Blog: “Adaptation is key to developing all swimmers”
Activity Alliance enables organisations to support disabled people to be active, and stay active for life. This year, we are continuing to share great stories from both sides – how organisations are working to make active lives possible, and the direct impact their work is having on individual disabled people. Today’s blog comes from Swim England Para-Swimming Development Manager, Martin Lees. Martin explains the various ways they are encouraging more young disabled people to take up swimming.
Hi, I’m Martin and I’m the Para-Swimming Development Manager for Swim England. Our purpose focuses around wanting to get the nation swimming, and for our sport to be truly inclusive for all. Swim England are working to address this through a number of avenues.
Firstly, we work with a range or partners to help make this happen. And we are continuously learning and adapting to the evolving landscape of as sport and physical activity. An essential part of our work is to oversee the competitive pathway and talent programmes across all disciplines. This includes swimming, artistic swimming, water polo and diving. We have been successful across all disciplines in developing athletes with the right attributes to perform at the highest level. And for some they get to stand on the podium and listen to the national anthem with a medal.
This links into our strategic priorities, as we want to get more young disabled people in the pool, and into clubs to start competing. This is key to our purpose as it ensures we have a future generation of para-swimmers coming through.
One of ways we aim to do this is through implementing our Start Para-Swimming initiative across the country. This provides opportunities for young disabled people to get into swimming in a safe and welcoming environment. These sessions help develop core aquatic skills with the aim of joining the local swimming club. Anyone who attends Start Para-Swimming are welcome to attend regional training, and go in the development lane where coaches can provide further guidance on individual development. Our aim is to establish a minimum of 30 Start Para-Swimming Centres by the end of December 2020. All Start Para-Swimming centres will be listed on Swim England’s website.
Within my role, I focus heavily around strategic development of para-swimming. This includes the competitive pathway and talent programme. This means that I ensure our swimming pathway provides inclusive opportunities at county, regional and national level, enabling para-swimmers the right competitive environments for them to develop.
I also oversee how we implement our athlete development framework (R.O.A.R) for our talent programme. This is an exciting area of work where we can think creatively about how we develop para-swimmers’ attributes. And to give them the optimum opportunity to progress onto British Para-Swimming World Class Programme.
As well as this, Swim England has been supporting Activity Alliance’s National Junior Swimming Championships for several years. This is an annual event that sees over 100 young para-swimmers compete against their peers. The event is a really positive part of the competitive pathway for these young swimmers.
The National Junior Swimming Championships is a key event that brings together young para-swimmers across the country. It’s the first time that we get to see all the swimmers together and see them compete. By having all these young people in one place, and with the right exposure, we can inspire more young people to get into the pool. We have had gold medal winning para-swimmers such as Jessica Jane-Applegate and Ellie Simmonds compete at the Juniors! So, it is definitely a good platform to develop from.
A lot of our athletes are looking ahead to the Paralympics in Tokyo this summer. The Paralympics are the pinnacle of our sport, and it’s great to shine a light on our athletes - like Ellie Simmonds. I believe that elite athletes performing at the highest level and being successful inspires the next generation. The impact of the coverage will definitely impact the sport. The greater the coverage, with high-quality reporting on para-swimming, the more young people will feel encouraged to give swimming a go.
My top tips to swimming clubs supporting young disabled swimmers through a development pathway is to coach the swimmer in front of you. Work with their ability, not their disability. Speak to the individual and don’t be afraid to try different methods. Also, adaptation is key to developing all swimmers - para-swimmers are no different they just need good quality adaptations in their training.
My advice for young disabled swimmers attending the Activity Alliance National Junior Swimming Championships in Sunderland in March. Whether it’s their first time, or not, is to enjoy yourself and don’t put too much expectation on yourself. Identify an area for your development. We call this a process goal; for example, turns. Focus on doing that really well. If you execute your process goals you will perform well.
I would like to wish all swimmers good luck at the National Junior Para-Swimming Championships - especially those competing for the first time.