Competitions schedules

Of course once you are in a competitive club, you sign up for competitions. Competitions are often signed up in advance of 3 months. Once you have signed up for a competition, you do so as a member of a particular club. Then you are prescribed to that club. The club knows you rely on them and you have to adhere to the club’s conditions, even if they change.

Some top swimmers, argue to become professional swimmers and participate as individual rather than for a club. For a young swimmer that is not so easy, younger swimmers like to feel part of a club or a crowd, that makes them more confident and gives more motivation.

To change club, requires long advance planning. You cannot get your money back for competitions entered if you decide you do not longer want to compete with the club you have entered with.

We are now in that position.

It is best to be with a club that has established, predictable routines. Unfortunately for us, with this new LAC ACS set-up, we have very many unknown factors to cope with.

Yes it is in a fancy and nice location like the LAC but it is very expensive and things constantly change and nothing seems to be certain.

I sometimes look at the scruffy stairs of York Hall when I go past there and then think of the shining new facilities at the LAC and wonder whether it is worth having all this shining new club if there are so many pitfalls in taking part or whether it is not better to stick with an established club that runs from less fanciful facilities but is stable.

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.

 

 

 

 

On balance…..

There are several parts of a successful swimming environment:

  1. The team
  2. the coach
  3. the pool

Neither of those three can function to full fruition without the other. There is a fourth part that has not been mentioned and that is the facility environment. I would love to see the London Aquatic Centre being made a British National Centre for Swimming. It is the ideal Competitive environment and simply asks for British Swimming to make it the third British National Centre besides Bath and Loughborough.

I am fighting tooth and nail for this to happen.

Current plans to downgrade the LACPP to a learn-to-swim facility with a Development Squad simply cannot have been properly thought through.

I am currently lobbying the Minister for Sport to get involved and avoid a national scandal around the use of the London Aquatics Centre.

An Olympic Pool is the ideal place to coach an Olympic team or part thereof.

A beautiful pool alone doesn’t make champions, it is the whole buzz around the facility that spurns swimmers on to do better.

One can see quite easily that since training with LACPP Madison has achieved a greater improvement rate than with her previous club. Click on any of her recent Personal Best Times on her records and see how the improvement curve becomes steeper since July 2016, when she first started swimming with LACPP.

Angharad Evans achieved record speeds in the national arena after having trained regularly with the LACPP team and the national coaches there.

The presence of such wonderful swimmers like Aimee Wilmott, Michael Gunning, Jarvis Parkinson and others have a great part to play in the desire to swim faster. If that top set of swimmers is no longer there then the biggest assets of the pool are missing.

There are many great British clubs who regularly participate in British Championships without having a permanent 50m pool to train in, just to mention Chelsea and Westminster and Camden Swiss Cottage, Barnet Copthall to name a few. Hackney Aquatics now has swimmers in the national summer champs. Such teams only train a couple of times per week in a 50 m pool. It is because of their team spirit and presence of long-standing swimming aces, that these clubs achieve so much.

The LAC has the ability to make the pool the greatest national swimming legacy by training national swimmers and Olympic swimmers there. But to ‘only’ use an Olympic pool for learn to swim and development sessions is a travesty.

We’ll consider our options if Swim England and UEL decide to down-grade the club because I think swimmers swim faster if they swim with other fast swimmers; fast championship swimmers in 25m pools are faster than leaner swimmers in 50m pools.

5 days camp and 5 Olympians

What an action-packed week. This 5 day camp was superbly organised, even better delivered and certainly had a lot of inspiration packed into the program.

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Madison met Melanie Marshall, Grant Turner, Tim Shuttleworth, Adam Peaty and Luke Greenbank.

All swimmers gotten a medal, engraved with their name at the end of the 5-day camp and Madison chose to purchase a hoodie to remember the camp as well.

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Madison was in team South Africa. And during the week various athletes came to visit the

swimmers. This was an action-packed week and I can only admire how the organisers managed to keep 80 kids busy and happy during a week full of fun.

Tim Shuttleworth was giving a question and answer session as well as showing off his skills.

 

The calm waters of Fullwell Cross

with bright reflections of the glorious sunshine on the Saturday midday break were the calm before the storm; when swimmers set out to get those last-chance regional qualifying times. See full results LBRSC-17-Last-Chance-Regional-Qualifier-Results.

Despite the heavy cough last weekend Madison smashed her Personal Best times by quite a margin.

  • 20 seconds off the 400 freestyle
  • 2 seconds off the 50 back
  • 5 seconds off the 100 back
  • 3 seconds off the 200 back
  • 4 seconds off the 50 breast

and winning

redbridge-2017-madison

1 Gold (50back), 2 silvers (100 back, 50 fly), 1 bronze (200 back) and some place medals in an excellent field of swimmers. But unfortunately Madison is just a fraction outside of the regional qualifying times but edges nearer and nearer to them each year and in more strokes than one. That sounds promising. I think there will be a breakthrough on the regional times next year.

Just trying to find out at what stage other swimmers reached their regional status, whether they were all early or some later.

One has to measure progress in manageable steps and what is so very pleasing about this spring’s Redbridge result is the fact that

  • Madison won 4 top 3 finishes in an age 12-13 group, when she is not even 13 yet.
  • the 50 back gold won straight after the 400 free, which also produced a record 20 sec. improvement.

The friendships were renewed by swimmers across the club scene with many moments of happiness around the pool.

Holocaust Memorial Day

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East London Central Synagogue speakers (Rev Alan Green not on photo)

Madison and I attended the 2017 Holocaust Memorial Day at the East London Central Synagogue, London Nelson Street. The theme was ‘Trauma and coming to terms with the past’.

I think young people need to understand the feelings and sentiments of the people in their community and express sympathy with their grief. We attended yesterday with a contingent of German worshippers from the German Catholic Church in Adler Street, St. Boniface.

Distinguished speakers at the event included Reverend Alan Green, for whom I briefly acted as Parish Secretary, until the duty of a swimming parent tore me away from this post; and Father Christian Dieckmann who was described as a great friend by Leon Silver.

It was a very moving ceremony and as unfortunate the cause for it was, it hopefully grew Madison’s character and spiritual maturity.

Swimmers do not just exist in pools, they live with the community around them and travel to foreign lands for competition and I think it is very important to create social harmony around our sports people.

The speaker from Tower Hamlets Council, Cllr Sirajul Islam, reminded me why the poem by Pastor Niemoller “First They Came“, which was also read by Barry Davis, that we really all have to speak up for each other and give support.

Feeling secure and happy is very important to sports men and women and social cohesion plays a great part in this.

Madison’s school, Bishop Challoner Federation school is also a Holocaust Beacon School.

11 days to go till the first county event

For Madison, as a level 3/2 swimmer, counties are hugely exciting. There are only 11 days to go and as a swimmer Madison has to decide, to either train until she dropps or take it nice and easy, relax and rely on core strength.

I think the second option is the better one. There are 7 years of swimming training to rely on and the speed will also be enhanced by the competition atmosphere on the day. Training 5 days per week now and doing land training, having good times with friends and being happy has a big influence on performance.

After the first county event, the 800 freestyle Madison also has a nice birthday party with a friend to look forward to.

Underhand there are a lot of negotiations going on about training schedules and club membership, which I think every parent should engage in, if they have queries about such issues.

The happiness of the swimmer is always paramount and it is always better to query and contribute to the development of swimming practises rather than pack ones bag and leave in frustration.

Madison now concentrates on good nutrition, regular training and school work and keeping her social connections going.

For many swimmers here in London there is often a huge gap between school friends and swimming friends as most other pupils at secondary stage are not engaged in swimming. It is very important to help the swimmers to feel confident about their sport. Great to look forward to Counties where the swimmer crowds will help make a good atmosphere and they’ll cheer each other on.