Swim England and ESSA join forces to give athletes 'more match experience’

Swim England and the English School Swimming Association (ESSA) have joined forces to run two competitions that will become part of the Swim England Talent Centre programme.

It will see Swim England host a Talent Festival event on Saturday before some of the Talent Centre athletes will enter the ESSA’s prestigious Duke of Cambridge Cup event at the end of January.

The events will become one of three end of term competitions alongside the Swim England Talent Games following the Easter and summer terms.

U14 athletes on the Talent Centre programme will compete in the Duke of Cambridge Cup alongside athletes selected by the ESSA from individual school nominations whilst the U16s will attend the Talent Festival competition – ran by Swim England’s Talent Centre coaches.

Liverpool’s Aquatics Centre will host the first Talent Festival event on Saturday 13 January before Coventry’s Alan Higgs Centre takes centre stage for the Duke of Cambridge Cup on 27 January 2024.

Both competitions will consist of players from each of the five Talent Centres being mixed to form teams that will compete in the one-day events.

Four open and four female teams will take part at the Talent Centre Festival where each team will face off against each other twice throughout the day in Merseyside.

116 athletes are set to compete in matches of two, eight minute periods in what is set to be a fast paced day of action.

Each team will be coached by one of the Talent Centre coaches with the focus of the festival on giving the athletes more high level match experience to prepare them for a future within the sport.

‘The perfect platform’

The Duke of Cambridge Cup is an ESSA competition that brings together the best athletes from across the country to compete in the one-day event and this move will increase the numbers involved to 60 open and 60 female competitors instead of the traditional 39 players per event.

Speaking on the newly formed events Swim England Water Polo Talent and Inclusion Officer Andy McGinty said: “We’ve been really pleased to see how much the athletes and coaches are developing since the Talent Centre programme started last year which is why we’ve been so excited to expand the programme further.

“Both the ESSA and Swim England are committed to finding and developing the talent of the future so we’re really looking forward to incorporating the Talent Centre programme into the Duke of Cambridge Cup.

“It’s an incredible competition, which alongside our new Talent Centre Festival will be the perfect platform for athletes across the country to gain insight and experience of competing at the top level for their age.

“We’re excited to be able to provide more opportunities for our athletes that will be vital in our continued efforts to improve the standard of water polo across England and Great Britain.”

ESSA Water Polo Secretary Neil Green added: “Everybody at the ESSA and Swim England have similar aims to develop and grow the sport of water polo across the country so this presents a great opportunity to work towards those goals together.

“By reducing the age of the athletes competing in our Duke of Cambridge Cup, we can now work closer with younger athletes in schools to get them involved with the sport earlier and continue their water polo journey.

“We can’t wait to welcome both the Talent Centre athletes and some of the top level talent from schools across the nation at the competition later this month.”

You can find out more about the Swim England Water Polo Talent Centre initiative here.