To celebrate Women’s Sport Week, the ASA is highlighting the work of some truly inspirational women across aquatics.
In this ‘Spotlight on’ feature, we speak to one of our incredible and dedicated event volunteers and technical official, Paula Durrant.
How did you get involved with the sport and volunteering?
I started volunteering about 11 years ago when my daughter Meaghan came to the end of the swimming programme at Letchworth Leisure Centre, Hertfordshire. The suggestion was made that it would be good for her development to join a swimming club. That’s how we ended up at Biggleswade Swimming Club.
Starting along the competitive route meant commitment, not only from my daughter but also from myself as a parent. I think my helpful nature and a desire to be busy and productive was the main driver behind becoming a committee member and training as an official.
I started out as a level 1 judge and I am now working towards becoming a referee – I am sitting my exam in November.
Meaghan’s cousins also swim competitively in Holland and play water polo. This shared interest has been important to me and as a result I have taken the opportunity, wherever possible, to understanding the sport across all disciplines.
I gained this understanding as I progressed from club, county and regional competitive events to national and international events. I have attended FINA World Championships and IPC World Championships.
My experience was also further developed in my term as Cambridgeshire County President in 2013/2014 as I attended various discipline competitions, inclusive of diving.
What is it you enjoy most about volunteering with the ASA?
Whilst most of my experience has come from being an official a few years ago I was asked to undertake the Field of Play Manager role at Nationals in Sheffield.
Taking this on was daunting at first. However, it has provided me with a much wider appreciation of the whole event and how each individual volunteer plays an integral part in delivery of this.
It also opened the door to widening my knowledge about synchronised swimming when I attended their Nationals in 2016.
I thoroughly enjoy both aspects of the ASA volunteer body and have used what I have learnt, sharing knowledge on a club, county and regional level. It also supports me in supporting others, such as feeling less apprehensive in giving consideration to developing a new synchronised swimming club jointly with a neighbouring county, where an identified need has arisen.
If I was to put in to words what being a volunteer is for me, I would say that it is being part of a very large family, having opportunity to work collaboratively with like-minded individuals to deliver a singular target. Pride of sharing in this commitment and in aiding every competitor, at whatever level, in their journey and aspiration to be the best they can be.
I am very proud of what I have achieved and continue to achieve as a volunteer. It not only provides me with a mechanism in which to give back, taking time out from the busy world around us, but also fundamentally helps support my own personal career development.
For example, I was able to draw on my role as an official, volunteer and also County Secretary to aid in my interview for my current role as a 0-19 places, planning and sufficiency officer when seeking examples of project management and engagement across a range of stakeholders.
Why do you think it is important for women and girls to take part in sport?
I feel that sport plays a crucial part in aiding women in developing a more competitive edge, something that can and does translate into industry.
It also provides life skills such as resilience and endurance – something my daughter has demonstrated throughout her post-school years in further education study as she works towards fulfilling her passion to work with animals in a medical capacity.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The best piece of advice I have received over the years is to remember who we are there for, whatever the age, level of competition and or discipline we are there to enable these competitors in reaching their full potential.