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Volunteers’ Week Star Stories

Volunteers’ Week has been a great opportunity to raise the profile of aquatic volunteering and recognise the thousands of volunteers who dedicate their time to making the sport happen.

We have been incredibly pleased to see so many of you sharing your inspiring stories and pictures. Here are some of our favourites.

Alex Harrison: Dynamic Diving Volunteer

Alex Harrison started out as a diver, acting as a virtuous role model at his club, Merton School of Diving, where he never missed a training session, always put the maximum effort in to training and was known for his impeccable behaviour.

At the age of 14, Alex began helping at the club, firstly by coaching beginner divers, but taking on whatever level of diver he was given the opportunity to coach. Alex progressed quickly gaining his Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Diving and going on to coach divers through to national competitions.

Photo of Alex Harrison and his colleagueAlex then took on other responsibilities including the role of Competition Secretary which involved organising entries to competitions, distributing information to coaches and helping to select divers for each event. Alex’s enthusiasm led to him organising competitions too, starting with introducing two club competitions a year, a completely new concept for Merton School of Diving.

Alex has continued in these roles since, adding team managing, judging and becoming certified as a FINA Diving Official to his bank of skills and achievements. Alex applied to be part of the ASA Youth Forum, where he progressed to becoming Chair until the end of this term in 2014. Alex’s contributions and expertise in diving earned him an elected place as a member of the ASA London Management Board at the age of 18; a remarkable feat for such a young volunteer.

Alex also took part in the British Swimming Event Volunteer Programme for aspiring volunteer management, through which he is able to support the delivery of national aquatic events. 

More recently, Alex has helped to set up the Dive London Aquatics Centre Club.  Here divers are offered the opportunity to train at an Olympic venue, following a competitive pathway in an inspirational setting.

Alex has been recognised with Awards for his achievements, including previously winning ASA Young Volunteer of the Year at the annual Aquaforce Awards. Cherry Tolcher of Merton School of Diving commented: “Alex volunteers purely for the love of diving, spending the vast majority of his time involved in the sport. His passion is infectious and the divers always enjoy all of his sessions. It is a huge credit to Alex, the club and the sport, that there are volunteers putting so much time, effort and passion into something they love.”

The ASA would like to say a huge thank you to Alex and all of our diving volunteers for their valued contribution to the sport. We simply couldn’t do it without you! If you would like to know more about volunteering in the discipline of diving, contact us at volunteering@swimming.org or visit the Diving section of our website here.

Katie Hesketh: Young Water Polo Volunteer

21-year old Katie Hesketh has just finished her degree studying Sport Science at Liverpool John Moore’s University, which she has completed alongside full time water polo training, as part of the GB Women’s Water Polo Squad. On top of this, Katie has also been volunteering in a variety of roles, including as a referee, table official and coach almost every weekend for the past four years.

Katie Hesketh refereeing a Water Polo matchFollowing her progression from the GB junior team to the senior squad, Katie was asked to help out with the junior programme and is now an assistant coach of the Under 15 GB Junior Girls squad, travelling to Cardiff each month to coach for the weekend and to pass on her experience. Katie’s coaching role also includes helping out with the juniors at her club, City of Liverpool, twice a week, where she is a role model for many of the youngsters. Katie is also a qualified team manager, which means she is available for any trips abroad that the squad attend.

In addition to coaching, Katie is a qualified referee and table official, which has led to her refereeing in many competitions, such as the British Water Polo League, ASA national age group competitions and English Schools.

I would recommend volunteering to anyone, as I have also met many good friends through the sport from all over the country – and even the world. Katie’s family are heavily involved in water polo too. Her sister Laura was also a GB junior player and now coaches at Liverpool and Lancaster. Katie’s mum Alison and dad Mike became qualified table officials when she and Laura started playing water polo, with Mike gaining a position as technical official at the London 2012 Olympics, and both parents officiating at the 2014 Commonwealth water polo tournament. Mike has also recently been appointed to the new Water Polo Management Group as the Competitions Co-ordinator. Water polo is definitely a family affair in the Hesketh house!

Katie commented: “The water polo community had given me so much support and encouragement throughout my playing career that I felt like I needed to give back, so that this support could continue to be given to others. Water polo is completely dependent on volunteers. The referees, table officials, delegates and coaches don’t get paid for helping, they just enjoy the sport.

I would recommend volunteering to anyone, as I have also met many good friends through the sport from all over the country – and even the world.”

The ASA would like to say a hug thank you to Katie, the Hesketh family and all of our water polo volunteers for their valued contribution to the sport. We simply couldn’t do it without you! If you would like to know more about how to become a volunteer within water polo, visit the Water Polo section of our site or contact volunteering@swimming.org

Sarah Clarke: Dedicated aquatics volunteer

Sarah first became involved in volunteering whilst still a swimmer herself at Trinity Synchro Club in Carlisle, where she began coaching at the age of 15. Sarah’s love of Synchro and all aquatic disciplines, along with being inspired by her own coaches, gave her the desire to give back to other swimmers. Sarah started volunteering at competitions too, knowing that these events can’t run without volunteers and her involvement in the sport flourished from there.

Photo of Sarah Clarke coaching synchro at the poolPE teacher Sarah now volunteers in a huge variety of roles, including coaching at Trafford Synchro Club and Warrington Warriors Synchro, volunteering at different ASA and British Swimming events in all disciplines and has recently began team managing the Synchro England Talent Squad. In addition to this, Sarah is a national and LEN judge, a senior skills assessor, a member of both North West and National Synchro committees and was even a Games Maker in a field of play role at the Synchro event at the London 2012 Olympics.

Sarah coaches over 8 hours a week, as well as carrying out various administrative tasks for her different roles, such as sending emails, cutting music and planning sessions. Sarah currently spends a lot of her weekends and all of her school holidays helping out with the England Talent Squad, or at competitions, enthused by her love of her swimmers and for seeing them achieve and develop their potential.

When asked about the impact she has, Sarah answered “I know that clubs don't run without the commitment of a network of volunteers. I feel I am definitely helping the aquatic community by spreading the word about the great sport of Synchronised Swimming and trying to make it possible for as many people as possible to take part. I know the impact Synchro has had on my life and I hope that I have brought some of that to others around the country.”

Karen Thorpe – Talent Development Officer for Synchro: “I would love to see Sarah Clarke receive recognition for her volunteer work. She is a judge, coach and is stepping in to Team Manage the England Talent Age Group Team. She dedicates a lot of time to Synchro and although she is a school teacher by profession, she coaches, judges at local, national and international level and is also Team Managing this year – all as a volunteer.

She is a great volunteer role model in terms of dedication, motivation and attitude. She never complains, finds solutions to problems and acts in a professional manner upholding the best interests of the sport and the athletes she is working with.  She works well with others, listening to and understanding their points of view whilst maintaining a clear perspective of her own values.”

The ASA would like to say a hug thank you to Sarah and all of our Synchro volunteers for their valued contribution to sport. We simply couldn’t do it without you! If you would like to know more about volunteering in Synchro, contact us at volunteering@swimming.org or click here to visit our Syncho Officials page. 

Jill Stidever: An inspirational aquatics volunteer

Jill became involved in volunteering as a teenager, first helping with Life Saving and continuing as Swimming Captain at her club whilst undertaking teacher training. Jill discovered her interests lay in helping to teach people with specific difficulties to learn to swim, concentrating on those with physical and/or visual difficulties. Jill was inspired to learn more about how to help those less able in the water and attended courses including the ASA Level 1 and 2 Disability courses, which she now presents as a tutor.

During her career, Jill has established swimming clubs for disabled people, with three of her swimmers going on to become Paralympians. Jill’s current club, Leicester Penguins, has swimmers from 7 months old to thirty years plus, who are coached by a team of volunteers working alongside her.Photo of Jill Stidever with swimmers

Jill’s work has helped in changing the perception of disability sport and encouraging people to see disability swimmers as athletes. The ‘freedom, companionship, new skills and the joy of each swimmer’s achievements’ is what motivates Jill to continue volunteering. Jill has been keen to ensure that the swimmers’ ability rather than disability is focused on, and that the swimmers are given as many opportunities as possible, whether through learning to swim, or simply by socialising in an environment where others have similar difficulties.

Through Jill’s work within disability sport she has inspired others to also join in volunteering in a mix of roles. Whether through enthusing parents to help out on the poolside, or Paralympic athletes giving up their time to inspire younger swimmers in the pool, Jill’s passion has been infectious. Throughout Jill’s volunteering, she has been keen to pass on ideas, techniques, advice and teaching to parents and other volunteers whose children need extra help when learning to swim.

Jill has dedicated many years to volunteering, contributing around 40 hours each week to coaching swimming and fundraising, and has recently been awarded an MBE for her charitable work. She was also the National winner of the BBC’s prestigious Unsung Hero Award in 2014 and attended the BBC Sports Personality of the Year to receive her prize.

The ASA would like to say a hug thank you to Jill and all of our swimming volunteers for their valued contribution to the sport. We simply couldn’t do it without you! If you would like to know more about volunteering in swimming, contact us at volunteering@swimming.org

Colin Walsh: Water Polo’s Unsung Hero

Colin Walsh has been involved as a volunteer in Water Polo for over 20 years at club, regional and national level and is seen by many as one of the key figures in the water polo community. Colin’s first involvement in the sport, as with many others, was as a parent supporting his son Stephen at Tyldesley Swimming and Water Polo Club. Initially as a team manager, then as a committee member and going on to complete his first coaching qualification.

After moving on to the City of Manchester Water Polo Club, in addition to continuing his roles with the club committee and teaPhoto fo Colin Walshm management, Colin was able to get involved in event management at club tournaments. Colin’s developing expertise led to him gaining the role of Field of Play Manager at the majority of national and international matches and tournaments for the past 10 years, where he strived to provide the most professional and successful water polo events possible. One of Colin’s highlights in this time was being selected as a Games Maker at the water polo venue at the London 2012 Olympics.

Depending on the time of the year, Colin would estimate that he spends anything between 10 and 20 hours per week on the administration side of his role alone, with additional hours spent at tournaments, national and regional camps and at training. Colin’s motivation for this immense dedication of his time to the sport is simple: his love of water polo. 

Colin has had a huge impact on the sport, where he has had a hand in the development of young players, especially in his role as administrator for the Manchester Regional Training Centre for the past 12 years. Within his roles Colin has seen and encouraged many players to progress, with five going on to become Olympians. As Team Manager for both City of Manchester WPC and the GB U19 Boys’ Squad, Colin has provided a professional, supportive and safe environment for young players to develop both as water polo players and as young men. 

Phil Winstanley - Pathway Performance Leader for Water Polo: “Some recognition for what Colin Walsh does for water polo is long overdue. Despite owning and managing his own business, Colin can always be seen poolside at any significant Water Polo Championship: whether controlling poolside in the 2012 Olympics or making things run smoothly in the British Championships, the National Age Groups or for the English Schools. He approaches each event with a real sense of purpose and organisation. Not being content with that, Colin finds time to team manage Manchester Hawks, the North West Inter Regional team and has now volunteered his services for the 1997 men’s team preparing for international competition next year, only a year after being Team Manager for the 1998 age group at the Europeans in Malta last spring. Furthermore, he has only recently retired from managing the very successful Manchester RTC. He clearly has a passion for water polo and never seeks any plaudits or recognition. Without characters like Colin, water polo would be a much poorer sport and I’m delighted to see him get some recognition for the commitment he makes.”

The ASA would like to say a hug thank you to Colin and all of our water polo volunteers for their valued contribution to the sport. We simply couldn’t do it without you! If you would like to know more about volunteering in water polo, contact us at volunteering@swimming.org

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