Swim England

A nation swimming

Jane Nickerson hails dedicated volunteers as she retires from Swim England

Proud Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson has said an ‘enormous thank you’ to the bank of ‘passionate and positive’ volunteers as she reflects on her time working for an organisation ‘which truly impacts on the lives of others’.

Jane retires on Thursday 29 February following a ‘memorable’ 25 years with the national governing body.

She has been replaced by Andy Salmon, who is now at the helm having joined from British Triathlon where he spent the last six years as chief executive.

Here, Jane looks back on her Swim England career, what she will miss most about the role and her retirement plans.

Jane Nickerson at the Swim England National Awards 2022

How would you describe your 25 plus years working for Swim England?

It is really hard to sum up 25 years with an organisation. The fact I have been here for 25 years says a lot of positive things about Swim England.

It has been a period of growth and development, starting off as head of administration with an employed workforce of around 15 people and ending up as CEO with 250 plus team members.

Someone once said to me they felt life was like surfing – sometimes you are on top of the wave and sometimes you are buried beneath a massive amount of water.  I think that summarises my working life pretty well but looking back I was on top of the wave more times than I was fighting for breath beneath the water.

The organisation has grown and evolved so much over this time and I feel privileged to have been part of the journey so far.

Swim England CEO Jane Nickerson

What will you look back on with most pride during your time with Swim England?

We have an exceptional team and whilst it is good to bring in new and different blood to the team, it is heart-warming to see how many team members have grown and developed with the organisation. We also have a strong club network with many talented and dedicated volunteers and this is the heart of our organisation.

However, we have always said we are ‘more than a sport’. Seeing the joy on the faces of our health and wellbeing team when they received a major award from the health sector, rather than the sport sector, which highlighted the importance of our work in this area, filled me with pride.

To be fair, most days have given me a feeling of pride because we have so many wonderful moments to celebrate. I guess the thing which I am most proud of is that I have been given the opportunity to lead an organisation which provides so many opportunities and fun for so many people. Just watching the face of a young swimmer achieving their first award, the young diver finding the courage to move to a higher board, the water polo player saving or scoring that goal, the talented swimmer bringing home the medals or achieving a personal best, the open water swimmer battling the elements, the masters swimmer breaking records at amazing ages or just trying it for the first time and talking to someone with dementia who finds swimming gives them back ‘their life’ for a while.


If you had to pick one memorable moment from your time with Swim England, what would it be?

This is such a difficult question.

I have no idea how to choose between listening to the mother of a child who is here today because they listened to their SwimSafe messages and knew exactly what to do when caught up in a current, or seeing the look of joy on our artistic swimming duet who won the first World Championship medals ever and qualified for the Olympics after so much hard work and so little funding.

There are many, many memorable moments and I feel guilty for naming just two, bearing in mind I was asked to name one!

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson

What would your message be to the thousands of volunteers up and down the country who work so tirelessly to keep clubs running and ensure competitions take place?

Firstly, an enormous thank you as the sport cannot survive without our volunteers who provide such a wonderful experience for so many members. As volunteers, you do so much and work so hard, you should feel enjoyment and pride in what you are doing and I hope you continue to volunteer as long as you wish and also work to bring on the next generation of volunteers to keep our sports going.

I know the governance of clubs is so much more onerous now and there are new demands due to our changing world. Whilst it can seem that this is just swimming or sport going through this, I can assure you that my involvement with other volunteer organisations reflects exactly the same picture.

The world and society has changed – some changes are for the better and some not. We now have a greater awareness of the benefit of ensuring that every member of the community can enjoy aquatic activity and need to ensure that we are truly providing an opportunity for everyone.

On the flip side, the misuse of social media is causing immense harm. We all have a right to our opinion but how it is expressed is critical. I urge everyone involved in our sport to consider carefully how you relate to others and make your voice heard in a pro-active and considered manner.

With the difficulties operators have faced, firstly with closures due to Covid and now increased energy bills, what needs to be done to help support the sector more?

Ensuring there is sufficient, appropriate water accessible to everyone is critical and we need to work together to try to find innovative ways to keep pools heated and open. The financial pressures on local authorities are immense and leisure is not a statutory provision, despite our best endeavours to make it so.

Working in partnership with technology companies is one action we can take but many actions are outside our direct control. Working with our clubs and members to maximise the use of the pools and helping guide the operator/club relationship is paramount.

We have a strong lobbying voice and robust evidence that aquatic activity saves the Government money on social care and health care. Continuing to provide this robust evidence and put it in front of government is key but, alongside that, we must continue to showcase and expand our Water Wellbeing programmes which have a tangible effect on the local communities and local care budgets.

Whilst this work sits separately to our work with clubs and talent development, there are benefits to our core NGB work as it will mean pools remain open. Our talented athletes in all our disciplines are also exceptional role models and can amplify our messaging.

What are you going to miss most about the job?

First and foremost, the people. I have made friends for life in the sport and working alongside such passionate and positive volunteers, team members and partners, all of whom have the same vision and desire, is so rewarding.

Working in an environment which truly impacts on the lives of others and provides so much enjoyment to participants means so much.

Knowing that you are making a difference (everyone involved in aquatics is making a difference) makes it easier to get up in the morning and tackle some of the more mundane or more difficult tasks. I will miss the camaraderie and, yes, I will miss the challenges. It is only by challenging ourselves that we can grow and develop.

Jane Nickerson receives MBE from Princess Anne

What are your plans for retirement?

I will be travelling even more and taking more photographs of wildlife. I hope to improve my wildlife photography and move more to photo journalism, telling the story through photographs.

I am a Trustee of a lovely charity linked to Samworth Brothers, a governor of an independent school in Wales, I will continue as treasurer and secretary of the Coventry and District Samaritans and have joined our branch training and outreach teams. My heart remains with swimming and I remain on the British Swimming Board and have joined my local authority pool to enable me to spend more time in the water.

I know Swim England will continue to grow and flourish. There is work to do on enhancing our culture throughout the whole organisation which will involve highlighting and showcasing all the great work which is going on to help change the less favourable work. If I can do anything to aid this I am just a phone call away.