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Swim England Annual Report 2021

Welcome to the 2021 Swim England Annual Report.

This covers the month-by-month work of Swim England between 1 January and 31 December 2021.

Swim England Board

The Swim England Board meets around six times a year and is made up of representatives from across the sport and physical activity sector. Members have background in legal, human resources and finance.

The Swim England Board members are:

Sue Smith, Caroline Green, Keith Ashton, Sarah Gregory, Bernard Simkins, Alison Breadon, David Flack, Neil Booth, Joan Wheeler, Jane Nickerson, Brian Havill.

January

The year began with high hopes for the rearranged Olympic Games – but focus soon turned on the fight to reopen pools as the country was plunged into a third national lockdown.

Artistic swimming duet Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe said they were ‘raring to go’ as they aimed to show they belong among the best in their discipline by qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

However, only days after the hopeful duet had spoken about their desire to make an impact on the biggest stage in the world, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tougher sanctions to curb the spread of coronavirus, forcing the closure of pools for the third time in the space of nine months.

Chief executive Jane Nickerson insisted swimming pools must be included in the list of facilities allowed to open at the ‘earliest available opportunity’, adding it was ‘very upsetting that are we faced with this extremely distressing situation once again’.

Mr Johnson’s announcement came on the same day that a new ‘exciting identity’ for the Swim England National Performance Squad was launched ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The aim was to cultivate an England Swimming Team identity ahead of what promises to be a ‘exhilarating experience’ of a home Games.

Team England swimming at 2018 Commonwealth Games

A total of 85 swimmers were named in the first-ever England Swimming Team, which aimed to bring together everyone who would be considered for selection for Team England at the Commonwealth Games.

With pools closed, Swim England reiterated its advice on swimming safely in open water, especially as a cold snap swept the UK.

Jane stressed the importance of ‘critical’ membership income due to Swim England being a registered charity and not-for-profit organisation, while members shared the reasons why they had already renewed.

Popular Lockdown Live sessions for the diving community held during the second national lockdown returned again while the nation was being told to stay at home.

Swimmers who had taken part in the first Level X Racing series discovered where they had finished as the leaderboards were published.

More than 16,200 swimmers from 430 clubs had taken part in the opening event between 23 October and the end of December.

Two Technical Officials chosen by FINA to officiate at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics discovered they would be heading to Japan for the rearranged Games.

Helen Akers and Craig Hunter received confirmation they would still get the chance to accomplish the ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in August.

Meanwhile. starters Gerry Metcalf and Matt Huntington and referees Jackie Beard Jones, Stewart Murray and Durno Jessiman began a four-year term on FINA’s Swimming Officials list.

Swim England gave its backing to an MP’s campaign to improve the water quality of the country’s rivers and inland waterways.

MP Philip Dunne’s ‘Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill’ places a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers and other inland waters.

Days later, Swim England and the #EndSewagePollution coalition welcomed a Government announcement which said water companies must make real-time data on sewage discharges available at bathing sites all year round.

Man using Poolpod to access pool

The health benefits of aquatic activity were highlighted as part of the campaign to #OpenOurPools.

Leading health experts have warned that the continued closures of swimming pools are ‘building up health problems for the future’, while Ben Wilkins, the CEO of Good Boost, insisted swimming pools were a ‘lifeline’ for people with numerous joint, mobility and disabilities to stay active and keep moving – and must ‘urgently’ reopen as soon as possible.

Independent charity The Swimming Trust, in partnership with Swim England, offered £500 to five different state schools in a bid to help unearth the next generation of water polo players.

Swimming’s Mel Marshall and diving’s Jane Figueiredo were named as part of UK Sport’s new female coaches leadership programme.

As the month drew to a close, Swim England stressed that any new National Plan for Sport and Recreation must include providing the swimming pools the country needs as a priority.

Swim England raised the importance of the Government investing enough money to ensure the country had enough swimming pools to support swimming, diving, water polo and artistic swimming clubs to have access to the water.

February

Dates for free Team Manager 2 courses were unveiled as Swim England staged three workshops offering additional training for volunteers and help ensure clubs are ready to go once we are back in the water again.

Swim England also offered its affiliated clubs top tips on how to become strong and sustainable organisations at an Interactive Financial Sustainability webinar.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston has confirmed to Swim England that the reopening of facilities as soon as it is safe to do so is a priority – as they are a ‘powerful defence’ against the coronavirus pandemic.

A £10 million investment to support school sports and swimming facilities was welcomed by Swim England.

The cash would build on existing funding to help schools open their facilities outside of school hours, and encourage pupils to be more physically active.

A new report revealed two-thirds of outdoor swimmers say the activity is essential or very important to their mental health.

Outdoor Swimmer Magazine’s Trends in Outdoor Swimming report has also revealed that the number of participants taking part in the activity grew by around 1.5 to three times in 2020.

A host of swimming stars would inspire the next generation at Swim England’s new Sharing Success series.

Olympic medallists Rebecca Adlington, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor and James Guy were those taking part in the workshops, which were being delivered by Swim England’s Swimming Talent Team and would focus on the technical, tactical, and physical elements of each stroke.

Swim England called on the Government to deliver on its promise to prioritise the reopening of leisure facilities – so people can swap pills for pools to help manage a range of debilitating health conditions.

The Swim England Water Polo Leadership Group revealed ‘a lot of good work’ had already been achieved on its five-year vision for the future of the sport, despite the constraints faced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Olympic and Paralympic swimmers and divers were among dozens calling for pools to be given ‘the fullest possible support to survive and recover from the economic crisis caused by Covid-19’.

Sharron Davies, Steve Parry, Jack Laugher, Alice Tai and Kerri-anne Payne are all signatories on a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Meanwhile Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson issued an impassioned plea to Mr Johnson calling on him not to push pools and leisure centres to the back of the queue again as he prepared to announce his roadmap out of the national lockdown.

It was a view shared by Catherine West MP, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Swimming, who said that pools should be at the heart of the post lockdown recovery.

Mel Marshall offered words of wisdom to young swimmers who feared they may have missed their chance to shine due to continued lockdowns preventing them from competing.

The Loughborough National Centre head coach, who also hailed the importance of clubs, said: “Swimming is like riding a bike – it’s still in there.”

Swimathon Foundation president Duncan Goodhew praised the work of club volunteers, calling them the unsung heroes of the sport.

Jane said that ‘multi-functional pools must reopen to help reduce the risk of unnecessary deaths’ as there was a fear people would miss out on life-saving swimming lessons which could lead to tragic consequences.

In another plea to Mr Johnson the day before his roadmap announcement, Jane insisted pools had ‘to be among the first sectors to reopen as we have robust, scientific evidence to prove they are safe’.

Twenty-four hours later, the Government revealed outdoor pools would reopen on Monday 29 March, with indoor pools on Monday 12 April.

The diving board at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre

However the announcement was tinged with despair as over 18s would have to wait until Monday 17 May before being allowed to train with their clubs.

At a meeting of the DCMS Sport Working Group, chaired by the Minister for Sport, Jane raised the situation facing Swim England’s over 18 club swimmers, divers, water polo players and artistic swimmers and urged them to keep this situation under review.

Swim England raised the importance of clean water to safeguard the health of the many people who enjoy swimming outdoors, at a parliamentary inquiry.

It was announced that the Sandwell Aquatics Centre was set to be the busiest venue at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games with action on all 11 days of the competition and 66 medals up for grabs.

The winners of the first-ever Swim England Level X Artistic Swimming virtual land games were revealed during a Facebook live broadcast.

March

Olympian Craig Figes was appointed to the Swim England Water Polo Leadership Group at the beginning of March.

The captain of the Great Britain men’s water polo team at the London 2012 Olympic Games took on the role of coaching representative after Sean King had to stand down due to increased work commitments.

Swim England welcomed a pioneering research project being carried out by the Black Swimming Association (BSA) which was announced on the organisation’s first anniversary.

The research is part of the BSA’s three-year strategic plan and core mission to ensure people from African, Caribbean and Asian communities have an accessible, inclusive and safe experience in and around water.

Tom Baster, the chairman of the Swim England Swimming Leadership Group, said the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown announcement ‘provided us with the clearest indication in more than a year that competition will return before the end of the swimming season’.

Olympic gold medallist Jack Laugher reflected on this earliest diving memories and said joining a club was ‘was one of the best decisions of my entire life’.

He hailed his hometown club, Harrogate, saying: “It was the drive and the determination and the passion of the coaches that really propelled me to where I am now.”

An interactive week of workshops run by Swim England’s DISE and Talent Teams was deemed ‘challenging, fun, and enjoyable’ by the athletes who took part.

The sessions included yoga and mindfulness sessions, live cook alongs, HIIT workouts, quizzes, mental wellbeing and Q&A’s with elite athletes.

As youngsters returned to the classroom as the third national lockdown started to ease, Olympian Steve Parry called on primary schools ‘not to forget life-saving swimming lessons’.

He said: “I appreciate swimming lessons aren’t simply going to return on day one of being back in school. However, schools shouldn’t simply stop or cut back on swimming lessons. There is plenty of time remaining in this academic year so there should be no excuses not to run swimming lessons.”

Swim England extended its popular Lockdown Live diving sessions until 1 April due to high demand.

Level X Water Polo was launched by Swim England with under 18s registered as category two members able to take part when indoor pools reopened from Monday 12 April as part of the route back to competition.

Return to competition plans were also confirmed for diving and artistic swimming.

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson praised a NSPCC campaign for helping to protect 16 and 17-year-olds, with the Government set to close a loophole in the law.

The West Midlands Diving Strategy was officially launched by Swim England.

It has been created as part of a legacy project around the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the £73 million Sandwell Aquatics Centre, which aims to offer a platform to promote the sport in the region.

A new qualification structure for water polo referees was agreed by the Swim England Water Polo Leadership Group.

Luke Greenbank shattered a 10-year British record after clocking 1:55.34 in the Men’s 200m Backstroke at the British Swimming Invitation Meet, while Ellie Challis also set a new British best in the Women’s S3 100m Freestyle.

Tickets went on sale for the inaugural Swim England Foundation Coach Conference 2021.

The proposed event schedule for senior and age group British and Home Nations water polo teams was described as a ‘very positive step’ for the sport.

It featured a list of domestic and international water polo competitions that the respective teams will look to contest during the remainder of 2021 and throughout 2022.

Swim England announced it was freezing the price of its Learn to Swim awards and resources – for the first time since 2015.

The winners of Swim England’s inaugural Level X Diving Dryland Games were revealed during a live stream on Facebook.

More than 250 entrants took part in the competition which required them to film a series of dryland diving drills to then be scored by a panel of judges.

On the first anniversary of pools being forced to close to help combat the spread of coronavirus, the dedicated effort of operators and facility owners to get them reopened was praised.

Swim England’s head of business engagement Alex Hains said: “Millions will go swimming again – but few will know how much effort the people behind the scenes put in to make that happen.”

Chief executive Jane Nickerson expressed her frustration and disappointment after the Government confirmed it would not reverse the decision on over 18s training with clubs when indoor pools reopen.

A series of free webinars focusing on outdoor swimming were launched.

They aimed to inspire and engage those who are interested in finding out more about swimming outdoors or returning to the activity.

A new £5 million fund to help community-run leisure facilities recover and reopen following the coronavirus lockdown was welcomed by Swim England.

Thousands of swimmers were set to embrace the great outdoor pools and open water venues as they prepared to reopen.

Jane expressed her delight that facilities were set to welcome the return of swimmers from Monday 29 March saying: “It’s been a long time coming.”

As open water venues reopened, Swim England, RLSS UK and British Triathlon stressed the importance of being outdoor swimming savvy in a bid to prevent ‘avoidable tragedies’.

It was confirmed that artistic swimming and water polo would benefit from UK Sport investment over the next four years.

The two aquatics disciplines would receive £216,250 (artistic swimming) and £375,000 (water polo) respectively over four years.

Swim England’s Continuous Professional Development Programmes (CPDs) for safeguarding training were endorsed by CIMSPA.

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