Volunteer swimming assistant story: Marcia

Marcia, 16, has been working part-time as a lifeguard at Abbeycroft Leisure’s Newmarket Leisure centre since she qualified in August 2019 and will continue her aquatic training in May, when she undertakes her Swim England Qualifications (SEQ) Level 1 Swimming Assistant (Teaching) qualification.

Marcia has always loved to swim and started having regular swimming lessons at Newmarket Leisure Centre when she was just five years old after moving to the area from Ghana where she was born. Marcia says:

“My mum felt that swimming was an essential life skill. In addition, as I was born with scoliosis, swimming was the perfect non-impact sport for me to join in with.”

Congenital scoliosis is a lifelong spinal disfigurement in which a sideways curvature of the spine is caused by a defect present at birth. The spine can be rotated or twisted, pulling the ribs along with it to form a multidimensional curve. Marcia continues:

“I’ve never let my scoliosis stop me in anything that I do. I’m currently studying for my French, chemistry, biology and maths ‘A’ Levels and am planning to study a science based degree such as biomedicine at university. Swimming has been such a positive part of my life, it’s helped me with my confidence, my fitness and has helped me live more comfortably with my condition. I had surgery on my spine when I was six years old, and as soon as I was allowed, I was back in the pool to help aid my recovery from the procedure.”

Over the years Marcia has completed all her Swim England Learn to Swim stages 1 to 10 and is now part of Abbeycroft Leisure’s bespoke Level 10 Plus swimming group at Newmarket Leisure Centre. The 10 Plus group has been created for children and teenagers aged 8-17 who have completed their Learn to Swim journey and want to keep swimming but don’t want to go down the competitive club or specialist discipline swimming route. Marcia says:

“I joined the 10 Plus group when I was around 12 years old and I absolutely love it. We are a really close group and it’s very sociable. I feel like I have grown up with my swimming friends. We have a real laugh together and socialise away from the pool too. Many of the 10 Plus swimmers have gone on to get both lifeguard and swimming teaching qualifications.

“I can’t wait to start my swimming teaching qualification in May with the Institute of Swimming. My lifeguard training was really practical and helped me with my confidence and public speaking and I’m hoping the swimming teacher course will push me even further. Being a lifeguard at Newmarket Leisure Centre is the perfect job for me as I can work casually at the weekend and after school, its an extremely rewarding role, in a nice safe environment and is really customer facing. I began volunteering in swimming lessons in Spring last year on Saturday mornings for a couple of hours, and once I have my level one swimming teaching qualification I hope to continue to carry on volunteering and I will use this skill to work part time whilst at university.”

Abbeycroft Leisure’s Newmarket leisure centre runs two weekly sessions of its 10 Plus group with 44 children taking part. The lessons start with stroke technique, stamina and water strength training and finish with fun, social games including water polo. Abbeycroft Leisure is committed to supporting its Learn to Swim success stories by funding these young people with their National Pool Lifeguard and Institute of Swimming teaching courses.

Corinne Hurton, Swim Academy Coordinator at Newmarket Leisure Centre says:

“We’ve watched Marcia grow up over the years and are all so proud of her. She is a bright and kind person and an asset to our aquatic team.

“Abbeycroft Leisure is extremely loyal to the kids that commit to our swimming lessons and groups; we regularly fund young people from our 10 Plus group and other specialist swimming disciplines to become lifeguards and swimming teachers. The 10 Plus group has grown in popularly and is a great way to keep young people interested in swimming. So far we have had 12 young people from our 10 Plus group go on to become qualified lifeguards and have had four young people go on to become swimming teachers or leisure industry apprentices. This commitment to our swimmers means we currently do not need to recruit from outside the leisure centre to fill aquatic vacancies, as they have all come up through our learn to swim and beyond programme, creating a self-perpetuating system, which is fantastic for all!”