Lots to look forward to

Soon Madison will enter her first Hackney Aquatics Club Championships, which are held with a fun and furiously fast concept but don’t forget that long-distance is the bread and butter of all good swimmers.

This is so exciting that there is an opportunity to swim in Ponds Forge pool for a level 1 meet in January and they only accept the fastest entrants, probably lots of scratches to slower applicants. Well, there are some competitions to get faster times to come before the closing date of the Derby meet. There is the

We’ll definitely have time to improve FINA points and best times prior to the closing date for the Middlesex County Championships, which is in November already. Next year, Madison will have to swim in Juniors for the first time as she’ll be 14 next year.

The Gators meet at the Aquatics Centre in January already gives a good opportunity to polish up on those regional times for next year too.

 

 

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.

A sentimental journey

Learning to swim is a great milestone in every child’s life. The journey through the swimming stages are very important and a source of great excitement for the whole family. Getting those certificates and promotion to the next stage, coupled with a love of the pool and swimming, can lead to a career as competitive swimmer.

Madison learnt swimming at Sharks in Bethnal Green and I remember having spent years accompanying her to the small-pool sessions. They were staged, half hour each and you start at 6pm and the last session can end as late as 9pm. We were unlucky and had our last small pool sessions ending at 9pm in the middle of winter.

Perhaps that was one reason to want to promote to the large-pool sessions that would again start at 6pm. They were called Improvers at the time. With the Improvers came the promotion to the Talent lane, a session run by Tony Ansell, who learned talented swimmers from both Sharks and Better sessions to learn competitive tricks.

Again we spent a couple of years in Improvers until the promotion came to the Mini-Squad. The first Galas and the first competition at Redbridge followed shortly after.

madison-sharks-10
Madison at Sharks Championships with her friend

The most fun for Madison were always the Sharks club championships. Also great fun were the Canary Wharf Sprints held once a year.

After Mini-Squad came County-Squad. We had heard about the sessions being run at the LAC for elite swimmers, they were part-time sessions.

What I think in retrospective is, that once you start going to proper licensed competitions, you learn how achieved times are recorded and you just cannot help comparing to other swimmers as you get ranked. You want to achieve the County times and then of course you learn about the Regionals and the Nationals and so forth.

The Happiness of swimming with friends turns into eager anticipation to make it on the national scene.

For most swimmers that is an easy transition because they can achieve all that within their home club. Most very successful swimmers stayed with their home club until they reached the Olympic Squad or other squads run by British Swimming.

But unfortunately not so in Bethnal Green Sharks. Fact is, and that is a matter of public interest, is that most very successful swimmers left the Bethnal Green Sharks and joined other clubs.

Sam went to Chelsea & Westminster, Kai and his sister Mika went to Hackney Aquatics, Kai went on to swim in the nationals this year and also competed in the Europeans. Ilias competed this year in the Welsh nationals for Hackney Aquatics. Shawn competed in LACPP for County, winning important medals and then also joined Hackney, so did Tasso. Other swimmers joined Camden Swiss. Even the one swimmer of Bethnal Green Sharks that once won a bronze at the Olympics Dervis Konuralp* has now removed his child from Sharks to join Camden Swiss Cottage.

Madison joined LACPP and this year achieved 8 Middlesex County Times, which is an 800% improvement on last year. But Madison is one of these kids that are proud of their friends, that like to be part of their local club and Madison would not mind swimming for Sharks.

It is also bugging me a lot that we live just 5 minutes away from York Hall but cannot compete for Sharks any longer because we are too much trouble for them. Perhaps it is not only us that is too much trouble for them, perhaps all the other good swimmers were too much trouble.

I think it is a great shame that our local swimming club only exports great swimmers without raking in on the glory when they become national and international swimmers. Madison left Sharks last year in July 2016 and had since tried twice to re-join the club but without success.

We now have no choice but to either swim for the next nearest club, which is soon going to be a changed LACPP at the London Aquatics Centre or go to clubs like Hackney Aquatics or Chelsea etc. But for us, we just don’t want to spend hours and lots of money on public transport or on car journeys to clubs.

It takes away a lot of home-work time for a teenager to spend at least 2 hours travelling to and from 2 hour swimming sessions. Considering that school hours already comprise a full working day, e.g. 8 hours and teenagers need to do their GCSE’s and need more sleep than adults, it would make sense that swimmers can stay with their local clubs.

Yet the training provision seems better in other clubs, that is why swimmers leave the Sharks and go elsewhere. Training provision can involve many things including how sessions are staffed and how communications within the club work.

I looked at clubs’ constitutions and how they are set up and can see for example that in Redbridge and in Hackney, Gators, the parents of the most successful swimmers man the Committee, do central supportive roles in the club; but not so in Sharks.

I think there is demand for a high-quality swimming club in Bethnal Green and that improvements like getting equipment to turn the 33m pool into a 25m pool and getting proper timing equipment, so that licensed meets can be held is good. However, the club does not want to do it.

I even gained the J1 qualification, I would be willing to train others to become officials, because clubs need a certain number of officials to hold licensed meets, but all that is not wanted by the Sharks; for them everything is too much trouble. Yes, it would involve increasing the very low Sharks monthly membership fees but that is also not wanted by the club.

So Sharks train, and very successfully so, train young swimmers, but all the best competitors leave the club to join other clubs.

We now have to pay double what we would pay at Sharks, plus travel and competition costs. But we could also pay that to Sharks, have a local club that can deliver equal quality for the same price as other clubs and be happy locally.

What is so very important for swimmers, is the club atmosphere, Sharks definitely has that but to combine club atmosphere with great and continued competitiveness, is something the Sharks simply miss out on because their best swimmers always leave and I cannot see that the club would want to retain those swimmers, and indeed as we have experienced ourselves, they do not want those swimmers back.

* I am not certain whether this shift has to do with relocation or not.

New Beginnings

Local is Best, as it is near and plentiful. We reside almost next to York Hall and have Mile End Leisure Centre a short bus ride away. But during the last season Madison trained with London Aquatic Performance at the LAC solely. The schedule was very harsh. To show you Madison’s time-table last year:

Monday    :   07:35 – 15:05 school;     17:00 – 19:00 swim*or 19:00-20:30 Guides

Tuesday   :   06:00 – 07:30 swim*, 07:35-15:05 school; 18:30-20:30 swim*

Wednesday: 06:00-07:30 swim*, 07:35-15:05 school; 17:00-18:30 swim*

Thursday :   07:35 – 15:05 school; 17:00-19:00 swim*

Friday     : 08:35 – 15:05 school; 17:15-17:45 piano lessons

Saturday : 08:30 – 11:00 swim* or competition all day

Sunday   : church or competition all day

*  All swimming took place in London Aquatics Centre, all schooling in Shadwell.

This was an extremely tight schedule and because we had to take the few sessions that were available at the LACPP, Madison had hardly any rest during the previous year. It was very hard to fit in homework during the week and eating had to be done during travelling to and from venues, especially from school to swimming and back home. Because the early morning swim was straight after an evening session, that meant straight to bed when arriving home to get ready for an early start.

For a 13-year-old with GCSE exams coming up, this schedule is not manageable over a prolonged period of time. Teenagers need more sleep than older swimmers and that takes away a lot of time from doing stuff in the evenings.

As it is quite apparent to most who visit the swim club websites, the LACPP website has not been updated for quite a while, also the Facebook page is unchanged since a few months. People know about the stoppage of the senior performance program there.

The club is on summer shut-down for the whole of August and the remaining club swimmers were not given any competition schedule for the Autumn. At least Madison was not given any competition schedule.

We had such great improvements during the last year, that I think a whole month without training and then no competitions to prepare for the up-coming County and Regional competitions can’t be good.

So I needed to make a quick decision and approached our former club, the Bethnal Green Sharks for membership. They are local, easy to reach, there is hardly any travel time to get there. That all saves previous minutes to do course work or rest and eat.

Sharks also have competitions planned from September and Madison can slowly lead up her performance improvement to January 2018, when the County competitions start.

LACPP started off as support club for local elite swimmers and I think for Madison it is best to recommence part-time swimming with them in the autumn because of the time-schedule concerns I have to do with schooling.

Sharks train in the evenings almost every day and on Saturday and Sundays, there is a great variety of sessions to choose from whilst at LACPP the sessions available had been pressed into 5 days with 2 sessions on 2 days. There is no land-training and only 20 mins pre-pool available.

Currently we have no idea what the schedule is going to be at LACPP in the autumn and the lack of planning for us is quite difficult to manage. That’s why we chose to return to our local club as main club with the LACPP as support club. Of course the LAC facilities and the quality of training are superb.

Other successful swimmers have the LACPP as support club like Angharad Evans for example who won Gold at the British summer championships in her age-group. Her home club is West Sussex; I state this only to show that a local club is probably a better option for us too. Though at the moment Madison can only dream of the British Championships.

The flowers you see are a charming by-product of walking to the LAC via the scenic walkways; that is one big plus of going there. But the local happiness and umpf of the local club can only be found here.

 

Qualify for London region?

We are getting ready for this year’s level 1, Basildon Spring long-course meet, this weekend. Dates coincide with London region age group champs.

Madison favourite stroke is the 50 back at the moment.

The official consideration time London Age Group champs for boys is 36:7 and for girls 36, both aged 13.

A male friend of Madison got accepted for regionals with an entry time of 36:20 that equals 241 Fina points. (Converted short-course time).

Madison’s time is 36:34 (long-course). That’s 412 Fina points.

I just don’t know why London region accepts 241 Fina points but doesn’t allow 412 Fina points to apply.

We are very glad to get the opportunity of participating on the level 1 Basildon and Phoenix meet that runs concurrently on the same dates as London Region Age Group champs and all the hard work at least led to 8 qualifying times for the Basildon meet.

The calm waters of Fullwell Cross

with bright reflections of the glorious sunshine on the Saturday midday break were the calm before the storm; when swimmers set out to get those last-chance regional qualifying times. See full results LBRSC-17-Last-Chance-Regional-Qualifier-Results.

Despite the heavy cough last weekend Madison smashed her Personal Best times by quite a margin.

  • 20 seconds off the 400 freestyle
  • 2 seconds off the 50 back
  • 5 seconds off the 100 back
  • 3 seconds off the 200 back
  • 4 seconds off the 50 breast

and winning

redbridge-2017-madison

1 Gold (50back), 2 silvers (100 back, 50 fly), 1 bronze (200 back) and some place medals in an excellent field of swimmers. But unfortunately Madison is just a fraction outside of the regional qualifying times but edges nearer and nearer to them each year and in more strokes than one. That sounds promising. I think there will be a breakthrough on the regional times next year.

Just trying to find out at what stage other swimmers reached their regional status, whether they were all early or some later.

One has to measure progress in manageable steps and what is so very pleasing about this spring’s Redbridge result is the fact that

  • Madison won 4 top 3 finishes in an age 12-13 group, when she is not even 13 yet.
  • the 50 back gold won straight after the 400 free, which also produced a record 20 sec. improvement.

The friendships were renewed by swimmers across the club scene with many moments of happiness around the pool.