no such thing as confidence

It is a current trend to coax people into doing things by saying it raises their confidence. I was pretty pleased to hear Robert de Niro say on the red carpet of the Baftas that: “There is no such thing as confidence, you feel good and hope for the best”.

Quit agree. It seems the latest fashion that both the British Army and British Swimming officials now use that phrase of not having enough confidence when they try to fail someone. Well you can’t encourage somebody to swim faster by using the phrase, all you need is more confidence. It is a matter of stamina and technique.

Most officials are adults who have been through the mill of education and work and living as a whole.

Don’t we all know it as parents, we try to tell our kids that the latest trainers do not make them better at school and do not get them that job. But telling an over 60-year old swimming official that they do not have enough confidence, is really just outrages. I managed my own company for 10 years, chaired various committees and I am totally competent in whatever I do.

I have raised 5 children, have 9 grandkids, my bills are paid and I have never broken the law, just to be told by a British Swimming Official that I lack on confidence. And that woman wasn’t even half my age.

I am not to worried about, I don’t think I have anything to proof to British Swimming. There are plenty of other organisations who are very glad to get my help as volunteer.

Good luck to all swimmers.

Madison does still enjoy swimming and I do enjoy watching competitions and I bought a ticket for the British Champs in April. So lets all enjoy ourselves. I’ll support all my grandchildren if they want to swim as I still think that swimming is an excellent sport for any young person and helps young people.

Unfortunately swimming has become a bit of a sport for the priviledged at the later stages and I do hope that swimming will get a better boost through community provision to enable more underpriviledged swimmers into the sport.

I’ll be watching

I bought a ticket to watch some finals at the British Swimming Championships at the London Aquatic Centre in April.

Just won’t be able to officiate as I have some health treatments going on, which take some time. But I can make it to watch. Buy tickets here whilst they are available. Great value for money I think.

Can’t wait to take some pics for the blog.

Madison will be busy with GCSE and won’t be able to help or watch.

A great honour

Swim England National Summer Meet 2019
Picture by Allan McKenzie/ – 03/08/2019 – Swimming – Swim England National Summer Meet 2019 – Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, Sheffield, England – The competition officials and volunteers.

Apparently it is seen to be a great honour to be selected for officiating duties at the British nationals. Being among those fittest, fastest, best swimmers of our nation is seen as the icing on the cake for the voluntary profession.

As I’ve heard people from far and wide have applied to be officials at next year’s British Champs at the LAC in 2020. I have been given a spot in all the sessions and shall forfeit my Easter holiday to spend it there and do my bit.

I am a confident and skilled official. Of course residing, almost next to the venue will make it easy for me to attend there each day, just as I helped at the World Para Champs but then I wasn’t an official but a pool-side helper and supplied all the swimmers, coaches and officials with their fresh water supplies.

Being an official is even nicer because one gets the mod-con of a served lunch, lovely.

Poolside helpers at the Allianz Para World Champs in 2019. Not all helpers were present. I am in the front row.

Moving on

backstrokeJust having a little inventory of events from the last year. I eventually quit my membership with Better because I am just fed up of being wacked in the face by some performance swimmer.

The first time I came across that guy, he swam on the wrong side of the lane and I noticed him, saying that he needs to swim anti-clock wise in the lane. He then said it was his first time at that pool, he is from west London.

I just swim up and down and keep to my side of the lane, carefully not taking too much space, so that others can over-take me if needed. Other swimmers really only become apparent to me when they rae directly in front of me and I can decide whether to switch to the next lane and over-take them there or slow down or even turn around in the lane and swim back the other way.

But this guy; again I was just swimming up on the 50m lane and at about the 35m point, this guy wacked me really hard into the face. He was swimming Freestyle and I was doing Breaststroke. He came down and I swam up. I didn’t notice him until I thought somebone was trying to tear my nose out. He actually said sorry but he could not say this time that he was there for the first time. In fact I avoided any conversation and just swam on, thinking I had a nose bleed. At the end of the lane the life-guard asked me if I am OK and said she moved the swimmer to a faster lane as he is too fast for this lane anyhow.

The lifeguard would have seen it coming, they must have seen that two swimmers are about to swim into each other and that one swimmer was on the wrong lane. They could have stopped that guy and told him to use the clock-wise rotation.

I am not paying membership for that and I never participate in things that endanger me from getting hurt.

Generally some people in the pools are not considerate and I think pool discipline needs a bit of work before I get back into swimming.

In the meantime I am land-exercising. As it happens my whole body shouted no more because I gotten myself into a high-performance exercise routine and I just developed an enormous inflammation of tendons and ligaments in the left leg.

It’s not the first time this happened but I just can’t get a decent diagnosis from my doctor to explain why this is happening to me. A doctor should be able to tell me why my body reacts in this way to repetivite and intense exercise but they dont’ seem to know either.

It might have to do with body symmetry. As I suffered from Scoliosis, my body symmetry is not 100% and streneous exercise affects my body differently and that might cause one side of the body absorbing more strain than the other and that causes problems.

Strangely enough, Scoliosis is not a condition that allows classification as Para swimmer when it defnitely causes me problems whenever I consistently do performance sporting activities over time.  I shall endeavour to get some answers from the medical profession and I am working on a strategy to get them to look into this.

At the moment I am on a resting cycle but look forward to helping those who made to the top of the sport soon because we’ll have the British Championships taking place in the London Aquatic Centre in April 2020 and I will be an official there.

I do admire those who can swim and swim and just get stronger.

Madison is back into swimming and whilst the screws in her shoulder stop her from performing the backstroke properly because of the turning and twisting action, we look forward to getting back into her swimming career as soon as the screws have been removed from her shoulder.  She is not good enough to train full on in a performance squad but can be quite fast in relation to slower swimmers.

Madison will need to take part in competitions to complement her Sports A-levels, she is wanting to do. But at the moment she has just completed the first round of GCSE mock exams. They are pretty intense.

The winter break will be a welcome time to relax and reflect and prepare for the New Year.

Officials are important for clubs

There are strict rules how many officials are needed to run a licensed meet. They are set out here. Click on the licensing criteria PDF.

To run a meet a club has to apply for a license and engage the officials for that themselves. All officials get normally registered by clubs with British Swimming. When a club has got a lot of licensed officials then it is much easier to run a licensed meet.

There are different levels of meet and the highest level is 1 + 2, the only distinction is that level 1 is in a 50m pool and level 2 in a 25m pool.

Both level 1 and 2 need the highest number of qualified and licensed officials and within that scope referees and a starter.

Level 4 meet needs 1 J2S as highest qualified official, J1 can be trainees supervised

Level 3 meet needs 1 J2S and 1 Referee as highest qualified officials

Level 2 + 1 meet needs 1 J2s and 2 referees and 2 J2 and all J1 need to be fully qualified.

Most established officials come from older well-established clubs, which have existed for decades. Officials often have central roles in swimming clubs.

When a club does not have many officials both their capacity to hold licensed meets and the running of the club and influencing the local associations is strongly hampered.

My club, Hackney Aquatics is a relatively new club, existing since only a few years and without a large stock of officials.

I went onto the officials journey a few years ago and have worked endless hours helping at competitions.

Yet if you have referees in your own club you get a lot more direct support for your course than if you have not. Hackney does not have any starters or referees. So the club and any officials who train solely rely on referees from other clubs to mentor and assess them.

As I have outlined in the previous post, I find it extremely difficult to get positive support to get the J2S qualification. A J2S official can act as referee in level 4 meets and I am being denied the qualification. I had one session with my course tutor only.

I find that very frustrating being told I supposedly lost confidence* when there is clear evidence that I did not. During my final assessment in Luton, the competition went on without any interrruption and the session completed in good time.

Yet, I am not willing to constantly run my head into a wall and may stop officiating because I feel restraint without reason. It holds back our club if no officials get accepted into the higher accolades like Starter or Referee.

As my qualification now gotten refused it will take another candidate a long time to go through the process.

A club without high officials relies on officials from other clubs to come and help out with competitions or will be completely unable to hold any licensed competitions. That restricts a clubs ability to earn revenue from competitions, reducing income streams.

I don’t think that it is important for a swimmer to have an officiating parent. When I watch competitions I see Jack le Clos does have his parents in the gallery watching and even Michael Phelp’s mother watches from the spectator stands. The parents though have an extremely important role to play as support for the swimmer.

For the moment I can only continue to help as a J2 and have applied for next year’s British Championships but I am not sure whether I will continue beyond that because I feel that I am unfairly treated.

* I think it is wrong to accuse me of that. I have a life long of strong experiences and cope very well with whatever is thrown at me and have 100s of hours of experience with swimming competitions. My daughter swims since 10 years.

But I have been told to either accept anything that is being said to me by established Referees or I can throw my book into the bin.

I find this totalitarian attitude unacceptable.




My J2S training

Want to share my experience as J2S trainee as I think it may help some people to understand the situation, including those who are responsible for the training.

As a J2S you can act as referee in a level 4 competition. This means being the judge and jury over everything that happens, including determining the time of the swimmers in the competitions and deciding about disqualifications.

I am just studying the Code of Conduct* for licensed officials before I continue this post.
*(Document to be found on this web page).

This post complies with section 5.3 of the code of conduct.

I have a little difficulty determining what is actually confidential because most information about licensed officials is available online, that is if officials have agreed for their details to be published on the Swimming membership system. But because officials can withdraw their public entry on the system, unfortunately I cannot show the actual documents here because I would need permission from each person involved.

So when you start training as an official you get a book in which all your training history gets certified. You can view the training book by going to this web page and choose the J2S training book. At this time of writing, the information on the BS website seems out-dated.

When you start the course you normally pay something in the region of £8 to get the work book. The rest is free. Well, you have to purchase your own stop watches, wistles and clip boards, as well as white clothing, unless the uniform is given to you, in some cases you only get the top.

So I made the J1, the J2 and then started the J2S.

It was a long journey to even get to the training venue, it was almost 3 hours by public transport, a big effort.

In the book, I have issue 5  – January 2018, there is a page called record of progress. There is space for

  1. Initial workshop group
  2. Intermediate workshop
  3. workbook completion workshop
  4. General comments of course leader
    1. this section contains a pass or fail section.

So I started the course on 17. October 2018 with my course leader Andy Scott. As this information was publicly available I can report the name of my course leader here. This information was advertised on the Middlesex County Swimming website.

To this day, 24.11.19 only the first section has been completed, I was told the workshops 2 and 3 will not happen and secion 4 has never been completed, though I have been told that I failed my final assessment.

Further into the book, there is a page which contains the following:

Competency sign-off form

  1. Shadow
  2. Voice projection/clarity
  3. use of starting equipment
  4. start – no swimmers
  5. start – forward
  6. start – backstroke
  7. start – novice
  8. DQ reporting
  • Competency 1,2,3 signed off as passed in Basildon on 27. October 2018.
  • Competency 6,7 signed off as passed in Hackney 25. November 2018.
  • Competency 8 signed off as passed in Harrow on 1. December 2018.
  • Competency 4,5 signed off as passed in Harrow on 2. December 2018.

So after starting the course on 17.October.18, I was signed off all required competencies on 2. December 2018. My final assessment was on 28. September 2019.

Once I had been signed off, I needed to have a final assessment to get the actual licensed qualification and that is when it all went wrong. I could not get a final assessment. I was starter in 11 licensed competitions before I could get a formal assessment. At competition number 12 I failed my final assessment.

Main reason loss of confidence. I dispute that I lost my confidence but the assessor seemed to be under the impression that I did and that determined the result of hours of working as starter in competitions.

It can be unnerving to go to clubs and work at pools, one never has been previously, but over the years I worked in a lot of pools around Britain, including London Aquatic Centre, Cambridge, Sheffield, Glasgow. Not as starter but as J2 or J1.

And the lower the license of a meet, the more disorderly the whole competition is because inexperienced swimmers are less disciplined with competition rules and that can cause more uncertainties and needs a strong leadership.

But when you get to the level one meets, the swimmers behave all very well as they have been in competitions since many years and not much goes wrong in such events.

I queried the outcome of my final assessment but unfortunately there is no real complaints procedure. I was told that I was assessed by two experienced referees and they thought I am not competent as J2S, yet a total of four experienced referees signed me off as competent on the indiviual exams.  Seven experienced referees countersigned my individual starter abilities during mentored sessions. All competitions where I was starter finished in good time, with all swimmers completing their races and results being accepted onto the swimming results web pages.

I was told that I can put my book into the bin if I want if I don’t like it. I have got that in writing. I blogged about my conspiracy theories about that previously. Unfortunately I cannot show the actual pages as this may breach confidentiality rules but find it very concerning that I had to photo-copy the pages containing my mentoring sessions and send them off to someone without getting an actual result recorded in my book.

I completed a beginners course for referees with a 100% outcome online on the ios website, which is free of charge for all to do.

I just find it slightly concerning that I am being told, I am not competent as starter at the final assessment but it would be good if I come to the development meets to get some more practise. So I am not good enough but still good enough to start!

So what is happening here? Constantly referees are complaining about a shortage of officials, when there are plenty of licensed officials registered.

I get requests to help out with competitions constantly. I have helped with hundreds of hours during competitions for a few years now.








Throw away your books

Today I’ve gotten some advice from somebody from a Swim England Officials Coordinator. I will not name any names but will simply copy and paste the part of the email that is most disparaging: “……You can throw away the workbook if you wish……”.

Great to have this freedom of choice. I think about it.

I am just concerned that prior to that I had been asked to email the signed Mentor practise sessions to somebody. Whilst those signed pages still exist somewhere in the pipeline I wonder whether they can be used by somebody else. It is not exactly strictly secure to email signed pages and then throw away the book.

Interestingly the signed pages do not show who actually did the sessions, so they are pretty much usable by anyone who has access to them. How much does British Swimming or Swim England ensure that signed and emailed mentor session pages cannot be abused by anyone?

I’ve heard that for example Employment Agencies often ask people to provide photocopies of passports and that then led to identities being stolen.

Does anybody know how much the assessors actually compare the signed mentor sessions with the actual competition paperwork, which shows which trainees where at which competition?

If you see a page full of signed mentor sessions, they mention the name of the mentor by membership number, the competition and the referee by membership number but not the name of the trainee. I find that really worrying. This system is prone to abuse.

It is particularly concerning if you start a course and don’t finish it because those signed pages float around without any trainee name on, on most of them.

J1 training soon moves online, that will be more secure from the admin point of view but all those pages in training books – when they get emailed – are not secure.

The process of training is not transparent. To compare this with schools, at least pupils get pupil numbers and those numbers are used to log grades, to apply for further education, so that the pupil number is always associated with results.

Not so with officials training, you can get, as stated above, pages of mentoring signed off without neither your name, nor your number appearing on any of them. It is easy to email individual pages without evidence of the owner of the book as the owners name and number only appears on one page, whilst the mentoring slots do not show the name.

I really do not know whether licensing officials actually compare the mentoring pages with the competition paperwork that is produced with every competition. The paperwork during competitions contains the names of officials and trainees, I am not certain whether during licensing this data gets verified.