The case for scrutiny

Just overheard the commentators on the Euro channel Sports live stream for the European Champs in Glasgow and they questioned if the judges actually enforce the 15m rule.

They did not mention the strokes but said they talked to an official and that an official wanted to disqualify a swimmer for going under water beyond the 15m mark and that the official was overruled by most likely a referee and the request for a disqualification was rejected, what the commentators found horrifying because being under water beyond 15 is an advantage.

Well, strictly speaking officials should never discuss such matter with anybody and should always refer any enquiry to the referee.

Well, I looked if all the 15m mark lane ropes are lined up across the pool and they seem to are from my viewpoint.

The commentators did not say which stroke they were talking about because in the breaststroke the 15m rule does not apply.

However in such televised events, it becomes pretty obvious if strong failures to comply with the rules are not being noted by officials and everybody watching is horrified. Cameras can pick up such oversights but it often depends on the viewing angle.

No phones please

Today at the swimming meet I saw an official using a phone and texting during the races.

I was shocked. Imagine a football lines man/woman texting on the phone whilst the players are on the other side of the pitch.

All pupils and kids are not allowed to use their phones whilst in school but then come to a swimming meet and see an official texting on their phone during races.

I am frankly appalled, not only that the use of phones seems to be tolerated by referees but also that kids get such stupidly bad examples set by adults.

You are not allowed to text whilst driving, so why should it be OK to text whilst officiating?

Officials are important

Just heard that a distance meet planned in conjunction with Chelsea and Westminster swimming club at their pool for next week Thursday has had to be cancelled for a lack of officials.

It can happen, that if a club wants to get swimmers into a meet that the club will not be accepted if they do not bring officials.

I am very pleased that I have now become a J2 and will be very willing to encourage other parents to become officials too.

touches at the end and turns

I am noticing lots of swimmers do over-dramatic touches at turns and at the finish to ensure they can show they touch with both hands. That is especially important for breaststroke and butterfly.

The touch should always be the natural conclusion of the stroke and not slow it down in any way.

A fast touch is very important.

In the breststroke a double-touch can happen above or below the water or on the water-line, as long as the hands are on the same horizontal plane and do not stack completely on top of each other and touch at the same time.

I see many swimmers touching and dramatising the simultaneous touch with both hands at the same level. I am under the impression they do that to avoid disqualification. But this slows down the swim.

Hesitation to touch or to emphasize the dramatic double touch slows down the swim and it is not in the best interest of the sport for this to happen.

I think swimmers should concentrate to perfect the stroke and touch as fast as possible and not worry too much about the swimming judge seeing the touch correctly.

If it happens that a disqualification occurs but the swimmer is certain that the double touch happened correctly, I think that the disqualification should be protested rather than slowing down the swim to get an over-emphasized clear touch.

If there are many protests the sport will have to move to instal cameras above each lane so that in case of query a judging team can monitor the camera footage to get an objective look at the swim. #swimfast #swimskilful

Other sports already introduced camera monitoring I think that swimming should invest in this technology.

Please note the picture is just to show breaststroke.

 

A busy weekend

As a parent I am now fully involved in Madison’s swimming career and as there is little chance of Madison giving up swimming in the near future, I decided to go for qualifying further along the officials path.

On Saturday 19.11.17 I officiated at the ESSA Secondary School championships, a very worthwhile chore, as several records had been broken and thanks to Nick Gillingham Academy, here is one of them. I can be seen on lane 7.

I didn’t have a swimmer at this event as Madison’s school does not have any swimmers. But I very much want to support those who bring swimming to their school communities.

On Sunday, I officiated at the Hackney Aquatics championships, with an unbelievably good atmosphere and great community spirit, an occasion where mainly younger swimmers take their first steps into competition. Madison took part and won several medals and entered the finals.

Helping the sport

If only those parents whose swimmers make it to the top would help with swimming duties or organising galas, club functions etc, we would have very few helpers.

The better the sport is organised the more possibilities there are for more swimmers to prosper and benefit in the sport.

I actually quite enjoy helping when my own swimmer isn’t competing, as I look at the sport as a whole and not just onto how my own swimmer performs. I need to be as impartial as possible and keep my mind on the smooth running of the meet rather than just my own swimmer.

But of course having my swimmer get into a high level meet is a special bonus. Most parents start off helping with the club, officiating because their own child swims. That is how it has to be as only volunteers run the sport events.

I have seen people demand for the employment of professional judges and referees but the sheer volume of swimming competitions would make that a very expensive option and not sustainable at all.

It’s all about facilitating options for swimmers to compete. My own swimmer just loves competitions, they are the culmination of weeks of swimming practise day after day and often twice a day.

But often as swimmers get older and do no longer need constant close supervision, I can sneak off and help out at competitions at the weekends. It is great to be able to help those succeed who have the dedication, skill and time to compete to the highest levels.

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.

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.