Swim England

A nation swimming

Heart of Aquatics: Why it’s been important for us to listen

Richard Hookway, the chair of Swim England’s Board, gives a progress report on the national governing body’s safeguarding, welfare and culture plan, Heart of Aquatics.

A famous TV advert once declared: “It’s good to talk.”

At Swim England, we’ve slightly adapted that phrase this year and instead had the mantra: “It’s important to listen.”

When we launched our safeguarding, welfare and culture plan, the Heart of Aquatics, back in March, we made a firm commitment to create a better future for everyone involved in our amazing sports.

To achieve this, we pledged to independently capture the ‘experiences and views’ of current and former members, parents, coaches, teachers, workforce, club committee members, swim schools, judges, officials and pool owners/operators.

It’s been a huge piece of work which has seen award-winning research company The Behavioural Architects reach out to more than 165,000 people and organisations.

They have given people the opportunity to speak freely and put forward their opinions via a private and anonymous ‘Listening Space’, pre-arranged, face-to-face interviews, focus groups or via online research.

Individual emails have been sent to every single Swim England member asking them a range of questions.

We know the report might make tough reading but we’re not afraid of that.

That’s because we’re committed to taking on board the honest and frank feedback as we strive to become an even better organisation for our members.

For that reason alone, this report is vitally important to us.

We’ll learn from the findings – no matter how difficult they might be to hear – and take demonstrable action on the recommendations contained within it.

Our vision, and goal, is to ensure everyone, no matter how old they are or how they use aquatic activity, has a positive experience in a safe environment.

We are no longer accepting responses for this phase of insight but I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to those who have been involved in the listening work, from the Behavioural Architects for carrying out such detailed research through to everyone who has expressed their opinions in the interviews, focus groups and online survey on what we can do better.

Your views will help shape the Heart of Aquatics plan for 2024 and ensure this cultural change journey we have set out on brings about meaningful change for all our sports and participants.

Swim England will be presented with the The Behavioural Architects’ findings next year and it will then be published in full.

Low energy availability guidance

In the Heart of Aquatics report, we stated that a key commitment in our new 10-year strategy, Access Aquatics, which we published earlier this year, was to ensure the safety, welfare and wellbeing of participants was at the heart of everything we do.

With that pledge in mind, we recently published two guidance documents identifying the warning signs of low energy availability.

This is something which is quite common in aquatics and occurs when the body does not have enough energy to support all physiological functions needed to maintain optimal health.

However, low energy availability can lead to disordered eating or eating disorders.

The guidance has been endorsed by Olympic hopeful Amber Keegan and Olympic bronze medallist Cassie Patten – who both suffered with low energy availability.

It has been broken down into two audience groups – one for coaches, team mangers and welfare officers, while the other is specific for parents and athletes themselves.

As well as raising awareness of the potential health and performance consequences of low energy availability, it also features how to discuss it with athletes and where they can find the professional support.

It follows on from workshops which were delivered to coaches about the awareness of disordered eating and eating disorders, and how to signpost for further support.

I hope everyone will take a look at these important documents and finds the information extremely useful.

You can view the documents by clicking here.

Wavepower update

We will soon be publishing an update to Wavepower, Swim England’s safeguarding policy and procedures document.

Whether you are a club officer, member, coach, teacher, swim school, operator, technical official, volunteer or parent/guardian, we all have a duty of care to ensure that everyone who takes part in our sports and activities does so in a safe and enjoyable environment.

The revised version of Wavepower contains important information covering current legislation, regulations and guidance in specific sections, making it concise, straightforward and easy to use.

It will become a digital-only document as it will be reviewed annually, instead of every three years, with updates being added as and when necessary.

We’re currently putting the finishing touches to the latest edition of Wavepower now with the aim of making it available close to the new year.

When it’s available, we’ll be in touch with our members, affiliated clubs and organisations to say where it can be downloaded from.