Is A State Sponsored GB Team Playing Fair?

The Rio Olympics Logo

As I write this, Great Britain lies second in the table for medals for the Rio Olympics.  This is an amazing achievement and there is no doubting the work, effort and personal sacrifice that the British Olympians have put in to get there.  Twenty years ago, at the Atlanta Olympics (1996) we ranked thirty-six over all, with one gold, eight silver and eight bronze.  Graeme Smith won a bronze for the men’s 1500 metres freestyle, the only medal won for any aquatic sports.

There is debate that Team GB have become state sponsored and that because the government is pouring money into supporting the athletes (it has been said that each medal earnt costs £5.5 million each), the athletes are not actually amateur, but indeed professional.  To be an amateur, you cannot actually earn money from your chosen sport and this used to be true.  It wasn’t uncommon to hold down a full time job, support a family and also train for the Olympics on top of this, but we are talking 20+ years ago and look where this got us in the medal tables.  Now the likes of Tom Daley and Adam Peaty can make training for their chosen sport their career – they aren’t expected to get a “proper” job.  The medals themselves open up a world of opportunity for the people who win them

and potential sponsors (think Speedeo and Adidas) love a high achieving sports person, as the common person will want to purchase any equipment deemed to be of gold standard by their chosen sporting hero.  Then there are the follow on media careers that can be pursued once the athlete has retired (or during their sporting careers – Tom Daley and “Splash”).

So where does this leave the rest of us?  Because there is more funding from the government, it does mean that sport can become an activity for all and not just for the well off.  It doesn’t matter if your parents cannot afford to buy expensive equipment so that you can try a new sport; there are bodies out there who will help you out.  These Olympic heroes give children a worthwhile goal to aspire to rather than being stuck in front of a mind-numbing computer all day long on social media.  These people know what hard work is and they haven’t made their name by appearing on a fame hungry show and then made money from selling their lives to celebrity magazines such as Heat.  There are two types of awarding bodies: the first one is solely interested in the sports that can win the golds, so British sports that aren’t producing the cream of the elite like basketball, aren’t receiving the funding to go the Olympics and thus suffering in the process.  The second type of funding body is more interested in the grass roots sports and more likely to offer the more slightly obscure type of sport.  The only worry is that if the sport is too obscure will it garner enough interest for it to be economically viable?

Of course, whilst the government is sponsoring our top athletes, that means the money isn’t being spent elsewhere.  There are severe cuts being made to our NHS and education departments, that means that people with medical conditions are forced to go private or endure a long wait because there is no other option.  I have experienced this first hand with my youngest child, having being referred to see the community pediatrician just before Christmas 2015 and having to wait until August (last week in fact) for the appointment and the nearest private option was London, which wasn’t viable in terms of distance.  We have also had to pay privately for a dyslexia diagnosis, as Sam didn’t meet the criteria to see an educational psychologist via the state.

Everyone should have the opportunity to follow their dreams and to inspire others and the government should help with that.  It shouldn’t though be to the detriment of those who need the basics in life to achieve their full potential.

Tom Daley, Jessica Ennis Hill and Nicola Adams

Learning The Basics Of Sculling

Polishing The Water

Sculling Head First By Pushing The Water Towards The Feet

Sculling Feet First By Using A Digger Action

Sculling Head First With Fingertips Pointing Towards The Ceiling

Sculling Feet First With Fingertips Pointing Towards The Ground

Why do swimming teachers bother to teach sculling?  After all it is extremely difficult to teach to swimmers if you are a new swimming teacher and children are not renowned for their patience!  I really struggled to teach sculling when I had first qualified and did everything in my power to put it off until another day.  Not so now.  On the STA ticksheets, it asks for swimmers to firstly scull using a woggle, admittedly I don’t like this method because the woggle prevents the arms being fully in the water and children do not have very long arms!  If the child can float comfortably on their back with little or no kicking (which they should all be able to achieve once sculling is introduced onto the curriculum), it is then that I introduce sculling as a form of propulsion.

Young swimmers should have had some experience of sculling when practicing treading water either with a woggle or without.  This form of sculling should be akin to polishing the water, albeit at a forty five degree angle with fingers together.  For a head first propulsion scull, which on the whole is easier for the learner to achieve, I like to tell them to push the water towards the feet.  It isn’t technically accurate and you certainly won’t get the little whirlpools expected by a good example of sculling, but what will happen is movement head first and that is what I am after.  That is the main teaching point, other important teaching points are keeping the hands in the water and keeping the upper arms by the side of the body.  Feet first sculling is a digger type action and I ask the children to imagine a digger (great for little boys who love big machinery), along with teaching tips of keeping the arms by the body and keeping hands in the water.  If your learners are having difficulty keeping their arms by their sides, tell them to think of Nemo (“Finding Nemo” or “Finding Dory”).  Nemo has very small fins on the side of his body and the children will probably enjoy emulating being a character out of a popular film franchise.

As the swimmers become more proficient at sculling, you can then add in more detailed instructions.  To begin with headfirst sculling, explain that the finger tips should point to the ceiling (think everything to up) and that you are pushing sand towards you and then away from you.  Staying with the pushing sand towards you analogy, but this time pointing the fingertips to the floor, the swimmer should aim to travel feet first.  If the swimmer feels the need to kick, this means that their sculling skills need adjusting and should be dealt with accordingly.  A relaxed body, small, but powerful hand movements and patience are key here, along with clear instructions.