Swim England

A nation swimming

New course will give coaches confidence to help swimmers with sight loss

A new course to help swimming coaches play a key role in boosting the number of blind and partially-sighted people participating in aquatics has been launched.

Swim England has worked alongside leading sight loss charity British Blind Sport and UK Coaching to help create a bespoke online training package to give coaches at all levels more confidence at helping those with sight loss to pursue the sport as a hobby or career.

The Coaching Blind and Partially Sighted People course educates coaches on how to include those with sight loss in sessions with their fully-sighted peers.

This includes the importance of providing detailed commentary on their surroundings and what is happening around them – from walking out of the changing room to getting in the pool and swimming itself.

It also recommends hands-on tactile demonstrations when teaching new swimming techniques, as well as how to help blind and partially sighted swimmers develop and progress both recreationally and competitively.

The course is complemented by generic training around sight loss and how it affects participants, creating engaging environments, and venue accessibility to name a few.

It will be promoted by Swim England to help support its coaches and workforce across the country.

Best possible experience

Mike Hawkes, head of diversity and inclusion at Swim England, said: “We have really appreciated the opportunity to work with British Blind Sport and UK Coaching to co-produce this resource. 

“We know that coaches want to provide the best possible experience to their participants and this eLearning will ensure they have the confidence and understanding to support those with a visual impairment. 

“The use of video examples will certainly help in this regard and includes best practice examples of orientating within the pool and providing effective feedback.”

The new e-learning sessions feed into the See Sport Differently campaign that British Blind Sport has partnered with RNIB on, which shows that one in two blind and partially sighted people feel that having sight loss stops them from exercising as much as they would like to – with one in three saying there are sports they want to try but have been unable to.

Frankie Rohan, workforce  officer at British Blind Sport, worked closely with Swim England and UK Coaching on creating the four-hour training course.

“As a charity that is striving to break down sporting barriers for those with sight loss, we know first-hand that swimming is one of the sports that blind and partially sighted people are keen to participate in,” said Frankie.

“But having enough confident coaches is key to helping blind and partially sighted people take that first step into the pool.

Crucial role

“So many sports coaches across various sports tell us that they do not feel confident teaching an individual with sight loss because they don’t want to say the wrong thing or don’t know how to integrate them into a session safely and appropriately – and this new course has a crucial role to play in changing that.

“We also want to encourage a shift in mindset that blind and partially sighted people aren’t just there to have a nice time – they should also be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential to try and compete competitively if they so wish. 

“The training course informs coaches how they can go about this.

“From the perspective of someone with sight loss, the mark of a good coach is one who isn’t afraid to ask them questions, can articulate well, listens and provides challenging and engaging sessions to foster development and improvement.

“That is what we are hoping emerges in swimming pools up and down the country over the coming months.

“It’s fantastic to have Swim England and UK Coaching supporting this initiative and we are excited about the impact that these new training courses are going to have for both current and future generations.”

For more information about developing skills as a swimming coach, please click here.