Peterborough's Ben Negus explains how club kept up morale during uncertainty

City of Peterborough Swimming Club head coach Ben Negus explains how the club have coped with the uncertainty around swimming pools reopening.

When pools were given the go ahead to begin reopening from 25 July, there was a mixture of clubs which began training immediately while others still faced a long wait.

Initially, it looked as though Peterborough Swimming Club may have to wait until September before any nearby facilities would open up.

The club usually use two local school swimming pools and a council facility, all of which currently remain closed. But they have recently secured a small amount of time at a pool 10 miles away.

Ben said: “I think most clubs went through a period were members were a little bit disheartened and down.

“We really did have to look at how we kept morale up.

“We decided to look at the return to training plan in respects to just training and using training as the vocab rather than swimming.

“One of the things that we’ve done is basically say okay, the guidelines are suggesting that you need to be in a certain level of condition before you get back into the water.

“So we’ve increased strength and conditioning exposure, increased online engagement and we’re offering some form of training for those that haven’t experienced open water before. We’ve just increased the return to training phase.

“Essentially what that does as coaching staff is it allows us to check in with the swimmers on a personal level.

“Then we can check in with their conditioning and how they’ve been doing with the stuff that we’ve set online and see whether or not they’re going to be in good enough shape to be safe when they come back to the water.”

Message for those still facing uncertainty

Although the Peterborough-based club may have now been able to secure some pool time in August which is earlier than expected, Ben still has a message for those who can’t yet get in the water.

He said: “First of all, don’t worry if you’re frustrated, angry or upset. That’s completely acceptable and completely understandable.

“Secondly, have a rethink about what your goals are because I think a lot of what we’ve struggled with is down to us being used to regimented practice, training and competing.

“The biggest goal is to learn to be adaptable over the coming six months particularly and reframe your goals for the end of that period.

“If the goal was to make a regional championships, maybe reframe that to put yourself in a position to grow your skills to be in that position when you get back in the water because the training won’t be the same.

“If you’re strength is swimming but you struggle with mobility then maybe use this time to improve your mobility.

“Look at strengths and weaknesses in your personal programme right now and build on that. It’s finding those strengths and weaknesses that we have and working on those as opposed to some outcome goals.

“The other thing is, if it doesn’t feel natural initially don’t necessarily kick it out, it’s just because we’re not used to that practice, we’re not used to that way.

“If it’s got benefits to your swimming down the line, definitely keep at it and utilise it while you have the opportunity.”

Motivating swimmers and coaches

Being the head coach at the club, Ben has also had the task of motivating his coaching team as well as athletes.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s been very difficult to motivate coaches as well during this time,” he said.

“There have been days where I’ve woken up myself and been frustrated, annoyed and really confused almost and I’ve experienced similar with the coaching team.

“It’s that frustration of not being able to do what we love, not being able to have the contact with the athletes.

“Zoom’s been brilliant – it’s been a real godsend in terms of allowing us to have contact time with the squads either as a group or individually, but it’s not the same as being face to face.

“One of the things this has made me realise is how much I love coaching for the athlete engagement and how much we love the athlete’s growth.

“To get back on deck and coach with team members that are keen and excited to be in the water and want to swim and just getting back to basics.

“We know for sure that when we get back in we won’t be doing much in terms of work, but just to have some team dynamic back in the water, that will be fantastic.”

Goals and aims for the future

“For short-term goals, everything for the 2020-21 season is now process orientated.

“We’ll have no competition goals outside two individuals because there’s opportunities for them to make junior international teams so we’ll look at that.

“But everything else will be about the process and growth of the club again. The 2020-21 season is going to be about a return to the norm.

“We don’t know exactly when that’s going to be so if we can build on that process then, at some point for some, they can return to competing properly and for others, they can build ready for the following season.”