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Olympian Sarah Barrow blogs on progress of West Midlands Diving Strategy

The Olympic Games might only be a few weeks away but work to create a diving legacy as part of next year’s Commonwealth Games is well underway. Here, Olympian Sarah Barrow provides an update on the West Midlands Diving Strategy.

Its aim is to provide an inclusive and sustainable diving programme, widen participation and, potentially, produce future International medallists.

While the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games is still more than a year away, a lot of hard work has already gone into the West Midlands Diving Strategy.

As lead officer for Swim England on the project, it’s pleasing to see things moving in the right direction against the strategy’s four aims and objectives.

So let’s take a look at what we have achieved in each area of the strategy so far and the work currently in progress.

1 Diving pathway

When the project started in May 2019, there was a very small diving programme in Everyone Active’s Tudor Grange Leisure Centre in Solihull with one coach who wanted to retire and a young assistant coach who had just passed the course.

Unfortunately we were brought to a standstill during the coronavirus outbreak but since we got up and running again in May 2021, the West Midlands now have three diving programmes with six assistant and two diving coaches teaching.

These programmes are working on the lower levels of the Swim England Diving award scheme and will act as feeder sites for the project in to the Sandwell Aquatic Centre.

The programmes are about giving children an opportunity to dive and have fun on the boards.

You can find the beginner diving programmes at Everyone Active Tudor Grange Leisure Centre, Solihull, Serco Wyndley Leisure Centre, Sutton Coldfield and Walsall Gala Baths (start date TBC).

What we have achieved so far

  • Work with the Institute of Swimming to provide the Aquatic Skills Framework Stage 8-10 Diving CPD, Diving Assistant Coach and Diving Coach courses with the region
  • Create a network or membership scheme for teachers and coaches, to facilitate communications, learning and sharing.

Work in progress

  • Work with the Swim England West Midlands Region to ensure that an annual calendar of coaching courses exists to meet the needs of the sport
  • Create a development plan to generate a budget dedicated to upskilling and creating opportunities for coaching
  • Work with the Swim England West Midlands Region on previous and new projects to engage volunteers
  • Streamline diving coaching courses and CPDs online.

2 Widening participation 

With all participation stopping due to Covid-19, we, unfortunately, lost some divers that were part of the programmes.

I fully believe that the programmes will continue to increase numbers, though, especially in the lead up to and beyond the Commonwealth Games.

Promoting the diving at the Commonwealth Games will be pivotal to the increase in participation levels and knowledge of the sport.

What we have achieved

  • Demonstrate the benefits and opportunities to an operator of delivering a diving programme
  • Work with operators to plan, launch and review their diving programme, including offering taster sessions to new audiences
  • Produce and provide template marketing collateral that can be used for promotion of the diving programmes.

Work in progress

  • Work to build relationships with gymnastics programmes in the region and other transfer sports to explore partnership working
  • Work with marketing on a PR plan ahead of, during and post Commonwealth Games.

3 Workforce

The current coaches we have in the West Midlands are already passionate and have a willingness to learn.

The plan in the autumn is to put on an assistant coach course to support those coaches that are already qualified but would like to take the next step and become a diving coach.

The Aquatic Skills Framework 8-10 Diving CPD has been adapted slightly for the theory to be presented online with a practical date selected before the CPD takes place.

Sandwell Leisure Trust are putting 65 teachers through the CPD to start the grassroots section of their diving pathway.

The more access children have to diving, the bigger the participation levels will become.

What we have achieved:

  • Produce a formal pathway from Learn to Swim through to Learn to Dive with agreed standards at each stage
  • Engage with operators to build a network of diving activity, starting with Swim England’s Stage 8-10 Diving Awards which progress into the Learn to Dive element of the pathway.
  • Support all diving programmes to implement the Swim England Diving Awards Framework.

Work in progress:

  • Build relationships with key universities and higher education establishments to produce an offer to attract high performance athletes to the region
  • Ensure an appropriate competition structure to provide opportunity for those at every stage of the pathway.

4 Partnership delivery

External funding is needed to gain traction to the project and an engagement with active partnerships and local authorities is absolutely key in having a successful diving pathway in the region.

Funding will help those attract a workforce from the community, enable diving centres to run free taster sessions, train swimming teachers to spot talent for diving and market the programmes to communities that may not normally be reached.

What we have achieved:

  • Engage with a number of external stakeholders to develop the plan and work together towards a successful delivery – including governing bodies, active partnerships, local authorities, operators and clubs
  • Continue to evaluate the strategy with external stakeholders.

Work in progress:

  • Work to create partnerships with other transfer sports to scope any potential shared working.

The full West Midlands Diving Strategy can be viewed here.