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.

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.

A way with words

Encouraging words, friendly gestures, smiles and favourite treats are often more effective than harsh shouting and commanding orders.

A helping of favourite fruit, nicely hand-cooked breakfast on a lovely plate brings a lot of cheer and can make the day.

I can shout at my child to get ready for school or say with a broad smile, that it is the start of a new day with many exciting things to learn and the way out of bed is much quicker and with a lot of expectation and wanting to participate in the day.

Sporting endeavours need a lot of support and patience and should always be encouraged with gentle and understanding encouragement rather than harsh and/or loud words that can bring a person over the edge and proof the needle that broke the camels back.

These are the things that pop into my head when I think about the bullying scandal in British Swimming.

parking sorted at the LAC for LACPP

I am quite impressed by the high-quality discussion that took place around the car parking and drop-off issues that concerns swimming club members.

As it looks to me now, a sensible solution has been found and drivers will be able to get reduced price pay and play parking on the strength of a childs’ GLL membership, that only costs £10 per year. Apparently LACPP members are not automatically GLL members and so a GLL membership has to be especially acquired with the venue.

Please read the excellent parking page on the LACPP website for a full explanation of charges.

Even though I am an ardent non car commuter, I fully understand people’s need to drive there by car especially as the distances can be quite substantial and many items have to be carried as well to help the training needs. I wrote in support of the drivers to the management and I am glad that a solution has been found to accommodate the club members. Madison was worried that some of her training friends would have to leave the club over the issue and a huge sigh of relief has been heard.

But just as I finished writing and posting the first version of this post, I read on the BBC website that car insurance premiums are set to soar because of changes in how compensation is calculated.  That puts a definite urgency on life-style changes, so that car need becomes less.

new parking charges delayed till 4th. March

and all who raised points will be replied to by next Thursday of next week, that would be the 16th. February 2017 (that is the aim).  An internal review of proceedings will take place and I hope the managers realise that those parents who enrol their kids into the LACPP swimming club, deserve free or reduced parking at the venue as they already commit over the odds on a permanent basis to contribute to the success of the endeavour.

It is already very expensive to pay for all the costs of the club, the sport and the transport. All other sporting venues I know of in London allow people to find parking, free of charge nearby, the LAC is an exception because of the local situation.

Hoping for a reprieve on parking costs at the LAC

Whilst I am very much in favour to put in any pollution cutting measures possible, and I think making anything to do with driving cars will help that idea, at the same time I need to consider what is actually needed – currently – to enable people to function.

Ever since man invented the wheel, human society has developed more and more into a commuting mass of travellers.

People commute to work, commute to visit relatives, commute to do business, a lot of transport takes place to deliver goods and of course there is space travel.

Space travel interests me the least as there are definitely no swimming pools in space or on other planets.

Whilst I reside in close vicinity of the LAC and have easy local transport by bus and rail to the venue and have lots of time, as I am retired, I know many people who have to juggle work and kids’ sport, which is quite difficult.

For a start, swimmers need lots of equipment. My child cannot carry that equipment around with her all day, there are no lockers in her school. Whilst we do have a locker at the LAC, there is still a fresh towel and food needed. On land-training days, another lot of equipment needs to be taken.

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The baggage we bring on a busy day.

Especially as school kids often need to be taken straight from school to swimming, they require to take in nourishment in good time prior to the swim. Working parents allow their kids to eat in the car, we have to do it on the train.

Working parents tend to work anywhere in London or even outside of it, they have to dash after work to collect the child from school, allow it some time to eat in the car, then travel to the LAC and bring the training equipment with them. Not even working parents can carry stuff around at work with them; often lockers that employers provide are quite small. Often work places are not near public transport that swiftly delivers parents near the place of their child’s school either.

So which ever way I look at it, I have to support free parking for working swimming club parents at the LAC because there is an infra-structure in place, that makes people commute to work and commute to sport and because people no longer work where they live and kids go to school and sport outside of their immediate living area, we need to travel.

We cannot now just quickly change the way society works and must allow parents to park their cars, because around the LAC area, there are no free parking spaces to be found. Of course around other pools, in less expensive areas, there are plenty of free parking spaces in roads or even near the venue, but the LAC area is very expensive and each inch of the land is valuable.

Perhaps the LAC can raise money by appealing to the government to give them some funding because those privately funded schemes do not always work because the common, working people who have to fund them eventually run out of money.

Parents already pay a lot of money for the sport and there is a tipping point for everyone. A recent initiative saw parents appeal directly to the LAC management.

Everyone is on edge about the result of that enquiry. The Newham Recorded also commented on the issue.

But obviously if the Lac DECIDES to keep those parking costs for all then the LACPP swimming club for younger members will stay affordable only for either very rich parents or for those lucky enough to live in close vicinity of the venue. This would be discriminating against other parents who cannot afford it any longer like police officer Dave Wardell, who will have to change club for his daughters, as the BBC reports.

The government was so proud to have produced an ‘affordable’ Olympic venue that is now successfully used in the aftermath of the 2012 Olympics yet, for many parents with children, the venue is still not a local neighbourhood, especially not for those with competitive swimmers who have trained for years already at other clubs to get fast enough to join the high-end competitive club LACPP.

Perhaps in the future younger local swimmers grow up in the local club but that is perhaps a decade down the line.

Essex County and new parking charges at the LAC

ECASA has a superbly organized day of 50 m competitions @LAC today. Despite hundreds of fiercely competing swimmers from 29 clubs, the atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable.
Today I even saw Mark Foster at poolside during the Essex County Championships.

As part of the Olympic Legacy LACPP is a competitive club that established at the LAC as a new national performance Centre. Training sessions start at 6AM and parents need to bring younger swimmers from miles away, like Kent, Greenwich. It is not feasible to travel by public transport as it would take more than 60 minutes, whilst a car reduces travel-time to 15 minutes.
The BBC sent a reporter to interview Harley Hicks and some parents about this. The BBC news at 17:45 will report about this. Harley was awarded the swimming teacher year of the year award by the Amateur Swimming Association.

Whilst I personally reside very local and can take a bus, Madison will miss friends who have to leave the club over the parking charges that can cost as much as £2,000 per to parents.
Is it really necessary to make swimmers’ parents bear the cost of running the Olympic Park? How is it possible to run a swimming club for youngsters, most of which have to be brought by their parents, if parking is unaffordable?

An action group has distributed a leaflet and people are invited to lobby the London Legacy Development Corporation about the issue.

lacparking

The Parking charges at the LAC put the LACPP under an unfair disadvantage because other clubs do not charge parents for parking when they bring, collect or accompany their children to swimming practise.

My conscience is clear

As a parent, I have been called all kinds of things for bringing my child to a lot of swimming sessions, starting at 6am on some days. The worst one was slave-driver. It hit me hard. I suppose some like the word couch potato more?

Having an active life should be the norm and not the exception and the concept of always keeping busy, I suppose has become alien to many.

Yet I had some doubts as to whether it is justifiable to allow Madison to spend so many hours per week at the pool, that is prolonged by travel-time to and from the LAC.

Yet so far Madison always had 100% school attendance through from Primary School. Madison never missed a day since she started Secondary school and has no late marks either.

Madison had the highest marks on the SATS exams in year 6 of Primary and now still is 2 grades ahead of target in 70% of her subjects and does not fall below target in any subjects taught at school.

I just received her interim report from school and again can only recommend swimming as sport for youngsters, as it definitely does not dim the intellect. However, having said that, I must emphasize that high quality coaching is essential. The coaches at the LACPP use the latest methods in a pleasantly professional manner, which aids a child’s development and doesn’t cloud the mind.

 

Fantastic session

I like the early morning sessions, getting up at 4:30 am and then trotting to the bus stop to catch the first bus that takes us straight to the LAC for the 6am session.

Mornings have many extra bonuses, there is the sunrise to watch, the birds singing loudly from the trees at nearby Victoria Park and also the foxes sometimes meet and greet us on our way. But really they are more interested in the rich bins around the area.

I think it is healthy to get up early in the morning, even if it means getting to bed earlier to get enough sleep.

Alexander MacDonald’s training session are the best advanced sessions I have personally had the pleasure to experience from the watching parent point of view. He has many tricks up his sleeve and spends a lot of time on each swimmer. It is really worth the while to get training from him; Alexander trains the National Youth Squad and has some Legacy training too.

I also think that the Talent lane that Tony Ansell runs in the Sharks is great for swimmers who start out the Big Pool training and get 2 hours of special coaching to learn finesse in stroke technique and racing tricks. I think swimmers do not need to be in any swimming club to join Talent Lane run at York Hall and Mile End.

I just wanted to say something good about our local clubs and let you know about it too.