Anna Hopkin says club swimming renewed her love of the sport and maximised her potential

Gaining confidence, maximising potential and renewing her love for sport are just some of the things that Anna Hopkin attributes to her time in club swimming.

The Loughborough National Centre-trained athlete has just posted some impressive performances while racing at the British Swimming Selection Trials and says that without the years spent in the club environment, she potentially wouldn’t be where she is today.

“My mum was always keen to get us to learn to swim,” said Hopkin. “She had previously done some learn-to-swim teaching and so was quite keen to get us [myself and my brother] into a club once we realised that we had a bit of a knack for it”.

After joining Chorley Marlins SC aged eight, Anna reflects on her earliest swimming memory: “Doing micro-leagues when I was eight or nine.

“It was similar to Arena League and it was for the younger ones – 4x25m relays and 50m races – so it was just a lot of fun.

“At that point, we were doing quite well in the micro-leagues; our relays were really fast. It’s fun to do relays and get to know people that way and make friends with them.”

Gaining confidence and enjoyment

Hopkin admits that as a youngster she was quite shy, and says that entering the club environment alongside school friends allowed her to ‘gain confidence’.

“I joined with two of my friends who I went to primary school with so I think it was just nice to do something with them,” she said. “I was quite a shy kid so it’s nice to join with people I already knew and then be able to kind of meet people and gain a bit more confidence.”

Hopkin moved from Chorley Marlins to train at elite squad Gallica, where she spent three years. When she was 13, she began training full time with Blackburn Centurions Swimming Club, a club which she says had a massive effect on her swimming journey.

“I’d definitely say my coach at Blackburn, Lee [Orrell], really helped me once I moved back to Blackburn from Gallica,” she said. “I sort of learned to love the sport and make everything more fun.

“He was probably the key in getting me back into swimming after I had stepped away from the more serious side of it for a bit.”

The 24-year-old speaks candidly of a time when she had fallen out of love with the sport and decided to take a step back from serious competition and training.

“I just found it really hard,” she said. “I wasn’t enjoying it.

“Lee gradually allowed me to do a little bit and then helped me to enjoy the sport again and get back into it. Ultimately, he helped me qualify for the British Championships before I went to university.”

‘Clubs are instrumental’

The Commonwealth Games bronze medallist spoke on her experiences within the club setting and said: “They definitely all played their parts.

“Being at Chorley really made me realise how good I could potentially be.

“Gallica was a big step up and was a much more serious few years and I think, potentially, without that I wouldn’t be where I am now. If I hadn’t had that then, I’m not sure I’d be where I am now.

“Blackburn was very instrumental in keeping me in the sport when, potentially, I didn’t know if I was going to carry on at all, and then just gradually helping me to enjoy it again. Without Blackburn, I wouldn’t have wanted to keep going on until university.

“I think it’s an excellent way to socialise, to get fit, to enjoy a sport, to start competing”

Her advice to any young person looking to join a club, aquatics or otherwise, is: “I think it’s really important to join I’d say as many clubs as possible when you’re young.

“That’s what I did. I joined swimming, gymnastics, running, trampolining, ballet – I did all sorts.

“Because I was always quite shy, it was always either my mum pushing me to join a club or I would go because friends were joining the club. I’m so glad that my mum [Helen] did me push to join a club because every time I joined one I absolutely loved it.

“I feel like the coaches are always super welcoming and they allow you to sort of integrate with other people and make friends. It’s always sort of really easy to transition into a club so I 100 per cent recommend it.

“If I hadn’t entered into the club setting, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to be noticed, or your talent improved or your technique worked on.

“It’s at that very early stage where you start to realise where potentially the sport might go. So I think you’ve always got to start somewhere and that’s always going to be instrumental in where you go from there.”