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.

 

The more you learn…..

Madison’s school, Raine’s English Department, just published a lovely tweet @RainesEnglish and it says:

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go”. – Dr. Seuss

Certainly true for swimmers, the more you learn the more places you will go.

The better the skill, the better the swim. It is all about skill, without skill, there will be no fast swims.

It is always very uplifting to read about the successes for swimmers like Michael Phelps or Adam Peaty and others whose names stick in our heads because as swimmers and swimmers parents we just read more about what is happening in the swimming world.

Madison I think, like most swimmers need to learn the skills really well to make the most of the swimming opportunities that are out there.

So far we went to competitions within the London area and visited all sorts of clubs and pools, perhaps, with more skill we’ll be able to take part in competitions that are in other places. I needed to purchase a railcard to make train travel affordable because some competitions are outside of town. Soon, for the first time, Madison will go abroad for a swimming camp in Spain. That is a very exciting activity to look forward to.

Though I must say, the London region has a very good pool that attracts other swimmers to come and compete here. We are in a good place. In about 10 days time the Middlesex County Championships take place in the London Aquatics Centre and soon also an international open level 1 meet will be held there.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

Swimming as a career choice?

I just received this letter in the post. apparently the government imposes onto councils to now notify all parents with pupils in year 9 that there are specialist schools University Technical Colleges available that accept pupils in year 10 with the impetus of providing specialist educational subjects.

Most schools I received as options are concentrating on

  • engineering
  • aviation
  • digital technology
  • computer science
  • Maths

No sports available at all at this stage. Why is it not possible to combine sport and technology?

Yet we keep on hearing that people do not choose healthy lifestyles at an early age, but trying to do this is immensely difficult as our education system merely pushes technology on its own.

Considering that the Leisure industry has a huge market impact, I would have thought that at least one school offers sport and recreation at the year 10 stage.

I would go as far as to say that all schools must be affiliated to Sport England and be associated with at least 1 sports club, ideally more.

Swimmers should not have to choose between school and swimming, schools should have to do more to integrate swimmers within their curriculum.

 

I avoided the rain but not the tears

This morning it was good-bye to training mates after the AM session and as swimmers are wet already and in the shower, the tears are hard to spot.

But the good-byes were heart wrenching and emotional.

Normally local swimming clubs hardly ever change but with the LACPP and its dissolving came a lot of dramas.

Coaches left, swimmers left and new club arrangements were made.

It was kind of sad to see the LACPP signs disappear both on the Web, Facebook and in the LAC. I never thought they would actually dissolve this scheme.

At least I now know that Lisa Bates can continue to enjoy her coaching career by moving to Chelsea & Westminster swimming club, Pixie, also a former LACPP swimmer went there too.

The older national swimmers went to Loughborough, Sterling, Angharad went to a residential school with swimming as main sport.

Madison is fast but not fast enough and too young to get into a national coaching scheme.

I predicted that most fast national swimmers would leave if they dissolve the LACPP and that is what happened.

Madison joins Hackney as this is the most improved club this year and also has some very good national swimmers and it is within our reach.

Swimmers of Madison’s age, need to concentrate on their education; we are just beginning the GCSE courses. I don’t think a competitive swimmer can succeed unless they are in an excellent local club or in a residential school like Millfield.

The LAC ACS is an excellent coaching scheme, yet it is geared more towards the younger swimmers who just begin their competitive careers. I am sure they will shine in competitions.

I think it is important for swimmers to get continuity with their sport and established local clubs deliver the best results.

It’s best to turn all that sadness into new energy and look forward to new endeavours. We have plenty to do in the future and look forward to seeing swimmers at competitions in the future.

unpredicted changes

Now that tuition fees at university are so high, becoming a swimmer seems a good career move, but just as I get friendly with the thought the government might cap tuition fees for students to a set cost of £7,500 per year.

Whatever happens with university fees, swimming fees are also quite expensive and need to be well-managed to be affordable.

Young people need a certain amount of consistency to be successful in whatever they do because too many changes cause unnecessary disruptions.

When I read those wonderful blogs like Swim Vortex, everything seems to easy, people swim, train and win medals. But when you are in the mix, you actually need to work hard to stay ahead of the game and succeed in sport and life challenges.

Already problems have emerged with the new LAC ACS setup and we might need to change club again.

I am not apportioning blame because pressures are on everybody these days and I am certain all do their utmost best. But young people do need regular and reliable routines to get on in education and in sport; that is really what we are looking for.

Swimming also needs to be affordable and manageable from the aspect of finance, travel, time and effort involved. We are currently looking for a new club.

I think those swimmers who swim in the well-established smooth running clubs do best in the long-run. The LAC ACS, formerly LACPP is a relatively new setup and it is quite hard to cope with the continuing changes.

It is much harder to form friendships, to organise home-work and it is actually getting really expensive as well when routines constantly change.

Swim England National Summer meet 2017

Just for my own reference I post here the link to the results page, which also includes a life-stream link, so I can watch this.

Girls’ age-groups start 12-13 and boys’ 13/14. Madison is not even near any of those qualification times. I am not certain whether we want to continue going for the very elite of swimming.

I think we are going to continue swimming but more to compliment the eduation and keep active rather than strive to be part of the top-elite swimming level.

New Beginnings

Local is Best, as it is near and plentiful. We reside almost next to York Hall and have Mile End Leisure Centre a short bus ride away. But during the last season Madison trained with London Aquatic Performance at the LAC solely. The schedule was very harsh. To show you Madison’s time-table last year:

Monday    :   07:35 – 15:05 school;     17:00 – 19:00 swim*or 19:00-20:30 Guides

Tuesday   :   06:00 – 07:30 swim*, 07:35-15:05 school; 18:30-20:30 swim*

Wednesday: 06:00-07:30 swim*, 07:35-15:05 school; 17:00-18:30 swim*

Thursday :   07:35 – 15:05 school; 17:00-19:00 swim*

Friday     : 08:35 – 15:05 school; 17:15-17:45 piano lessons

Saturday : 08:30 – 11:00 swim* or competition all day

Sunday   : church or competition all day

*  All swimming took place in London Aquatics Centre, all schooling in Shadwell.

This was an extremely tight schedule and because we had to take the few sessions that were available at the LACPP, Madison had hardly any rest during the previous year. It was very hard to fit in homework during the week and eating had to be done during travelling to and from venues, especially from school to swimming and back home. Because the early morning swim was straight after an evening session, that meant straight to bed when arriving home to get ready for an early start.

For a 13-year-old with GCSE exams coming up, this schedule is not manageable over a prolonged period of time. Teenagers need more sleep than older swimmers and that takes away a lot of time from doing stuff in the evenings.

As it is quite apparent to most who visit the swim club websites, the LACPP website has not been updated for quite a while, also the Facebook page is unchanged since a few months. People know about the stoppage of the senior performance program there.

The club is on summer shut-down for the whole of August and the remaining club swimmers were not given any competition schedule for the Autumn. At least Madison was not given any competition schedule.

We had such great improvements during the last year, that I think a whole month without training and then no competitions to prepare for the up-coming County and Regional competitions can’t be good.

So I needed to make a quick decision and approached our former club, the Bethnal Green Sharks for membership. They are local, easy to reach, there is hardly any travel time to get there. That all saves previous minutes to do course work or rest and eat.

Sharks also have competitions planned from September and Madison can slowly lead up her performance improvement to January 2018, when the County competitions start.

LACPP started off as support club for local elite swimmers and I think for Madison it is best to recommence part-time swimming with them in the autumn because of the time-schedule concerns I have to do with schooling.

Sharks train in the evenings almost every day and on Saturday and Sundays, there is a great variety of sessions to choose from whilst at LACPP the sessions available had been pressed into 5 days with 2 sessions on 2 days. There is no land-training and only 20 mins pre-pool available.

Currently we have no idea what the schedule is going to be at LACPP in the autumn and the lack of planning for us is quite difficult to manage. That’s why we chose to return to our local club as main club with the LACPP as support club. Of course the LAC facilities and the quality of training are superb.

Other successful swimmers have the LACPP as support club like Angharad Evans for example who won Gold at the British summer championships in her age-group. Her home club is West Sussex; I state this only to show that a local club is probably a better option for us too. Though at the moment Madison can only dream of the British Championships.

The flowers you see are a charming by-product of walking to the LAC via the scenic walkways; that is one big plus of going there. But the local happiness and umpf of the local club can only be found here.