Making a splash: The growing success of swimming

Tom Smith, Head of Swimming at St Albans School, discusses how the development of new facilities has helped their swimming success

Much of our recent success has been down to the infinity pool and the use of underwater cameras installed as part of the new sports centre in 2013, that have provided technique analysis within PE lessons and swimming sessions. The pool also includes a timing system that is used at Galas and time trials as part of our practice.

We run a busy programme with two blocks of swimming in PE lessons for each year group and after school clubs four nights a week, with two team training sessions, a water polo session and a social swimming session. We encourage our swimmers to take an independent approach, to plan their own sessions and be flexible with their training, which helps us to work alongside the training they do outside of school.

In additional to the pool time and analysis of their technique, swimmers are offered support to become better athletes. They are given the opportunity to have a detailed strength and conditioning programme developed by some of the leading coaches in the country; a monitoring and mentoring system to aid their all-around development; as well as access to experts in a number of sports performance principles within seminars and resources, provided through our Dedicated Athlete Scheme, to help our swimmers lead a performance lifestyle.

Most recently we took a junior and inter team to the ESSA National Swimming Finals at the London Aquatic Centre where our juniors finished fourth in the medley relay and eighth in the freestyle relay, and our inters finished inside the top 25 for both events. Our junior and inter boys also won the regional trophy at these qualifiers the last two seasons. We first qualified for the finals last year and are hoping to build on this recent success and have all our teams qualify next year, whilst trying to crack the top three in our stronger age groups.

In the Hertfordshire League Galas we are currently positioned well in all age groups at the halfway point. We are on course to be included in the finals, which we would expect to have a number of successes in. This would build on our County Championship in the junior and inter boys and the overall trophy we won last year.

A number of our swimmers are also part of local swimming clubs (COSTA, Harpenden and Watford) which has allowed them to become much stronger swimmers.

We hope the growing interest in swimming will continue, with an emphasis on performance over results and encouraging students to swim and train because they are motivated, rather than compelled to do so. Ultimately these are the building blocks for anyone to become an elite swimmer. We also hope to attract more swimmers to the school with our new sports scholarships and new initiatives to support our most able and willing.

The school also runs a partnership scheme with a number of the local primary schools, where they come and swim at the pool, hoping to encourage the students to take up swimming as a sport. This will then lead an active healthy lifestyle, whilst building a positive attitude to sport and exercise.

For more information, visit the St Albans School website.

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