Catherine, 18, has been announced as the Youth Volunteer of the Year at the Swim England National Awards.
Catherine, originally from Leighton Buzzard, shares with us her volunteering journey and how her love of swimming has made a profound difference to her life.
“Swimming has been such an important and constant in my life. I started learning to swim when I was three and joined the swimming club, Linslade Crusaders, when I was seven. I starting competing in little galas and continued to progress to more competitive meets. I really enjoyed swimming and made lots of friends at the club.
“I was born with a spinal condition, Scoliosis, which causes an abnormal twisting and curvature of the spine. Swimming has always helped with my movement and physicality.”
When Catherine was 12, she underwent the first of two surgeries to have rods fused to her spine.
“After my first surgery, I was back in the pool before I was back at school! My consultants have always told me that swimming has helped with my condition and my recovery. I had a second permanent fusion operation when I was 16.”
Catherine started volunteering at the Linslade Crusaders as a teenager.
“My mum is a swimming coach and I started helping her, especially whilst my younger sister was having lessons. I really enjoyed helping out, and when I was 17 decided to would formalise my teaching. I went on to complete my SEQ Level 1 Assistant Swimming Qualification in 2021 with the Institute of Swimming and my Level 2 in the summer of 2022. I really enjoyed the training. I found the Level 2 much more intense, but I got loads of assistance from the tutor, and it was such a lovely supportive group too.
“Volunteering as a swimming teacher has been so positive for my confidence. It’s forced me to raise my voice, communicate clearly, and to offer positive praise. I especially enjoy teaching younger children. It’s so wonderful to share in their joy as they progress.
“I was volunteering around five hours a week for my old swimming club and additionally at Leighton Buzzards Otters, which is a specialist group for children and young people at any age and with any disability.. I love helping out at the Otters, it’s extremely rewarding; there’s a great group of people and we have fantastic summer and Christmas parties!
“Teaching swimming really helped to direct my University applications and the courses I was interested in, and I’m so proud to have started at University, studying to be a primary school teacher. I don’t think I would have thought of this as a career without the swimming.
“When I come home during the holidays I always volunteer again at the clubs, and now that I am settled into University I’m looking to take on some flexible paid swimming teaching during term time to help with my student finances.
“I’m delighted to have been recognised by Swim England and the Institute of Swimming. I volunteer for my love of swimming and for the confidence and self-belief it has given me. Swimming really has helped to shape my childhood, my teens and now my future.”
Find out more about becoming a swimming teacher.