Swim England

A nation swimming

Aquatics rising stars gained unique insight and experience from Team England Futures

Two months on from the closing ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Swim England take a look back at the inspiring Team England Futures programme.

The success of Team England’s aquatic athletes at a home Games has undoubtedly inspired many youngsters up and down the country.

None more so than the rising stars across aquatics, many of who will be aiming to be selected for future Olympic and Commonwealth Games squads.

This summer, a number of those athletes were selected to be part of the Team England Futures programme – with more than 800 youngsters and aspiring support staff involved across all sports.

The programme, which is run by SportsAid and funded by Sport England, provided the opportunity for those involved to gain unique insight and a behind-the-scenes look at a multi-sport competition environment.

The aim was to better prepare athletes to deliver medal-winning performances as Team England, Team GB or ParalympicsGB debutants at future Games, and also give support staff an insight into the opportunities they could be presented with, and challenges they may face, at major competitions.

All participants were able to watch a mixture of live sport throughout the duration of the Games, as well as visit the facilities and athlete village to get a taster of what will hopefully be to come.

Many were also able to attend the Immersion Camp which took place before the Games to learn more about Team England’s identity, culture and values, meet the programme’s ambassadors, mentors and practitioners, and also see the kitting out experience.

Great to learn about different games and sports

Bournemouth para-swimmer, Luke Boyles, said it meant ‘quite a lot’ to be selected for the Futures programme.

He continued: “Having an experience to learn how you do extra things on top of your sport – it opens your mind and it’s quite helpful and you’re not really stressed out, when you eventually have to do it.

“Because I do para-swimming, I tend to just stick with that. I haven’t really explored anything else, I haven’t seen anything else, so just to be around other athletes, it’s interesting.”

Rushden youngster Amber Haycock, who is also a para-swimmer, said: “It’s great to learn about different games and different sports.

“It’s very useful because you learn before going into a competition like this, so you have the experience already.”

Olympic and Commonwealth Games diving medallist, Leon Taylor, was the lead ambassador and mentor for Team England Futures.

He explained how the programme would have been of benefit to him as a young athlete, and described the ‘joy and excitement’ of this year’s contingent.

Leon said: “As many of the other athletes who are safely retired, like myself, we often reflect back and say ‘wow, it would have been great to go through and experience something like this ahead of our time’.

Experience that you can utilise

“We had to learn on the go, rock up at a multi-sport event and you’d make friends with other people from other sports very quickly – or not – and there was a missed opportunity there if you didn’t.

“Many of the athletes have shared the joy and excitement of connecting with other athletes from different sports – noticing how their challenges are very similar and how they can learn from those.

“And also building a network – because these are your sport friends and they will be alongside you – and having that opportunity to connect early in your career will pay dividends in the long run.”

Leon also added that these experiences will help the participants to not be ‘overwhelmed by the size of the occasion’ as he was early in his career.

“I’ve been to many Immersion Camps before and I’m still like ‘oh yeah, it is big. There is a lot going on, and look at this kitting out’”, he said.

“To get to see that before you go through it gives you the experience that you can then utilise.

“So when it is your turn, and it will be for these athletes and support staff, they can take it in their stride, they can get the most out of it and not be, as I was early in my career, overwhelmed by the size of the occasion.

“So if you get chance to observe and look at what’s going on then it will put you in the best place possible for you to perform, which is what everyone wants to do at their very best when it counts.”

To find out more about Team England Futures, visit sportsaid.org.uk.