The benefits of taking club swimmers to open water

Our National Open Water Officer Sharon Lock dispels some myths and explains why clubs and coaches should consider introducing their club swimmers to open water.

Introducing club swimmers to open water

I’m passionate about promoting open water swimming and swimmers that try it often become the best advocates.

Swimmers love the lack of lane ropes or chemicals and the opportunity to try out something new surrounded by nature.

They find their love for swimming is reinvigorated so my question to you is, why not try it?

I get asked all the time ‘isn’t open water swimming dangerous?’

Swimming outdoors has its challenges but if it’s at an organised swimming venue with qualified coaches it can be great fun!

Taking your club swimmers into open water will give them the challenge of trying something new. It lets them overcome any fears they may have and be part of a team.

It also gives long distance swimmers the opportunity to experience a different aspect to racing, new techniques, and test their abilities.

Some swimmers who aren’t reaching their potential in a pool often find their feet and flourish in an outdoor environment. Providing new opportunities for your swimmers can help to retain interest and boost enjoyment.

Adding another dimension to the club programme

I spoke to our Open Water Talent Lead Mike Parker about open water swimming, and he told me it can add another dimension to club programmes.

“Swim England Talent offers a dynamic and progressive development pathway for competitive open water swimming athletes,” he said.

“Swimming clubs in England are in an ideal position to facilitate open water swimming training whether that be in the pool or in an open water environment.

“I have no doubt that it will add another dimension to your club programme, which will bring positive long term benefits to your athletes.

“By it’s very nature, open water swimming promotes resilience, self-confidence, independence and self-regulation and of course it’s fun to do.”

Boy swimming in open water

Complete a coaching course to take your club swimming

As a swimming coach, you can upskill yourself in order to deliver safe open water swimming.

Your first step is to complete the Open Water Coaching Award through the Institute of  Swimming. There are lots of venues and dates to choose from, the tutors are experienced and knowledgeable.

The lakes used for courses are all wonderful places to have a classroom! Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s called Level 2 – this is just where it sits on the qualification framework.

It’s for all Level 2 coaches and teachers, and above. They give you all the knowledge you need to assess the safety of and organise an open water session professionally.

Kingston Royals Open Water Coach Damien Bryan describes open water swimming as “a discipline that challenges the body and the mind.”

He said: “For a coach it requires you to take your athletes beyond what they are capable of in the pool.

“The tactical side of the discipline is as important as the physical. Open water swimming could be a great new way to engage your swimmers.”

Find your nearest venue with the support you need

If you are involved in running a club why not find your nearest open water venue?

If you are not sure where this is, please feel free to contact me or your regional office.

Contact Sharon

  • Sharon Lock – Swim England Open Water Officer
    T: 01509 640134
    E: sharon.lock@swimming.org

Venues shouldn’t just be a lake and a car park. Many have excellent facilities, staffing and hot chocolate in abundance.

If your coach isn’t yet qualified, most venues will have coaches who can take your sessions for you. If you’re thinking of swimming in the sea then a local coach is essential to help you plan and organise this.

Surf Lifesaving GB, the RLSS and RNLI are all good places to start. If you’re still not sure then try out Swim Safe sessions for 7-14 year olds as a fantastic introduction to safe open water swimming.

Also, look out for the new open water awards coming soon. They’re designed to help coaches assess swimmers skills and provide a framework for swimmers to progress in open water swimming.

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