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Andrew Williams awarded Mary Black Award at Artistic Swimming NAGs

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Time keeper Andrew Williams admitted he felt a little bit emotional after being named the winner of the Mary Black Award for his outstanding service to artistic swimming.

Andrew, who began devoting his time to the sport when his daughter attended her first national competition at the age of 10, received the award at the recent Artistic Swimming National Age Group Championships.

He has been volunteering for 16 years but still believed there were more worthy winners of the honour.

Andrew, who is also a warm-up marshal, said: “To be honest I didn’t listen to much of the speech, but then there was the bit at the end about never taking a break from the pool and the safety of the swimmers is always his first concern and I thought… that’s me, this has all been about me.

“I was a little bit emotional but was not going to go well walking up to the platform, so I put that away.

“My daughter stopped competing when she was around 17, but we carried on volunteering because of the added value.

“It’s just knowing that each of us in our different ways are able to make a contribution for the swimmers and the coaches.

“That’s the thing about getting the award. It feels completely unreasonable because I could think of half a dozen people that I know who have been doing it similarly for the same amount of time and they should be getting the award.

“You feel like saying ‘thank you very much, this is for everybody else who have been doing exactly the same thing and giving up their weekends twice a year’.

“I’m hugely grateful that volunteering is recognised like this – I think it’s a brilliant idea.

“It’s a lovely thing and they are a lovely group of people who go along, it’s a fabulous sport and the swimmers are so athletic.

“What they produce is so beautiful and it’s to music – I love music – it can’t get better than that really.

“I just do the two jobs because I love them. I love the time keeping because it needs concentration and trying to get it right every time is fabulous.

“The pool marshalling job is interesting as well because I want to make sure that the swimmers and the coaches have as much pool time as possible, but within the bounds of fairness to everybody.

“And it’s also about having to look after the safety of the swimmers.”

Olympic experience

Volunteering allowed Williams to have ‘one of the best experiences of his life’ – at the London 2012 Olympics.

He said: “I was invited to go for Olympic volunteering in 2012 and that was absolutely awesome.

“It was home territory and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

“Sitting as a time keeper next to the swimming pool watching the world’s best artistic swimmers perform at their peak, you can’t get better than that.”

Advice for others

Andrew says anyone thinking of volunteering at events should do so – as it’s so easy and you get the best view of the competition.

He said: “The thing to say to all the parents, doing stuff on poolside, A – it’s not as warm, B – you’re giving something back and C – you will get so much more out of it.

“It’s just fabulous, which is why I think so many of us whose children have stopped swimming still go along.

“Just get in touch with whoever is organising the event and say that you’re interested in volunteering and I’m sure that a job will be found.

“Time keeping is so easy anybody could do it. After explaining how to use the two stopwatches, I could walk off poolside and you’d be able to do it.

“It is really easy, you just have to stay concentrated, but you have the best view in the house.”

See all the previous winners of the Mary Black Award, here.

To find out more about volunteering opportunities, email [email protected]