Bristol to host first Start Para-Swimming taster session since pools reopened

A national initiative that aims to improve access and create opportunities for young disabled people to join the para-swimming pathway in England is relaunching following the opening of indoor pools.

The national ‘Start Para-Swimming’ initiative, which is led and supported by the Swim England regions, is set to run a number of taster-day sessions across the country, beginning in Bristol on 25 April.

City of Bristol Aquatics will welcome dozens of potential swimmers with disabilities on what will be the first taster day of its kind since before the most recent lockdown period.

Swimmers who have a basic level of water confidence and skill and who may be in or have completed a ‘Learn to Swim’ programme are encouraged to come along to the session.

‘Clear pathway to get involved’

Lisa Atkinson, head coach at the City of Bristol Aquatics said: “Our Start Para-Swimming trial on Sunday is all about providing potential swimmers with a disability an avenue to get involved.

“If anyone is interested, it’ll be a great opportunity for them to come and see what a club environment is like, and how we can work together to develop their swimming even further.

“It’s really important that we offer a clear pathway for all to be able to get involved and find a love of competitive swimming at the City of Bristol Aquatics. We’re passionate about what we do and want as many as possible to also be passionate about the sport of swimming.

“On the day, swimmers should expect a friendly and fun environment and will get to experience a mini-session to demonstrate what our Start-Para sessions would be like on a weekly basis.

“The session will hopefully be a starting point of their competitive swimming journey, with a view to them joining our weekly start para-swimming sessions and then progress into our fully inclusive competitive swimming club structure.”

Assistant coach at City of Bristol Aquatics, Paddy Noon, added: “It’s important to offer taster days like this to show children with disabilities they have a place in the sporting community and can benefit from all the great things swimming can offer.

“At the City of Bristol Aquatics, we’re passionate about supporting people from all walks of life and want to help them develop not only as competitors but people too.

‘Encourage the next generation’

Martin Lees, Swim England’s para-swimming development manager, said: “It’s great to get this initiative up and running again in Bristol. This project is aimed at growing the para-swimming community at the grassroots level and then encouraging and supporting those athletes along their swimming journey.

“This programme allows the Swim England talent team to become aware of athletes much earlier to then potentially introduce them onto the para-swimming pathway.

“The first step is the most important and that is what these taster sessions are designed for. We’re excited to witness the next generation of para-swimmers develop and evolve.

The Start Para-Swimming programme will include further taster days across a number of England’s swimming clubs, details of which will be released in due course.

If you would like to attend the taster-day session in Bristol on April 25, please email [email protected].

If you are interested in becoming involved in para-swimming but are unsure where to start, you can complete Swim England’s Swimmer ID Tracker by clicking here.