Great Britain’s Dan Atkinson helps create safety equipment for ‘noble’ keyworkers

Young water polo starlet Daniel Atkinson has been helping to make thousands of face shields for keyworkers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 18-year-old, alongside his training programme with the U19’s Great Britain squad, has been volunteering at his school.

With product design being his best subject during education, Atkinson is putting his skills to good use as he looks to ‘give back to the community’.

The face shields that he and his friends are making are being distributed to local hospitals, care homes and primary schools in and around Southend, where the school is based.

He said: “It’s noble isn’t it? They choose to go in no matter what and if we can help make it safer for them to be able to do their jobs and help us, then it will help decrease the amount of time we are in lockdown.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to help give back to the community through my school and I think everyone’s doing a really good job.

“I’m not working right now because my job has been put on hold, similar to many others, and I’d just finished school.

“So I thought I might as well spend my time giving back because there’s no point just sitting at home.”

The GB athlete explained how the idea came about and how many are built each day.

Atkinson said: “I did product design at A-level and then one of the teachers at school asked me to come in because I’m qualified to use all the equipment in the workshop.

“So me and my mate go in on a Friday and we do the whole process – we cut it all out using the laser cutter, sterilise it all, get it all packaged up and ready to go.

“We started around a month and a half ago and we do most weeks depending on the supply.

“I’d say we get about 200 done a day – it’s a fast process when you get in the rhythm of it. We’ve made a good amount.

“I’m not particularly close to school but my dad helps me out and will take me down. It takes about half an hour to get there, but it’s all in good faith.”

Balancing training and volunteering

After being inspired by watching water polo at the Olympics, Atkinson has been playing since he was 12.

He began at his local club in Chelmsford and has since gone on to play at international level.

Currently balancing his volunteering and home training, he said: “I try to train once or twice a day.

“I do three or four sessions a week with our GB squad and we do Zoom call workouts every other day.

“They’re functional workouts, bodyweight stuff specific to water polo. So it keeps us as water polo fit as possible without swimming.

“I also do my own home workouts with whatever weights I can get hold of and I’m a lifeguard too.”

Although lockdown has meant a huge change to his routine, as with everyone’s, Atkinson is remaining positive and enjoying the break after his exams.

“Lockdown is almost a good pause for me to get away from school because it was very high pressure all the time because it was my exams,” he added.

“It was a struggle to find balance between the run up to European qualifiers and also my A-levels, so it’s been a good rest where I can focus on my strength and conditioning.

“Obviously I can’t swim which is not great for anyone, but all you have to do is remember that everyone is in the same position and you just have to keep fighting through it.

“It’s good to be able to wind down the mind and focus on the body.”