Last Saturday saw the swimming club championships, an annual event when our own swimmers race each other for medals and glory. It’s always a very full on day, and this year was no exception. It was non-stop from first thing in the morning when I was melting chocolate over food for the evening do to sometime during the night when we were clearing up the last bits of rubbish after the disco. In between we all yelled ourselves hoarse as 50+ 7 to 15 year olds raced each other up and down the pool. Not all at once of course, although that might have been easier. I wouldn’t have had to cope with keeping the small boys under control for quite so long if that had been the case; I always seem to end up as the grumpy old woman shouting at them. The longest race was the little girl who’s only been coming along a few weeks and was undeterred by the individual medley – nominally one length of each stroke, although they all still look like modified doggy paddle. She stopped at each end to gather her strength for the next length, adjusted her goggles, deep breath and off she went again, finishing with a huge grin and enormous sense of achievement. The shortest race was the 14/15yr olds frontcrawl, and I watched beautiful powerful swimming and remembered when those children could barely manage a length.
Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and, both at the pool and at the evening presentation party, I was aware of a very happy, cohesive, social atmosphere amongst the swimmers. Perhaps as we’re such a small club with very few older swimmers and perhaps because the older ones are encouraged to help teach the younger ones, they all know each other and get on together. We might not be producing olympic swimmers, but they’re all enjoying themselves.
It is quite gratifying to see the progress the children have made and to see the club still thriving. In the autumn there was a real threat that we would be folding the club about now. We had had a full year with no committee and very few parents prepared to commit to helping. People had left as their children moved on but, despite pleas, nobody had stepped up to take their places and a few of us had taken on more and more coachng and administration to fill the gap. Crisis point was reached when one of the main coaches decided he wanted to stop at Easter – 25 years with the club deserves a long service award! And our administrative mainstay, Shirley, announced she was pregnant with the baby due today. The threat of closure was very persuasive and we managed to form a full and very proactive committee.
We decided we needed to take drastic measures and appoint a professional head coach. However, coaches are even harder to come by than committee members, as other clubs have found – the training system makes it very difficult for volunteers to train as coaches in their spare time. I put an advert on Gumtree, just to see what it would produce, before advertising through any of the more traditional (and expensive) routes. And wow, instant result! So we have Mhairi Munro about to start, an ex-national swimmer who wants to develop coaching as her career. She comes from one of the bigger clubs to us, and seems to know what she’s taking on. A very low level club with few swimmers competing at outside meets. We’ll be looking at building things up over the next few years so that we offer opportunities for those swimmers who do want to race and for those who just want to swim for fun/fitness. At the moment, anyone who wants to get serious takes off to another club. She is about to start her Level 3 course and is likely to be mentored by the Scottish National Coach – so we can expect to see him at Tranent pool over the next few months! Those children (mostly teenagers) who talk rather than swim are going to have to buck their acts up!
I am really looking forward to her starting after Easter as at present I’m committed to coaching 3 and sometimes 4 evenings a week (rarely my own children!), and with all the other bits & pieces I reckon I spend at least 10 hours a week on swimming club stuff. That’s without going to galas with the children. I want to get away from the absolute necessity to be on poolside so much – if I’m not there, it doesn’t always happen – which is difficult if I’m away on business and have to arrange cover and training schedules. It also compromises family weekends as Sunday has to stop in time for me to get to the pool at 4.15pm. I solved the problem of what to do with my own children while I’m teaching everyone else’s by making them help me. I’d also like to do other things with the children in the club – snorkelling, octopush, maybe even body boarding.
And the nicest thing anyone said this week? On Saturday evening, the mother of one of our younger and quieter swimmers came to thank me. She said her son had moved schools because he was being bullied but that since he’d joined the club he had made friends and gained so much more confidence, and that his self-esteem had improved enormously. He was over the moon with his gold medal from the afternoon’s exertions. It makes it all worth while.