Cassie Patten: Why I believe everyone should get behind the Heart of Aquatics10 March 2023
Olympic bronze medallist Cassie Patten explains why she believes Swim England’s new safeguarding, welfare and culture plan – Heart of Aquatics – can help create a better future for everyone involved in swimming, diving, artistic swimming and water polo.
Sport – and swimming in particular – is the most fantastic thing and teaches so many great elements of life.
So when I started hearing heartbreaking accounts of people quitting the sport they love due to the damaging culture they had faced, I felt an emotional desire to want to help make the future better.
Since posting a video clip on Twitter saying I intended to make an informed and fair educational video about the issues of weighing athletes, I’ve been contacted by numerous swimmers, parents, coaches – even people from other sports who have faced similar issues.
Poor culture is not just an issue poolside – it’s clear it transcends swimming.
However, it was hugely important to hear Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson say she was truly sorry that some people had not had a positive experience when participating in aquatic sports.
I know that will mean a lot to people.
We can’t change the past but we can learn from mistakes that have been made to create a better future.
Swim England’s Heart of Aquatics plan is an important step in the right direction.
Deserve to be heard
When I appealed for people to get in touch, I literally thought only a handful of people would – one of them being my mum!
So it was really surprising so many contacted me wanting to be heard – and they deserve to be heard.
Swim England are now going to be using independent experts to listen to the people out there who are willing to talk.
The fact that they have said they are getting independent help because they are not experts – and so they can capture honest feedback – is fantastic.
That’s why I’m excited to see where the Heart of Aquatics goes.
There are people out there who have been hurt, are hurting and feel like their voice hasn’t been heard.
But now, they will have an outlet that will keep them at the heart of aquatics.
There are millions of people who get into swimming for all kinds of different reasons – swimming for health, swimming for fitness, swimming for fun, swimming for life skills or even swimming for medals and glory.
It seems that, at the minute, people are hearing very much about the negative side of things – which obviously they should.
Take it on board
However, half of the driving force behind me doing the video was to highlight that not every swimmer’s experience is negative – that’s definitely not the case.
There are thousands of swimmers that will look back on their time in the pool and say the only negative thing was that they smelt like chlorine all the time.
My two children are too young to join a club at the minute but I’m looking forward to them one day being part of this incredible community.
Within a swimming club environment, there should be a place for everybody and in my video, I reiterated the importance of culture.
That’s why, I believe, everyone involved in swimming, artistic swimming, diving and water polo should get behind the Heart of Aquatics.
It is an incredible piece of documentation but it is only as good as the paper it’s written on unless people are willing to take it on board.
The willingness of Swim England to say that they want to make the culture better for everyone in the future is incredible.
Let’s keep this ball rolling, let’s keep this momentum high.
And let’s really work together to make sure that swimming is the fantastic sport that it is – and should be.