Putting a value on sporting achievement

One of my previous posts “Measuring sporting potential” has attracted considerable interest. I quite like it if people tell me their thoughts about my blog posts as it provides essential feed-back.

I think that spending care-free time is important for kids; like playing with friends, just enjoying days with family, swimming and racing with other swimmers.

Especially for younger children, care-free times are an essential part of growing up whether its playing with toys or counting ants in the garden, or whether its going to the pool and splashing about, it all helps to grow up and is very enjoyable indeed.

Yet children’s time is totally measured up by education strategies we have today. Every minute of the day gets measured and children have – by law now – have to spend a certain amount of time in education and by law now as well children have to follow an educational path until they are 18 years of age.

The freedom to drop out of education earlier has gone, the freedom to take a gap-year has also disappeared for most who cannot afford not to work or are at risk to lose all benefits if they do.

So the way young people these days spend the first 18 years of their lives is more or less strictly controlled by laws. In fact there is a value being put on this time of educational advancement. Children learn that time is money because they have to pay for university education and free education stops at age 18 with A-levels completion.

Those carefree early years disappear and in comes the harsh reality, the knowledge that time is money.

From that perspective it is, I think, totally acceptable to ensure that children get to learn that participating in a sport has value for them. Value can come in many guises:

  • Improvement to health
  • learning team work
  • becoming a professional sport star
  • feeling valued
  • positive memories

Children learn, that every minute they spend doing a sport, they cannot do anything else. So the time as they spend at it must have value for them and for their futures.

I read it on sports clubs Facebook pages that former members point out that the club time remains the best memory of their lives.

At some point paying for sporting activities can be quite expensive. Funders step in and offer assistance like GLL for instanceUK Sport or Sport England would support elite athletes for podium funding and some businesses provide extra support like free cars or the like.

I think that from a certain age parents need to communicate to their children that time is money and that sport can be a career as well as a great past time. The more time a child spends on doing a sport, the better they get, the more likely they are to get funding.

I think parents can reward their children for doing well at a sport as sports are a huge industry and even the GCSE curriculum offers sport as a qualification. Parents can reward children for doing well at their sport just as they can reward children for doing household chores.

Of course we should never entice children to do a sport for earning money but as it goes in today’s society money has to be earned and children need to learn that good performance leads to rewards.

Some parents give their children reward money for having good grades and good school reports so why not give them reward money for doing well at their sport as well?

Obviously businesses fall over themselves to use sports persons to promote their brands and naturally children soon catch onto the lucrative side of sporting activities.

Of course any reward schemes should never lead to hardship or suffering. Rewards can be hypothetical as well as real but measuring performance in monetary terms is a good lesson in evaluating performance.

For example I reward a regional qualification time with £50 but reduce the reward by £5 for missing a personal best time, that shows that making a gain but also loosing an advantage reduces an overall gain by a small amount. It is just another way of learning that there are setbacks as well as improvements. Any money actually awarded by a parent can be used for future education for example, e.g. if a child wants to study a sports related subject at university. That is only feasible if a child is very keen on sports and Madison is extremely keen.

Madison received GLL funding last year in the form of a membership that gives her free access to all GLL sports facilities for a year, that is worth a lot of money.

No one these days can afford to spend time idly or waste it as we just do not have that freedom any longer to do with our time as we please. Children are expected to be productive at all times; that might not be the best way but that is just the way it is.

 

Measuring sporting potential

medalsWe have hordes of medals and all those medals are no guarantee of future sporting success, they were gained in so-called low-level 3 meets.

What really determines sporting talent is the ability to get regional and national and international qualifying times.

But, when young, for example when a 10-year-old gets regional times, that does not mean they’ll always get regional times in the future.

When a 14-year-old doesn’t get regional times that doesn’t mean they won’t get them the following year.

I am drawing up a table now to measure improvement or decline.

A simple formula

financial reward for

Gaining regional, national times and medals. (Though medals do not pay as much as regional or national times).

financial penalty for

performing at less than a previous best time for each event.

So for example, go to a meet, do 9 events. If at worst the swimmer swims below previous Personal Best time that accrues a considerate financial penalty in terms of deduction from future earnings from medals or achieving target times.

However if the swimmer gains by getting a regional time, gains a medal but swims below PB in just one event, then there will be overall a financial gain.

How a parent does the math and what sums are involved will most likely depend on the spare cash available.

The more hopeful performance is, the greater the financial reward. If financial penalties keep mounting up then perhaps there is little point in training as intensely and it is time to concentrate on other, more rewarding activities, like trying to get all A*** in the GCSEs.

 

 

50/50

The New Year’s Gators meet was a half/half event for Madison. Half the events were Personal Best times and the other half was just not the best.

The hundred fly was the event, which was swum the most under the Personal Best already achieved since leaving London Aquatics Performance Program. PB: 1:22:33L swam in 1:27:42L.You can see how the performance graph sharply swings upwards.

The best result was the PB in the 50 Free, now 31:07 both long and short course. The long course gives 445 and short course 418 FINA points for the same time.

Long course 50 free record currently 23:67 = 1000 FINA points
Short course 50 free record currently 22:93 = 1000 FINA points

It is good to be part of the winning best performing club and the club having taken home the Gators trophy on the day.  See tweets from @HackneyAquatics at the side of the blog.

But having now swum a couple of meets with 5sc under the PB results in some events and being sent home from the Harrow Christmas Cracker for illness is something we are not accustomed to.

I suppose that both changing club and school does take its toll. Routines have been disrupted and the whole body and mind configuration has to be reset, I suppose that would affect anybody.

Also what affects Madison’s dip in some strokes is the fact that she now receives very good breaststroke training @HackneyAquatics. Amazingly Madison achieved the 100 breast County consideration time and though been accepted as one of the slowest entrants, it is a huge step for her.

I think that if a swimmer is reasonably good in 3 strokes but not at all good in one stroke, that will affect the overall performance. Madison has been short of regional times for most of her career. I tried a lot of things but now Madison’s breaststroke times start to improve and her changing her mindset to include breaststroke will affect the other strokes in the long run for the better.

It is very important that young swimmers get good in all the strokes and it is very worth sacrificing time results for that transition period, after all at 13 any swimmer has still years of successes to come.

Of course there is a swimmer who excels and specialises in one stroke and we all know who it is, a swimmer called Adam Peaty but he is exceptionally good at breast stroke; I suppose you need to be extremely good at one stroke to make a huge impact to make it worth concentrating on that one stroke alone. It is interesting to look at the stroke profile of a swimmer to see strength and weaknesses.

I am gobsmacked with HAC

Wow and wow again, I am almost speechless. I watched Hackney Aquatics training in the LAC on Tuesday mornings last year and the coach Richard Hall (Rick) always came across as a confidence booster. He radiates positivity and seems very in tune with his swimmers.

Many people invited us over the last year to join Hackney Aquatics and I always preferred the mainly 50 meter training at the LAC but the more I thought about the successes of other clubs who mainly train in 25 meter pools, the more I tended to follow those who wanted Madison to join Hackney Aquatics.

We did it, we are firmly now members of Hackney Aquatics and have been included in the coaching processes and without giving any details of it away, I must say that this is the best ever experience we’ve had.

Apparently Rick is a First Class BA Hons Sports Coaching, Level 3 Swimming Coach.

The atmosphere in this club is so wholesome.

People work together well, everybody is positive, competitions are planned well, training is superb and the whole package is just sublime. I am saying this after 10 years of swimming club experience.

From this perspective, Hackney Aquatics is run better than the LACPP was. What was missing in the LACPP and the LAC ACS is the club atmosphere. I think being in a club is very important for swimmers and parents alike.

Madison already seems happier than she ever was in the last 12 months.

Madison’s times have however steadily improved whilst at the LACPP and also in her most recent swim, she had some significant PBs. But, those swimmers with significant swimming successes whilst in LACPP last year were already superb swimmers with regional and national times when they had joined the LACPP.

Madison says she could be faster, she does still not have any Regional Times after 1 year of LAC only training and I am hoping that the superb coaching package of HAC and the excellent club will bring performance where it is needed.

Getting ready for the meet

On Sunday, Madison will swim for her first and last meet with Newham & UEL club.

Preparations centre around

  • how to get the home work done over that weekend
  • how many hours are needed for the meet
  • which foods are needed and how to nourish
  • travel time and arrangements
  • packing the bag for the meet
  • mental preparation
  • which races are swam
  • promoter’s conditions
  • study the accepted entries list

Luckily the BWF early county qualifier level 3 meet is in the London Aquatic Centre, which is one of our local pools. We can just take a local bus there and arrive within 20 minutes, we do not need to worry about parking either.

We see that entry in the LAC is now security screened, visitors are not allowed to bring drink or food in but swimmers are.

Swimmers always have their favourite snacks to use as pick-me-ups and preps before or between races. Most of the time in swimming meets, there is also not enough time between sessions to have a proper lunch. There are delays and if a meet goes on from 8AM till 5pm, swimmers need to find time to get useful nourishment.

This Sunday we’ll only have half a day, usually we stay the whole day. But if Madison swims longer distances we do less races altogether.

This Sunday it’s going to be 100 fly and 200 back.

The social aspect is also important beyond the just racing. Swimmers get to know each other over time and meet up at race meets. Swimmers who change clubs still see their friends at meets too. That is very enjoyable for the swimmers.

With the arrival of the LAC, local swimmers’ lives were quite affected. Before we had our local pool and suddenly that opportunity with the LAC arose.

New swimming arrangements were introduced and swimmers often commuted between their old club and the LAC Beacon schemes.

Luckily most local clubs are very sympathetic to swimmers and often allow seemless transitions between clubs, so that swimmers do not lose out on training times. Rules were changed that swimmers could be members in more than one club and have dual registrations, which is all very helpful.

From next week Madison will become a member at Hackney Aquatics. We already preparing for the week after this Sunday’s meet to train fully with the new club.

Swim England have this brilliant online system whereby swimmers best times get recorded on the data regardless of which club they swim for and that is very good. These days people move more often because of job or housing needs and also because the swimming club scene can change and have an impact on training needs too.

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.

Thurrock golds

Thurrock yesterday saw Madison smash her 100 freestyle PB by ~ 4 seconds to win gold and her 100 fly PB to win gold too.

In total Madison had 6 races and won 6 medals, 2 gold, 2 bronze, 2 place.

It was a 12-13 age group and Madison beat a strong field of older competitors to get

  • 50 free – 5th out of 26 competitors with 31:07
  • 100 fly – 1st out of 5 comp with 1:19:21
  • 100 back – 4th out of 18 comp with 1:17:37
  • 50 fly – 3rd out of 15 comp with 35:57
  • 50 back – 3rd out of 19 comp with 36:07
  • 100 free – 1st out of 18 comp with 1:07:57

The 100 freestyle win gives Madison 514 GB points, breaching the 500 mark for the first time. Madison improved her PB by ~ 4 secs. Full results

This was an aged 12-13 age-group and Madison was still 12 yesterday and won against older competitors, edging more closely to the regions top swimmers.

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.

No more excuses

Whilst I was sitting around, being a bit bored, a link from British Swimming to the ‘progressive age-group records‘ came up.

I saw, to my total amazement that Francesca Halsall actually achieved her first recorded British age-group record on this list aged 13 in the 50 free, on 7 April  2004 in 26:43. Born on 12 April 1990, this happened just 5 days before her 14. birthday.

I find this completely amazing because Fran is relatively short, she even joked about  her height in one of her recent interviews saying it would help her being a bit taller. The current Wikipedia profile list Francesca as 1.71m height.

This just puts fire into the flames of those who argue they could never win against all those tall people who turn up at age-groups.

I think Francesca should become a real trend-setter for swimmers because she achieves and swims with longevity and now aged 27 has again been nominated to the British Olympic team.

Apparently I show YouTube videos of Fran’s sprints to Madison to show her the technique; recommend this to all who want to be good at freestyle sprint.

Basildon & Phoenix level 1 meet, day 1+2.

Day 1

4 races for @lac_pp and 4 medals, 100% success rate @gllsf.  1 silver and 3 bronze.

Basildon 50 m poolThe 50 m pool is great at the Basildon Sporting Village.

Day 2

4 races 2 silver medals in 400 free and 200 IM.

Official results

May I say that the organisation and fluency of proceedings is outstandingly good at the Basildon pool.

Madison achieved Personal Best times in 6 of the 8 events entered.
Overall swimmers for LACPP achieved, 11 Gold, 16 Silver, 14 Bronze.