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.

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.


Essex County Block C

We spent a nice weekend in the Essex area of Basildon and made the most of the weekend. There is plenty of scope for relaxation near the Basildon Sporting Village with plenty of excellent restaurants and hotels to stay in overnight. An 8am warm-up start on a Sunday morning made staying in a hotel necessary as I do not know how to get there this early without a car.

Talking of being a carless not careless but carless human being, navigating the area around the Basildon Sporting Village for a pedestrian is a sheer nightmare as there are no pedestrian crossing toward the bus stops at the north of the Sporting Village. We had to take taxis for each journey as crossing the dual carriage ways without a nearby pedestrian crossing points is very dangerous.

Despite that, it is well worth to make the way to the Essex County Championships as the atmosphere in the hall is superb with all individual athletes and teams doing their utmost to achieve brilliant times. New county records were achieved, look at the ECASA website for details. Needless to say that the organisers did a brilliant job putting up the event. I have heard that the LAC leg of the Essex County Championships was the largest such event ever held in Europe.

Apart from that Madison thoroughly enjoyed the competition that weekend. We could only marvel in the very fast times other 13 year olds achieved. This year Madison is happy with achieving personal best times on her long-course PBs. Next year the aim is to do better.

She’ll have to try again at the Redbridge regional qualifier to get those regional qualifying times for this year.

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.

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.