marshall swiminspiration Easter Swimcamp.

What a wonderful atmosphere greated us with Mel Marshall greeting all the young athletes and Grant Turner taking part in the warm up dance.

A way with words

Encouraging words, friendly gestures, smiles and favourite treats are often more effective than harsh shouting and commanding orders.

A helping of favourite fruit, nicely hand-cooked breakfast on a lovely plate brings a lot of cheer and can make the day.

I can shout at my child to get ready for school or say with a broad smile, that it is the start of a new day with many exciting things to learn and the way out of bed is much quicker and with a lot of expectation and wanting to participate in the day.

Sporting endeavours need a lot of support and patience and should always be encouraged with gentle and understanding encouragement rather than harsh and/or loud words that can bring a person over the edge and proof the needle that broke the camels back.

These are the things that pop into my head when I think about the bullying scandal in British Swimming.