Everyday Swim Evaluation Shows Positive Increases In Swimming Participation

20 Oct 2009

A high level evaluation has shown the ambitious Everyday Swim project – that set out to get more people swimming over the past three years – has succeeded with a gain of over 10,000 adult swimmers across nine pilot schemes.

The report, published by the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University on behalf of the ASA and Sport England, presents key findings about how swimming participation rates have changed across the local authorities who each ran projects with a specific focus, dependent upon the needs in the community.

Everyday Swim was a national pilot project led by the ASA and supported by Sport England and local partners which concluded its first phase at the end of March this year.  The key aim was to get more people swimming and find out ‘what works’ in getting more people into our pools.

Two of the original Everyday Swim pilot areas were awarded the status of ‘Everyday Swim Good Practice Centres’ for a second phase of the project until March 2010. These centres, in Islington and Suffolk, will continue to build on the great work of Everyday Swim by sharing the common lessons learnt.

Everyday Swim Co-ordinators were set the target of increasing swimming participation rates by 3% in the final 18 months of the project – a very ambitious target not wholly achieved - but overall there have been positive increases in local participation rates and a gain of over 10,000 adult swimmers across the pilots.

The report states that it is clear that the projects have genuinely made a positive difference.  The Everyday Swim authorities as a whole have performed considerably better than the national average, determined by Sport England’s ‘Active People’ surveys (which interview residents in local authorities nationwide).

Of particular note is the Everyday Swim Good Practice Centre at Islington where they have succeeded in finding new ways to build an effective and entertaining pool programme of structured activities away from the traditional lane swimming, including Super Swim – events that take place over the summer holidays and include mini polo, diving, synchronised swimming, snorkelling and lifesaving.

Islington has achieved an increase in its adult participation rate by taking a community-wide approach of ‘bringing the gym culture to the pool’.  The report states that Everyday Swim Islington has shown it is possible to increase participation in swimming, through paying attention to detail in all aspects of the business, being customer focused and responsive, marketing of the centre externally and having committed and dynamic staff on the ground driving the project forward.

Aquaterra Leisure is a charitable trust that manages Islington’s public leisure facilities in partnership with Islington Council.

Their Chief Executive Jonathan Gibbs said: "This has been a great opportunity to develop innovative strategies to change pool culture, and measure the results. We're excited to be able to continue our successes as a Good Practice Centre."

The report presents three key themes which have emerged from across all of the pilots and are considered instrumental in helping to encourage more people into the pool;

  • Structured sessions – particularly focused on teaching non-swimmers to swim or rebuilding the water confidence of those people who have not been swimming for a number of years.
  • Culture change – changes to the way in which pool operators work such as performance management and customer service measures, establishing pool operators groups to share ideas and resources, making sure the workforce is fit for purpose and properly trained, programme analysis including assessments of unused pool time, ‘swim buddy’ schemes to give support to non swimmers and the use of swim diaries to provide feedback from pool users.
  • Creative marketing -  including attracting new participants by promoting sessions outside of the leisure centre environment which are audience and context specific.

The results of the Everyday Swim evaluation are underlined by the take up rates of the Government’s Free Swimming initiative which show that more than a thousand local authority pools in England have been offering free swimming to 20 million under 16’s and over 60’s with more than 250 councils backing the scheme, including the Everyday Swim pilot areas.

David Sparkes, Chief Executive of the ASA, commented: “Careful investigation into the pilot projects run in each location, coupled with consultation with stakeholders and the public, has effectively gone a long way to prove the commonly held view that there are no ‘quick fixes’ which will lead to more people swimming.

"To bring about a culture change in the swimming industry we need to build upon the excellent catalyst provided by the introduction of Free Swimming. We can now also use the valuable lessons learnt in Everyday Swim to release the high levels of latent demand for swimming and work with our stakeholders and partners to bring about a sustainable increase in participation."

Lisa O'Keefe, Sport England's Director of Sport, said: "Everyday Swim is providing vital insight into what attracts people to swimming and keeps them coming back for more.

"Swimmers and the ASA have a significant contribution to make towards our goal of getting a million more people participating in regular community sport. The lessons learned from Everyday Swim will enable the ASA to focus on the most effective ways of driving up participation and satisfaction levels and ensure we get value for money from our investment."

Duncan Goodhew, Everyday Swim official ambassador, commented: "I am delighted at the continuing success of Everyday Swim and have thoroughly enjoyed my work with the pilot project schemes. Although the main project has concluded, the Everyday Swim Good Practice Centres will continue to share their learning beyond the project areas and encourage others to emulate their successes."

This was successfully implemented this month with more than 350 delegates attending one of the ASA's five free national Everyday Swim Good Practice seminars to find out the lessons learnt from the pilot project.  Goodhew was a motivational and inspirational guest speaker who formed part of the Everyday Swim team who travelled to Manchester, Bristol, London, Newcastle and Birmingham as part of the second phase of the pilot project.

The seminars were extremely well received by the audience of leisure providers, local authorities and county sport partnerships, with one attendee highlighting "the day was very informative and I found great value in being involved". Another stated "…fantastic examples of how we can support our pool operators in helping re-programme their pools, promote adult lessons and engage with their customers on a very real level to help entice new users into their facilities".

The Everyday Swim Good Practice Centres will continue to build on these events by continuing to share good practice across the industry through other methods, including the offer of bespoke visitor days to the Good Practice Centre areas, Everyday Swim resources and email and phone support services.

The full Everyday Swim evaluation report can be downloaded from www.everydayswim.org or by clicking here.

For more information contact the ASA PR Officer Claire Freeman on 01509 632265 or email claire.freeman@swimming.org

About the ASA

The ASA is the English National Governing Body for Swimming, Diving, Water Polo, Open Water and Synchronised Swimming. It organises competition throughout England, establishes the Laws of the Sport and operates comprehensive certification and education programmes for Teachers, Coaches and Officials as well as its renowned Learn to Swim Awards scheme. The ASA supports 1,220 affiliated swimming clubs through a National/Regional/County structure. The ASA aims to ensure everybody has an opportunity to learn to swim.

About Sport England

Sport England invests National Lottery and Exchequer funding in organisations and projects that will grow and sustain participation in grassroots sport and create opportunities for people to excel at their chosen sport.

Sport England is committed to creating a world-leading community sport system, and has set specific and measurable targets to achieve by 2012/13:

  • One million people doing more sport
  • A 25% reduction in the number of 16- to 18-year-olds who drop out of at least five key sports
  • Improved talent development systems in at least 25 sports
  • A measurable increase in people’s satisfaction with their experience of sport
  • A major contribution to the delivery of the five hour sports offer for children and young people.

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