Swim England

A nation swimming

How one family's passion for swimming originated from a single lesson

It started with a water confidence session for their new daughter almost 12 years ago – and now Martin Wilson, his wife Claire and their two girls Katie and Jessica have formed a life-long love for swimming. Alice Dott found out more.

To simply state that the Wilson family enjoy swimming would be a huge understatement.

Their involvement with the sport started like so many others – swimming lessons for their daughters.

Martin and his wife, Claire, both felt it was incredibly important for Katie, 11, and Jessica, eight, to learn to swim from a young age so they could be safe and confident around water.

Both girls progressed through, and completed, the Swim England Learn to Swim programme, and, due to their love for swimming and their talent for the sport, they have continued on to compete at club level.

Katie started at the Doncaster DARTES elite training club and that’s when Martin was approached to help out.

He completed his level 1 coaching course that year to became a Swim England Assistant Swimming Coach.

Martin now coaches ten hours per week as a volunteer at DARTES and Armthorpe ASC swimming clubs, while Claire, who is not a swimmer herself, has become welfare officer for DARTES.

During lockdown last year, Martin was encouraged by the head coach at Jessica’s club to complete his level 2 coaching course.

Claire spotted online leaning sessions being run by the Institute of Swimming and after taking part in a free Instruction to Disability Swimming online course, it was a no brainer for him to sign up for the Swim England Swimming Coach qualification and compete the theory work virtually.

He said: “It was really, really good.

“They provided lots and lots of reference materials and it was really well organised.

“It was a really, really good way of doing it. It was better flexibility for me to fit in around my life than if you took me away for so many weekends as normally happens. I would have struggled with that with home life and work.”

We swam a lot

His experiences helped Katie and Jessica stay motivated through the lockdowns as Martin created daily coaching plans which included a variety of drills and technique work.

Martin said: “For the lockdowns, we always set ourselves challenges, such as swim the English Channel and back in a month (tethered), complete an Ironman distance in a month, 21 press-ups for 21 days and run a marathon in a month.

“By 23 March, Katie will have covered 1,000 miles of Swim-Bike-Run in exactly one year.”

It has certainly helped them when pools have been open during the past 12 months – and the family have made the most of those opportunities.

Martin added: “We swam a lot – we swam as much as we possibly could!

“Since the start of lockdown one, Jessica has moved from the bottom of Armthorpe Pre-Speed squad all the way through to the top and now into the next squad which is Speed 1.

“Katie has moved from DARTES Junior Development Squad Phase 2, into Phase 3, through Phase 3 and into the next DARTES Squad, which is Phase 4, the age group squad. Katie has also competed in theLevel X Racing series.”

Having been strong advocates for the Swim England #OpenOurPools campaign, the Wilsons are looking forward to indoor pools reopening again from 12 April.

Claire has been looking into taking adult swimming lessons, while Martin sees a long-term future for himself in the sport.

“My involvement will be beyond when my children pack it in,” he said. “I enjoy coaching at all levels and expect to continue to coach and be involved in swimming for a number of years.

“I may even take my teaching qualifications next!”