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.

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.

Uncertainties

Apparently in high-performance programs things work from year to year, the season as it is called. In the average swimming club, you can sign up for continuous training but now we have learned that the LACPP training may change.

We pondering whether to find another club or just wait and see what happens. The life of a swimmer is full of surprises.

Whilst we are signed up for competitions we have something to aim for. The calender was rolled out till the end of July this year and then we just don’t know yet.

Whilst Madison has already achieved a few Essex county times for next year, a new club might not be Essex but Middlesex again.

Onward forward and swimming can only get better. Our next meet is in Thurrock’s 25m pool. And as life has it, the competition is on 17 June but it’s age as on 18 June. What a difference a day makes, it makes a whole year’s difference age-wise. No worries, it is a challenge to be had.

We are still fighting to save the National Senior section of LACPP

I cannot help commenting on this awful situation that has developed around the LACPP’s senior program, that saw many swimmers move to London to take part.

It includes national, international and 1 Olympic athlete. This athlete, Aimee Wilmott, incidentially also is the Commowealth Games Ambassador for England for the next term. Considering that there was a hot article in the Swimming Times about this new hot club LACPP that also is the only club in London that has been awarded Swim 21 ASA competitive swimming environment status, it is hard to belief that those e-mails and messages from UEL to swimmers shall be final.

It beggars belief that a swimmer who needs to take part in the 2020 Olympics, the World Championships in Budapest and the Commonwealth Games in Australia, gets told suddently that their training program will be taken away. SwimSwam has published an article about the situation which is quite bizarre. Apparently senior swimmers did a job to attract younger swimmers to the club and are now no longer needed as the younger swimmers have now joined?

Cost-cutting measures never improve a service, what needs to be done is to make the service more attractive to make it pay.  I do not think that the tactic saying that perhaps in a few years time the senior program will start up again will make swimmers trust into the program again. They would naturally be afraid that it will be taken away again after a short while.

I am sure most club members will not accept this as final. There will be many complaints because also the parents of the lower squad members want the Senior swimmers to stay at the club to give the younger swimmers an aim. A good club has a mixture of younger and older swimmers, they compliment each other and make the club wholsome.

I am hopeful that there will be a reversal of that decision by the UEL and Swim England.

Just to calculate the cost of this proposed UEL scheme in that Senior Squad swimmers should find another club and only come part-time to training sessions at the LACPP. Currently a full-time swimmer at senior section pays £120 per months for 24 1/2 hours training per week. If swimmers need to join another club because LACPP wants to reduce senior swimming sessions to 16 hours per week then the swimmers would have to pay the full club fee for their new club at probably £95 per months and the LACPP fees at probably £100 per month. That would double their costs.

This is more than unreasonable from just this point of view alone.

Good news

better=copper
Better membership card for the GLL training support, outside the LAC with view of the Copper Box.

Madison has been awarded the GLL Sport foundation training sponsorship, which means Madison gets free access to all GLL sports centres for a whole year. Madison can’t wait to go to the gym at the Copper Box Arena.

 

@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.

Rollapaluza

this excellent sporting event has been near Bethnal Green library on 15th. February 2017, hired by Tower Hamlets council, and enables people to race on a stationary bike for a distance of 250 meters.  Rollapaluza is a company formed by former cycle couriers, they can be hired for events.

Madison made third place in the girl’s category with 17:79 seconds.

Madison is still wearing her LACPP outfit as she was between training sessions, e.g. the 6-7:30 am and the 17-18:30pm. Madison likes her club outfit a lot. I am sure she did her swimming club proud getting a great cycling time.

How Mel spotted Adam’s talent

I want to share this article with you, in which Mel Marshall talks about how she perceived Adam Peaty as swimmer aged 14 and how she thought his gold medal was like a huge Christmas present for her.

It’s good to read that Adam’s only decent stroke was breast and that specialising helped achieve this medal. Please read it is a joy.

Of course Madison is booked into the Easter swim camp that Mel Marshall runs in Repton school. I look forward to bringing her.

Interestingly breaststroke is currently Madison’s worst stroke, I want her to learn it, she is only 12 and it is too early to specialise I think.