Incredibly exciting times ahead

My move to Hackney has proven to be the most important and best decision I have made in my young life, in sporting terms.

There are the best prospects ahead and I can work with swimmers on all performance levels.

From next weekend the club attends no less than 4 different competitions. There is lots of fun at:

There is something for everyone. Of course all competition swimmers (well most) want to be selected or the Premium selection meets like the Golden Tour but it is a very good feeling to be part of a great mix.

Madison will swim at the Regional Qualifier in Basildon.

Seeing that our head coach Rick Hall has gotten all these important letters after his name like Rick Hall (First Class BA HONS Sports Coaching, Level 3 Swimming Coach), and having experienced the club environment, I now think that the continuation of the former LACPP should have been transferred to Hackney Aquatics or a committee consisting of various clubs.

Hackney Aquatics has an amazing bunch of parent volunteers who run the club in great harmony and effectively and Hackney, out of all clubs we have had the pleasure to experience, has the most robust and effective financial system.

Hackney, like most local top clubs have now also signed up for Team Unify, a move that has not been made by Newham UEL, who promised exciting changes to their website last year but nothing has happened.

Rick Hall from Hackney Aquatics is also the most qualified coach to handle top swimmers as he is actually employed by Middlesex County as County Coach.

img_1181The competitive swimming club development within the LAC is still a precarious situation, which needs to be looked at further. Geographically located within the borders of Essex, LAC no less hosts all clubs within the area, who can be located within Essex County, Middlesex County or other counties.

Having trained there for over a year, whilst LACPP was a primary British swimming development, there is a certain flair attached for us and vivid memories connected with the LAC training environment.

I think all regional swimmers who trained with LACPP still miss the Saturday Beacon program and I think Swim England should again look at the situation and discuss this further.

 

The glamour of being fit

It is not about the glamour of looking good, it is about the glamour of looking good by being fit.

Practical ways to get fit and to benefit the body and the mind, which cost the least, are always practical.

There are many ways to get fit, which do not cost any extra money, you do not need to go to the gym to get basically fit and build muscle.

When I, the parent, had a spell of poverty to go through and could not even afford a washing machine nor a car or any luxuries, I found myself having to wash the laundry for a family of seven by hand in the bath tub, I went shopping and carried 10 bags from the nearest supermarket, which was over 2 miles away on a daily basis, I painted all the walls in a 10 room flat and cooked and washed up, swept the floors.

There was no problem with obesity. And

  • when I entered the 10km NIKE fun run, I was a middle performer, despite never having been in an athletics club,
  • when I joined a local King Fu club, I simply pushed those muscular big blokes over and I was small compared to them.

The point I am trying to make is that there are many youngsters out there who come from poor families and there is no point complaining. There are clubs like Hackney Aquatics who subsidise your monthly fees if your parents are unable to pay.

Practical exercises include

  • cleaning up your room, sweep under and behind the furniture,
  • paint your walls and
  • wash your laundry
  • carrying shopping home in a rucksack and walk all the way
  • do gardening if you have one or help neighbours
  • walk whenever possible and take the stairs
  • Swim as much as possible, it is good for the brain and helps your school results.

Very important indeed, eat as many self-cooked or prepared meals as possible, avoid highly processed foods whenever possible.

Remember you do not need a gym to have a great fitness regime, floor exercises are free and running is also free, so are home chores.

 

AM training

AM training Feb 20171Days are getting longer again and it’s always refreshing to see the sun rise around morning training. We go three times per week now and getting used to it.

The lifestyle in the city is such that we get used to late evenings, cosy TV watching and later to bed and later to rise.

AM training means getting up at 4:30, having breakfast, then off to the pool before school. Whilst in Primary it was very easy for Madison as the pool was directly next to the school but now there is travel involved.

London’s transport is excellent and it is very easy to get from place to place using very fast and reliable public transport. It is so much easier to enjoy the landscapes whilst using a bus/train or walking to or from a train station rather than driving.

WP_20180217_06_58_54_Pro_LIIt is cold but fresh this morning and as long as the sky is blue and the sun is shining, the weather is not so much of an issue.

AM training has now firmly become a part of our routine and is embedded in our life-style. It is not only the swimmer that is affected by the training routine because as long as they are young teens the parents are the ones that bring them to training. So chop, chop and bristol fashion, no excuses.

 

The Happy Club

HAC has got the very appropriate abbreviation, that could also stand for Happy Club. After this year’s County’s everybody is happy, singing praise to the coaches and the swimmers, whilst all parents congratulate each other on supporting their successful swimmers.

It is all down to a very happy combination of everything working together just fine,

  1. the professional coaching team, who are all very friendly, very approachable and always happy to have a chat in a nice way, superb communications,
  2. the extremely keen swimmers who work very hard and train to compete and if they do not compete, they are all very supportive members of a club that welcomes all swimmers,
  3. the excellent Advanced Coaching Scheme that provides superb transitional coaching and an unreal and good land and swim training program,
  4. all the kind and cordial parents who all support each other.

hackney tablesThe superb progression of achievement has been well shown by the recent graphs and tables Rick has posted for us to see and I shall recommend that everybody is proud but not complacent with the achievements but aims to work even harder to continue the success.

Madison made a relatively small contribution to this success by having contributed to the Top 8/final category. But MADISON is chuffed to bits that she can be part of such a successful and well-run club by head coach Rick Hall.

It makes it so much more worthwhile to invest time into training and not having the feeling that she wastes time in the pool. There is something to aim for and it seems achievable.

MCASA weekends (3)

As parent volunteer I only worked briefly this weekend and again came to the conclusion that swimming is simply the best sport for youngsters. Can any parent, non swimmers of course, imagine hundreds of kids in one hall in good discipline, hard-working, cheerful and enthusiastic all weekend?

All participants are very positive, eager, committed and following the rules. The activity is very healthy and can’t do any harm. Highly recommended.

MCASA weekends (1)

The County competitions are a very exciting time for swimmers and parents. I spent the weekend at Southbury and it was an electrifying atmosphere throughout. The gallery was packed with supporters and it was wonderful how many swimmers gotten the chance to participate. All swam very skilful and fast.

I could not find one person who didn’t enjoy the meet. Next week is the Youth weekend at the LAC. Madison will get to compete.

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.