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City of Peterborough swimmers developed new ‘life skills’ during national lockdowns

As part of the Swim England #YourMembershipCounts campaign, we have been finding out how our clubs and members have stayed engaged with their sport, coped with the challenges of 2020 and their hopes for the future.

Innovative ways of engaging with members during lockdown saw City of Peterborough swimmers ‘stay positive, learn new life skills and foster their love of swimming’ – without being in the pool.

Like every club, Peterborough’s coaches were forced to adapt their training programmes to facilitate land-only workouts when pools first closed in March.

However, head coach Ben Negus described how the club went above and beyond to ensure sessions were not just about drills and fitness.

“We planned in three-week cycles and addressed four key areas: physical conditioning, life skills growth, educational-based learning and dun/competitive tasks,” he said.

“The average week had two online zoom workouts, one zoom strength and conditioning session and one group task.”

Ben explained that the group tasks were centred around education and involved the team discussing topics such as life skills and emotional or physical challenges they may have been facing.

These innovative sessions spanned areas such as stroke and skill development, personal management and life skills, cooking and athlete Q & A’s.

In addition, Ben said that ‘members were encouraged to publish personally-driven and coach-planned workouts to show independent practice using Strava or Google Survey’.

Learning from top coaches and athletes

“The education and life skill sessions were an excellent part of our programme and saw engagement levels increase over the course of the lockdown,” said Ben.

“Our junior members started off by learning good personal management skills, with our senior members looking at world-class behaviours and characteristics.

“This was supported by [everyone] participating in cooking lessons with one of our part-time coaches, Tom Hannam.

“Tom is a qualified chef and started with the goal to teach our members quick, simple meals to make before or after training.

“He finished with building an understanding of how to make quality meals from scratch and the techniques required to make them.”

The club also organised interviews from some of the top coaches and athletes in the UK.

Ben said: ”We were so lucky to have our members learn from the likes of James and Andrew Guy, Max and Joe Litchfield, Hannah and Patrick Miley, Tom Derbyshire, Luke Greenbank, Jody Cundy and Harriet Lee.

“These interviews have not only been excellent tools in lockdown, but are now great tools for reference for our current and future membership.

Ben stressed that throughout the lockdown periods, his members remained ‘fully engaged and positively involved’ in their online sessions.

Adaptable, robust and open-minded

He added: “Even when the lockdown extended beyond the expected period, morale was still very positive across the membership.

“It was just a case of reframing the process goals for that period and trying to enjoy the different practises held for our members.”

At times, certain athletes may have been dealing with additional stress or anxiety brought on by the frustrating situation they found themselves in.

One-to-one support was provided by the head coach and former age-group performance coach, Peter Brystow, during that time.

Ben says that the lockdown period has taught him that the club and its members are ‘adaptable, robust, open-minded and prepared to foster a love for swimming’ without necessarily being in the pool itself.

He said: “Members were prepared to work with their teammates, learn new life skills, and stayed positive throughout the process.

“We already had a strong community within our performance squads, so it was more a case of growing in a different way to the normal team environment we know.

“It definitely grew the community of our junior programme. This has brought bonds for some of our youngsters that weren’t there before lockdown.

“It wasn’t for everyone. Not all members enjoyed the process of working through the lockdown. However, not one member took away from the team’s ability to move forward in their training, learning and growth in this period.”