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Youth squad coach Francesca’s virtual view is online sessions help athletes improve

The head coach of the Swim England Artistic Swimming Youth Squad is confident lockdown will not have an adverse impact on the athletes – as virtual training sessions will see them progress when competitions resume.

Francesca Filatondi, a former member of the Italian artistic swimming national team, has been working with the youth squad following trials last November.

Now, as part of UK Coaching Week 2020, Francesca explains how the squad has coped with pools being closed during the coronavirus pandemic and how land training has helped the team stay motivated and committed to improve.

Strong relationship based on trust

After the youth group trials in November 2019, I met the team in January 2020 at our first camp.

On that occasion, I was able to notice the strengths and weaknesses of each athlete … their way of being responsible, their way of motivating themselves and others, their way of relating to coaches and their endurance to fatigue.

This first meeting was important to establish a relationship with the athletes

After a general training in March, the athletes were offered the possibility of taking on challenges by meeting coaches of different disciplines as well as meeting the Italian National Youth Team and the GB Senior Team.

Then lockdown hit.

However, thanks to our regular Zoom sessions every week, it was possible to build a stronger relationship based on trust and the mutual desire to improve.

Events such as the Virtual World Games proved to be influential for the athletes. Not only was it an incentive for those who participated but it was great to see their team-mates share and enjoy their successes.

On these occasions, shared discipline has been understood and applied by all the members of the team.

Now the athletes know the programme that must be performed together every week and why.

Responsibilities and objectives have become clearer thanks to a regular and precise training routine that the athletes know and can reproduce even at home on their own.

Confident they will progress well

The Swim England Artistic Swimming Youth Squad

The team is much more cohesive now, also in terms of commitment during each session.

Flexibility, leg line and core control have visibly improved.

Obviously, the work is a continuous progression and evolution but the athletes are stimulated with new challenges and short-term goals to keep their level of motivation high.

And even if the training conditions in their clubs are not the same, the athletes have a positive attitude and find strategies in order to be able to expect what is required.

For the coming season, the team has a progressive programme that will allow them to have regular feedback and measure their progress.

This forms the basis of personal satisfaction and a satisfied athlete is an athlete ready to push themselves further.

The 22 athletes within the England Artistic Swimming Youth Squad will remain training virtually together until the new year.

They will be supported by their clubs as they return to the pool and start to build their water skills back up to the standard they were before lockdown.

As a group we are confident that they will progress well during 2021 having spent time working on the land and making these improvements.

Trials for the 2021 Youth Squad will hopefully be held in February 2021.