Doing my bit

It was my first year helping at Nationals and I participated in both the

British and English Summer nationals 2019.


I missed the team photo for British Nationals in Glasgow but our coach Rick Hall, took a photo with my best smile ever. It was a very happy occasion.

After Glasgow came Sheffield and almost a week’s worth of officiating for a bunch of very dedicated swimmers from as far as Canada and Europe.

It is notable how well disciplined the swimmers and officials were all week.

Sheffield-19-teamEverybody just feels like a team. And all still managed to smile and was full of enthusiams on the penultimate day of the meet.

It is hard work but if our swimmers can spend all hours of the day training in the pool, so can we parents and helpers spend a few hours allowing them show how well the swimmers maintained their stroke technique and improved their times.

Being an official gives an unbeatable feeling of positive belonging to a great team. All swimmers really appreciate that we make competitions fair for everybody.


Coaching unlocks potential

Passing on knowledge, passing on the feeling for the sport. Sir John Whitmore is a British racing driver, not a swimmer but the knowledge is the same for all the sports. Sir John thinks it is more imporant to set actionable goals rather than just to give advice.

Madison, the second swimmer visible on the left

Madison knows very well which goals can be managed and how swimmers feel at various stages of their career and is very popular with the younger swimmers. It is important that swimmers like their coach.

MedalsWhen Madison was still competing she was a trendsetter in the local clubs and won many medals at local meets.

As the more senior swimmers train with Rick, who is of course the bee’s knees of coaching, there are now some goals becoming apparent as the club in a first of its short history has achieved 3 relay and medley relay races entries.

Considering that not all members of the relay teams have achieved single entries for the British Summer champs 2019, it is quite remarkable that this young club – Hackney Aquatics – has now achieved entries into the British nationals for the first time in all three male team events.

Since Madison cannot train or compete at the moment it is very important that she can pass on her knowledge to younger swimmers and help them set goals as she has been through the stages of development.

The atmosphere in East London clubs is changing for the better and we give each other strength and encouragement.

Madison is now waiting for another appointment to see whether her shoulder gets better as the screws that were inserted do not seem to do the trick.

This is my best smile, I am very happy to help at the Glasgow Summer Champs. This event is superbly organised and the discipline is exemplary. A real pleasure.

But I might as well help with officiating of the British and English champs this year so we keep the good swimming competition feeling in the centre of our hearts.


Move towards coaching

So far the shoulder operation had little impact on Madison’s ability to return to performance swimming.

We are currently awaiting further x-ray and doctor’s appointments for more up-dates on the progress.

Madison will step down from the main competition squads as swimmer and become a Junior Masters swimmer instead. That also leaves the option of becoming a swim teacher and or coach in the future.

Madison loves coaching and helps out at the club at least twice per week. That is good for swimmers because Madison knows everything about preparing for and competing at events.

Club swimmers are doing very well. The club has swimmers at both British Summer Nationals in Glasgow and English Summer Nationals in Sheffield this year.

I will be helping out as Judge at both competitions, so we are involved in the competitions.

But, formally to be able to train as coach or teacher, Madison must have reached 16 years of age, until then all helping is purely voluntary. It should make an interesting addition to the GCSE schedule next year to also fit in coaching or swimming teacher training.

But, should Madison’s shoulder recover next season there would be nothing holding her back from getting back into performance swimming.

There is this very good ethos at Hackney Aquatics, who have a club for life ethos, that allows swimmers to switch squads and stay with the sport in whatever capacity.

A very public apology

I wholeheartedly apologise to all parents whom I criticized in the past for not becoming swimming officials.

It sounds stupendous but that is what I literally did. I told people off for not officiating when the pressure of cancelled meets brought me to have a go at parents.

Yet over the years, I had the privilege to speak to many parents who told me their reasons for not being an official. Some are emotional and others are unspecified.

If you compare sports, swimming has the highest requirement of officials, as each lane requires individual attention. Depending on the level, where level one and two are the highest possible, competitions can require a minimum of 22 qualified and licensed officials.

Yet all those officials are volunteers within a framework that is more or less regulated.

Whilst qualifying standards for officials are high and follow strict FINA guide lines the way that training is run depends on the volunteers in local clubs and associations.

It is extremely time-consuming but a mere by-product of having a swimmer in the club.

Yet when being an official one has to deal with other officials and those who teach us and those who are in charge of clubs and associations.

I think it must be up to each individual how comfortable they are in helping how they decide their activities within clubs or the sport as a whole.

Often clubs vary tremendously because of their location, demographic make-up and personal motivations. It all depends how well one gets on, how good one feels about doing the job and how fair we think it all is.

If competitions have to be cancelled for lack of officials then it is up to the sport’s governing bodies to find out why there is such a lack. It starts within the clubs and goes right through to local county associations, Swim England, Scotland, Wales and British Swimming.

There is little regulation apart from the yearly handbook and FINA rules. Many clubs have variations in their club constitutions and rules are hardly enforced *. There is no quality control compatible to Ofsted for schools.

So it is literally up to the people who make up the clubs, how they perceive what is good to do.

Officiating is always completely voluntary. There is no reward other than knowing that one has contributed to a positive environment with positive contributions.

Whatever happens in between is a matter for the people who are involved and that is all confidential and it depends how well people can work out their log jams how good the sport can progress.

* Of course the swimming rules are enforced if an official can spot an infraction and the referee accepts it. But rules how clubs are run or associations of officials are run are in my view quite fragmented.

Officials training is changing

Thanks to the ever improving technology of the Swim England online web-based system, officials will soon be able to ditch the classroom style sessions in favour of online based learning.

Whichever club you belong to, and whichever county your club belongs to, you can start J1 courses online from 1. January 2020.

The last old style courses  will be ending in September of 2019.

It has always been a huge hurdle for working parents, if they had a choice between attending the initial J1 training session and other urgent things.

It has its good points to go to classroom sessions and meeting fully qualified referees running the courses; but people will need to do competition based mentoring anyhow and since attending officials always change and this system is fully flexible, I suppose it doesn’t matter so much if your tutor meets you in a classroom or not.

Any qualified official will be able to deliver mentoring within a competition setting, which is then supervised by the referee in charge.

This new system allows a parent to be more in control of their initial course starting dates because I assume that you can start a course online anytime it suits you.

I do some online IOS based courses already and we can choose when we want to do them.

Please contact your club’s Officials coordinator for all details of how courses are run in your county till the summer of 2019.

Mixed relays

boys team
Hackney boys team.

Gender mixing is a great way of ensuring motivation for sport in both main sexes. Sports are still divided into male and female and for that purpose I need to express that in both sexes.*

The headline reads Hackney Aquatics at Winter Nationals 2018, there are only boys in the picture.

The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will feature mixed relays in swimming and athletics. See article. 

Hm, it’s just that Hackney Aquatics did not send one female swimmer to the Swim England Winter Championships and the only team swimming was purely male.

I welcome the mixed relay strategy as it motivates clubs to encourage male and female alike to make it to the top-level of their sport. Yet Swim England did not entertain any mixed relay races at the recent short-course winter champs either.

Madison is losing the drive for performance. Not only does the steroid injection give her a pounding headache, there is also little encouragement to get in with the girls so to speak.

girl volunteers
Hackney volunteers

I don’t know whether it is an expression of status for girls in Hackney, to show that it was the girls who picked up the award from London Swimming for volunteering club of the year, as all recipients, with exception of head coach Rick Hall, were female. Rick of course accepted the trophy for the outstanding contribution to swimming in London.

Is it the classic old-fashioned boys and girls do this and that atmosphere?

Yet the volunteering award shows the girls. I don’t really want to stereotype but the thought simply comes to mind.

Madison’s whole attitude is changing from wanting to be at the top of the sport to wanting to become a volunteer. As I have heard, Sport England very much supports that scheme. And I really hope they read this.

I do not want to take away from the achievement of either the boy swimmers or the girl volunteers but instead would like to emphasize that a mix is a better result than purely just boys or girls achieving in either category.

*Of course many forms these days provide various possibilities of gender identity but that doesn’t work for sport, so all who want to raise an eyebrow about me using both sexes as an expression, please refer to the general rules in sport about this.

joyous expectation

When watching live streams of national swimming competitions, the best part is often the brilliant and very useful comments the commentators make off and on. Especially if the narrator is an ex Olympian, the knowledge passed on in casual remarks is often quite brilliant.

The best comment I’ve heard during the Swim England Winter Nationals was the commentator remarking that swimmers who had to take time out because of injury would swim bigger and better on their return to the performance competitions.

That is just what I wanted to hear and it gives us a lot of encouragement to believe in the future of Madison’s swimming career.

It is thought that the long rest may strengthen a swimmer’s overall condition when they return to full training after an injury break. We are hoping for a come-back.