sourdough sooooo much energy

I am just one of those somewhat overweight, not very fit swimming parents. The LAC currently runs a drive to get parents into fitness; very good effort, I must say. But for that, I just don’t have the confidence just yet.

I was getting ready for another day of dieting with cabbage soup, when one of my flat mates left a loaf of sourdough bread on the kitchen counter for sharing. I looked at it and tried to sustain the temptation; but then the appetite overcame me.

Thorpe-3I just left all my energy the day before at Thorpe Park trodding around that venue all day.

I just kept on eating that sourdough bread, and had slice after slice. At the end of the day, I wasn’t even able to eat my greek yoghurt with blueberries. I left that for today’s breakfast.

But today, I was so full of energy. I stomped around the roads, with a spring in my step.

I come to believe that dieting on salads and cabbage does not give me any energy at all. I just sit around all day and hope to lose weight. To get the energy to do exercise I need to eat energy giving foods. It’s always a careful balancing act, how much to eat, how much to exercise, especially if the body has some problems that result in muscle cramping or joint problems.

I think we need to do what we can but the young swimmers just seem to have endless energy anyhow.

Image source: Bewithing Kitchen

Just a word of appreciation

Whilst we are now gone beyond the season’s summer competitions and many of us didn’t reach times fast enough to participate, there is a need to reflect that every swimmer is important.

I often see those national swimmers at age-group competitions, in the last and fastest heats of course, and they swim with all of us to get those qualifying times, to make it to the top and be the best at the sport.

But don’t forget, they do need all of the swimmers there to compete with, to make the sport what it is and to get the feel of a good hub of excitement.

All the swimmers that train with a club, enter competitions and support swimmers who compete are important. Also their parents and family who sponsor the sport are very important too.

Yes, we only hear from those famous swimmers 84900739_84900738 that won medals at national and international competitions because they did our nation proud, but all the swimmers who take part are very important for the sport.

The more swimmers want to succeed, the more actually do succeed. All swimmers give emotional support to those who have that extra special gift to set those world records and win those medals at major meets.

 

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.

 

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.

Nothing is easy

Nowadays I often define myself by well-known song-titles as they define emotional milestones in my life. Jethro Tull had been one of my all-time favourite bands.

This song has probably one of the cleanest lyrics of the time, so it’s save to show it here.

Things constantly change in the life of a young swimmer; with the publication of Madison’s latest end-of-year results I definitely want to concentrate more on school work next year, the year when pupils enter their GCSE paths.

But it is not just so easy as to say, well my swimmer is not too good in school so we concentrate on swimming. I think it’s best to try out a lot of different sports to find a ‘suits us best’ style. Swimming always assisted Madison’s learning rather than hindering it.

I am constantly pondering over how much time we spend travelling, how much time we have for homework and other hobbies. How happy my swimmer is in the club they are in and how much money it all costs me.

It is much harder than I thought it possible to come to conclusions because Madison is smart and good at a lot of things, it is really hard concentrate on one sport. Because even in swimming things never stay the same. Favourite strokes also change constantly.

If I look at those swimmers currently at the top, I always wonder how they made their decisions to concentrate on their swimming careers. Perhaps I start reading biographies of swimmers next.

I am going to want to watch some life streams of competitions online to get some inspiration.

British Summer champs start in 3 days.

FINA world championships in Budapest are in full swing.

Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas, 1 more day to go.

Youth Games swimming

I spend the Saturday officiating at Crystal Palace because the brilliant Balfour Beatty organisation, that kindly sponsors the London Youth Games relies on volunteers to help at those games.

It was a brilliant day and everybody enjoyed their swims. Madison swam for Tower Hamlets.

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.

 

The three B’s

I am very happy to have passed my final assessment and qualified as J1 judge. I joined as swimming club volunteer with Madison’s increased participation in swimming competitions and wanting to make myself useful and also wanting to pick up some good tips on how to swim better.

Like myself, many swimming parents are not from a competitive swimming background and as such getting through all the rules can take longer than if one has been into competitive swimming previously.

Competition promoters really do rely on volunteers to staff the officials required to run such competitions and the FINA rules are quite strict on the officials requirements needed. Keeping those rules means an event can be licensed and the times achieved by the swimmers are official and get listed in the Personal Best Times charts kept online for all to see.

Trying to memorize the swim order in Medley swimming for example, I noticed there are three B’s and one F.

The B’s are in a different order depending whether it’s Individual Medley

  • Butterfly
  • Backstroke
  • Breaststroke
  • Freestyle

but in the Medley relay events, which allows groups of swimmers to race the order is

  • Backstroke
  • Breaststroke
  • Butterfly
  • Freestyle

The easy way to remember this is that IM starts with Butterfly and Medley relay starts with Backstroke. I know the Breaststroke always follows the Backstroke and the Freestyle is always last.

Personally I do not like to interfere too much into the training that Madison gets, it is up to her coach to teach her the important tactics and stroke techniques. I just like to understand the racing events and so can assist the swimmers and ensure, as far as I can that the best swimmer always wins. All swimmers need to get the same chances.

It is a lenghty process to become a swimming official and lots of practise is best.

 

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.