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‘Strong community‘ helped Reading Royals cope with an ‘overnight‘ change

As part of the Swim England #YourMembershipCounts campaign, we have been finding out how our clubs and members have stayed engaged with their sport, coped with the challenges of 2020, and their hopes for the future. 

Being part of a ‘strong community’ helped members of Reading Royals Synchronised Swimming Club cope with going from an ‘extremely disciplined routine to nothing overnight’ when the country was first put into lockdown.

The long-standing club has enjoyed many high-points since its establishment in 1969 and fought hard throughout 2020 to ensure members remained motivated for when competitions can eventually return.

However, it was a learning curve for everyone involved at the club.

Estelle Larsen, chairperson of Reading Royals, said: “The first lockdown came with short notice.

“No one had ever used Zoom before, let alone considered how we could continue to meet and train remotely. We started to think about what we could do rather than couldn’t.

“After approximately four to six weeks of a complete break, we split the athletes into appropriate land training groups and set up weekly sessions.

“We couldn’t have achieved this without our fantastic coaches who know the athletes well. This also gave the swimmers an opportunity for a social gathering.”

During this time, Estelle said that the morale amongst club members was mixed.

“Everyone had to adjust to a huge change in their lives,” she said.

Facing the challenges

“Our athletes went from an extremely disciplined routine of school and supervised training to nothing overnight.

“Anyone who knows our sport knows artistic swimming is hugely demanding. We are very proud of how our athletes adapted to work independently at home.”

Even though members, coaches, and volunteers alike were apart for such an extended period of time, Estelle expressed how the sense of community amongst members remained strong.

“We have always been a strong community,” added Estelle.

“We expect a lot from our athletes and strong, lifelong friendships develop from our teams. We have learned that we don’t have to meet face to face for this to continue.

“The swimmers can set goals, train independently and in online groups, keep in contact socially and the coaching management team and the committee can continue to meet as frequently, if not more, than before.”

Like most of the country, the club finds itself out of the water for a third time since March last year as Reading are in tier four and pools are shut once again.

However, Estelle said they were facing the challenges head on to ensure members can achieve their goals when they can return to full training.

She said: “We recognise the health of our wider community is the number one priority and while we are still collectively living with the virus, will continue to work within the guidelines to make the best opportunities we can for our athletes and club.

“We are a resilient bunch of adults and athletes! We love our sport, we may face challenges along the way but despite everything, we will continue to work hard to achieve our goals whilst at the same time doing everything we can to protect each other and everyone else.”