Increased parental responsibility

Whilst I am talking about giving rewards for sporting achievement, this very interesting article I read on the BBC website this morning, highlights exactly the points I was trying to make in various previous posts. Parents to have a leading role to play in supporting their children’s development for longer now.

Adolescence now lasts from the ages of 10 to 24, therefore parents have a much bigger role to play in supporting their children, who now on average get married considerably later and spend much more time in education and learning to be self-supporting adults.

At the same time, and the article doesn’t even mention that, the increased risk of swerving off the path of righteousness with increased offers of getting involved in wrongdoing are also around.

Alcohol, drugs, crime are all around us and kids need to learn to focus on always staying productive and improving what they do, that may be education, sport or getting into early business ventures.

Since children are dependent longer, parents really need to lend support much longer now. Kids just don’t move out at 16 or 18 anymore, they do not do their own thing till much later in life.

Puberty has now dropped from age 14 to the age of 10 whilst body development stops at age 25.

[Lead author Prof Susan Sawyer, director of the centre for adolescent health at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, writes: “Although many adult legal privileges start at age 18 years, the adoption of adult roles and responsibilities generally occurs later.”

She says delayed partnering, parenting and economic independence means the “semi-dependency” that characterises adolescence has expanded.]

Therefore it is right that parents assume a more supporting role in creating a path to successful adulthood by actively supporting children’s sporting endeavours more actively.

It is no longer the case that kids leave the parental domain aged 18, though they are legally recognised als self-sufficient; in reality they are not and still need the support of adults that help them along.

So even the pathway of achieving in sport and the dependency on support from both parents and funders exists much longer than it did in previous years. I think the more of an active role parents play in their children’s sporting successes the better for the athletes who need to be able to get reliable support from friends, family and funders.

Even Adam Peaty made this very important point in that he said that swimmers need to make sure they can get the support they need.

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.

 

Timing is everything

Of course in competition all that counts is time, for performance competitors in swimming that is. Since I have been lamenting since the last two posts of mine that it is not straightforward to determine swimmers’ performance potential by age, I have read this article about Ruta Meilutyte, that she had already broken 11 Lithuanian women’s’ records when she was only 15 years of age. At the age of 17 she became the first and the only swimmer in history to win all available junior and senior international swimming championships at least once. Now swims for a new elite program in the USA.

If a swimmer becomes successful so early, it is much easier to stick to the sport and continue the time-consuming training rather than if success comes later.

In Britain the exam schedules and legal requirements for pupils to attend school until age 18 often leaves parents little choice but to remove their children from swimming clubs to attend school and spend extra time studying.

But I think that it is important for youngsters who enjoy swimming a lot to allow them to continue in the sport, even if in a reduced capacity. Swimming can be important for people’s general happiness and how their brains function, especially when the love of swimming is in the DNA.

For just about any sport, training during the teenage years is the foundation for early adult sporting success but unfortunately our education system leaves pupils little choice but to surrender sport in favour of education.

I think our education should be more flexible and allow sporting activists to delay taking GCSE or A-levels at a later date.

Because those who develop slower into the sport and are not likely to continue in the face of educational pressures can develop within their own pace. Funders also tend to fund more willingly if sporting success comes early and if funding is given, then it is easier to stick to the sport but this continuation can only come in conjunction with remaining in education till the age of at least 18.

Swimmers are encouraged to attend universities with swimming clubs attached but that also requires early taking of GCSE and A-levels.

I think people should have more freedom to get educated at their own pace and be allowed to take exams later in life without losing entitlement to free education.

Why not give people education vouchers that they can exchange whenever they want. Of course a basic education is extremely important for youngsters, so that they can make informed decisions for themselves but anything further should be left for people to take at their own pace.

 

 

 

Pocket money

Recently I read a lot about how ‘sensible and responsible’ parents allocate pocket-money. That successful and well off parents often keep their children’s feet on the ground by only paying pocket-money if chores around the house are done well.

I thought about this quite seriously and came to the conclusion that it is after all a matter of time. Looking at Madison’s time-table she got barely enough time to do her home-work. Any child that is engaged in a sport at performance level spends a lot of time training.

Then being able to manage the most basic completion of home-work tasks to have enough time for training, wouldn’t allow any more time for chores around the house.

Sport and sport related activities are now a huge industry and there is always work for those committed to sport and suitable experienced and qualified to work within this field of employment.

It therefore think that it would make sense for a sporting parent to reward excellence in the sport instead of household chores.

Most importantly a child should make an informed decision whether they want to jeopardise their GCSE or A-level grades for the sport they are in. Perhaps a sporting youngster can concentrate on the sporting side of the curriculum.

Producing lower grades for lack of time must be a price worth paying for any athlete and in the case of Adam Peaty for example, who said he didn’t like school, it definitely did pay to concentrate on the swimming.

Yet the full-time training schedule Adam Peaty has is not feasible nor possible for a teenager. A young person, still in school has to juggle school and sport until such a time that it becomes possible to spend most of the time on training.

I think any young person can only develop a tendency to full-time sport with the full support of parents and supporters who encourage and are generally positive. Kids with parents who constantly concentrate on more elaborate home work, doing chores around the house, cannot turn into sporting heroes.

I think any child should have a right to want to become a sports person even in a sport that doesn’t pay huge amounts of money like tennis or football.

Aimee Willmott manages to combine university and swimming career and recently published a dissertation.

If a child is really keen on a sport and puts in 10+ hours training per week and competes in competitions regularly then why not reward them for getting target times and reduce rewards when underperformance takes place. So a child can learn that they can earn by doing well and loose when doing not so well. That is a better method to learn that excellent performance pays rather than just the medals they take home and the emotional high they get when standing on that podium.

The earning made from doing well needs to be great enough to put across the message that on a full-time basis there would be a chance to do well, but if the earning made from the sport slips into the minus because of under-performance then perhaps it is time to reduce training and concentrate more on school work.

Time has to be spend well and useful.

Adam Peaty MBE

Adam’s receiving his MBE is probably one of the most shared and liked images on Twitter and across all swimming publication platforms.

peaty-mbe-medal

Because Adam is one of the cleanest athletes and that is what makes him so likeable.

The guy never moanes. He is seen working out, trying new moves, emphasizing training methods are the most important tool of a swimmer; so Adam is probably the most important influence on Madison today.

Madison met Adam briefly during her stay at Mel Marshall’s Easter swim camp; Adam held a lecture to camp attendants this year 2017. There will be another camp next Easter.

Even as a parent I can learn a lot from this swimmer because he proves that only hard training and concentrating on the pool can make a swimmer; I just used to moan at the coach that Madison didn’t get promoted quick enough when she was younger.

Moaning at coaches doesn’t make any swimmer faster, it just makes working together that little bit harder. I am now not getting involved any longer apart from bringing her to training and competitions. Trying to help out will make swimming competitions easier for everyone and is actually constructive as it provides a great platform for all who are keen to compete. Parents try getting onto officials courses that keeps you busy rather than wait around a pool for 2 days.

I have learned that parents really are most important as helpers and supporters rather than wanting to be critical friends.

And swimming is so rewarding. Because swimmers get fully occupied in the club activities parents can easily calculate their costs of the training and club membership because costs are easily predictable and spending is relatively steady.

Kids spend most of their spare time with the club and that makes swimming as a sport also a life-style and life-long good habit. Once a swimmer always a swimmer.

Even though I hear it that people complain that the cost of the swimming club is too high, in my experience the cost is easier to handle than having other impulse spending that usually happens when there is no proper plan in place to do things with the children after school and in holidays. Swimming club costs are fixed costs that can be calculated ahead for the season and there are few surprises that could break the bank. Even away swimming competitions can double up as family break away.

For Adam Peaty investing all his time in swimming worked out superbly and I suppose the sport is self-regulating because if the swimmer feels the success and that stimulates the swimmer to keep on swimming then that is a career path worth taking. Once swimmers get really good they get offered sponsorship and podium funding and I suppose commercial opportunities follow.

For others they fade out of the performance competition side of the sport and rather concentrate on education or work but the habit of going swimming will normally stay with all who once engaged with the sport.

If your child wants to swim and you think you want to support it, try and find a club for them.

 

Just to reiterate

I do not want to be negative, I know everybody probably does their best. Previously we were advised not to join a club that isn’t part of the Advanced Coaching Scheme, I followed that advice but since I followed it and signed up for the club with the Advanced Coaching Scheme, I have suddenly been presented with unforseen changes in the training schedule that were not agreed prior to signing up.

Previously we were supposed to get training at the LAC exclusively, if we sign up to become members at the newly created LAC ACS. We had to sign up by 15. September; as soon as I had signed up and entered competitions, up to November 2017, I was given a new training schedule that requires me to be at East Ham Leisure Centre at 5:30 AM. I reside in Bethnal Green and whilst I find it easy to be at the LAC for 6 AM, as it usually started with LACPP and LAC ACS training, the new host club Newham UEL suddenly changes the routine against all agreements that were formed previously with Swim England.

Additionally the cost of being a member in LAC ACS has sharply risen and it is not even quite clear now, whether the Beacon Program is included in the price as it was last year.

In fact the whole Beacon program has so far not been agreed with the host boroughs.

I am not blaming anybody, I suppose it is very difficult to set up a club from scratch and cost this, but I know what I need, I need a regular routine for my swimmer, my swimmer needs to be able to attend school, learn and form relationships and that is only possible with a predictable regular routine. That is what the Advanced Coaching Scheme cannot offer us at present.

I am now looking to join an already established well running local club, even if they are not members in the Advanced Coaching Scheme because we need peace of mind, we need affordable club swimming and we need a good routine that we can rely on.

I have contacted the parties involved in this and await responses. It is the weekend and hopefully something will have changed for the Better by next week.

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.

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.