MCASA weekend (2)

Junior County champs at the LAC was a two-day gala at level 1, that is the highest level possible in swimming.

Madison swam with Hackney Aquatics and the event was for 14 years upwards. All the medal winners from the club were 15 years or older. Madison is still only 13 years of age and only joined the club 4 months ago and had to do so suddenly, due to LACPP being dissolved. Madison swam for National Youth in LACPP but since joining Hackney Aquatics now swims with the second squad, the Performance Age group, which are much younger; but she did have a few  training sessions with the Performance Youth squad prior to the Counties.

Despite all the upheaval, Madison managed to get 5th place in the 200S back stroke for 14 year olds and 2 reserve finalist places in the 50 and 100 back. See full results here:

Of course every reserve finalist becomes a finalist should one of the base finalists decide to drop out, which didn’t happen in Madison’s case.

In a 10 lane pool, the fastest 10 become finalists in sprint events ranging over all the 50 and 100 meter stroke disciplines. Being a finalist could result in a 10th place. Longer distance events do not have any finals.

A fifth place in the 200 back is not a medal but good progress and an excellent stepping stone to develop the swimming skills in the future.

We need to develop skills realistically and having had the courage to swim the 100 breast for the first time in a long course meet and getting a county time is not bad at all.

For Madison this is so far the best result achieved in a county meet and that is encouraging. Madison still enjoys swimming and we are not at all upset for not getting any medals this time.

I strongly want to encourage all swimmers who do not win medals to continue with the sport because we have seen so many young and very fast swimmers drop out of the sport. Being fast when you are very young does not mean that you continue in the sport, what is important is that swimmers lead healthy lives and if it is enjoyable, continue with it.

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.


Just a word of appreciation

Whilst we are now gone beyond the season’s summer competitions and many of us didn’t reach times fast enough to participate, there is a need to reflect that every swimmer is important.

I often see those national swimmers at age-group competitions, in the last and fastest heats of course, and they swim with all of us to get those qualifying times, to make it to the top and be the best at the sport.

But don’t forget, they do need all of the swimmers there to compete with, to make the sport what it is and to get the feel of a good hub of excitement.

All the swimmers that train with a club, enter competitions and support swimmers who compete are important. Also their parents and family who sponsor the sport are very important too.

Yes, we only hear from those famous swimmers 84900739_84900738 that won medals at national and international competitions because they did our nation proud, but all the swimmers who take part are very important for the sport.

The more swimmers want to succeed, the more actually do succeed. All swimmers give emotional support to those who have that extra special gift to set those world records and win those medals at major meets.


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.


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.





Tower Hamlets Swimming club?

Looking at the swimming club landscape it seems that Tower Hamlets is one of the few London boroughs that doesn’t have a swimming club named by the borough name. Look at the swimming club links on the side, all other competitive clubs have the name of the borough they represent.

Perhaps it could be one of the reasons why Tower Hamlets pupils are hardly represented at the London Youth Games for Swimming or ESSA Secondary Teams Championships.

ESSA is held at the London Aquatics Centre on Saturday 19th. November 2016.

I tried to find a secondary for Madison that is strongly engaged with swimming but could not find one. Perhaps one reason for a lack of interest in swimming is the absence of a Tower Hamlets Swimming club.

Apparent from the 2015 results, there is a team from a Surrey and Croydon school and the rest come from all over England with those teams also coincidentally being sent by clubs that usually represent their teams at British Championships.

Obviously swimming is beneficial both for mental and physical health and more swimming in Tower Hamlets would enrich the borough. When I looked for a Secondary place for Madison, schools categorically asserted that they are NOT interested in swimming as a school sport.

There are many pools in Tower Hamlets and I think the time has come that the borough starts to establish a Tower Hamlets Swimming Club.

During the Primary schools swimming games it becomes apparent each year that the privately run Gatehouse School always wins the team cup whilst the borough schools often send swimmers that hardly make 1 lane. I think that the borough’s education department really has to try harder to put the borough’s pupils into swimming as a sport and that the swimming abilities of pupils in the borough should be raised.

With quite a few pools in the borough, the council could try harder to roll out a borough wide swimming schedule to introduce pupils to regular advanced swimming sessions and make it a matter of pride to actually be good at swimming.

Swimming clubs could become centres for swimming with home work clubs attached, so that pupils could also do homework nearby.

I pleaded personally with Madison’s Primary school headmaster at St. John’s C.o.E. Bethnal Green to enter the school in the Tower Hamlets Primary School Championships because Madison wanted to win the Gold in the Butterfly, which she did win. Now Madison’s Secondary school Bishop Challoner Girls has promised to hold an inter-form swimming competition, which is a good start.



Swimming is really important for me

If you feel that swimming is important for your child and has an overall positive effect, do whatever you can to keep your child in a swimming club. Madison thrives from swimming.

If your club’s not the best don’t let it put you off, complain, try to improve, it’s a win, win situation.

Try to become an official that will help improve your understanding of the sport.

When your child gets seriously competitive and your club isn’t the best try and change club, I would even move to be near a good club.

Luckily we live near the LACPP and they do some great competitions.


After the exercise

Following our A day without swimming exercises on Sunday, Madison had severe muscle pains in her legs, I felt it too, it felt like I had grown some extra muscle on my legs and walked with a spring in my step.

I am not certain why a 12-year old would get muscle pains after 1 hour of workout. She did land training previously and is well exercised. This wicked guy called Jo used to run land training sessions at Sharks but has now left to join the Royal Navy, his exercises were very good indeed.

The exercises I did with Madison are the ones I had to do twice daily as a child when I was sent by the German Health Service to Schloss Ditterswind on health breaks for 6 weeks in the summer holidays. The doctors sent me there because they thought it could improve my Scoliosis, which it didn’t. But it did help my fitness throughout my life-time.

Another wicked exercise experience I had when I joined a parents’ fitness class in Primary school. I had to climb onto a normal size chair around 60 – 80 times and do other exercises. The next day I needed painkillers just to be able to walk around. The instructor was surprised I even could do what was asked of me.

I think also that dancing is a very good muscle toner, especially ballroom dancing, e.g. the Waltz help a lot.