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What To Buy A Swimmer For Christmas

Nancy Farmer is an artist based in North Somerset and is passionate about open water swimming and cats.  Nancy thoroughly proves that imagination has no limitations and has incorporated swimming themes into calendars, wrapping paper, greeting cards, prints and swim hats, or in one particular case; is that really snowflakes on that swim hat or are they ladies swimming?

Christmas shopping for friends and family can be nightmarish at the best of times.  If you have a swimmer in your life (or you are a swimmer that doesn’t know what to ask for), here are a few ideas that you might not have thought of:

Dryness (hair or skin) can be a real problem for the regular swimmer and I can highly recommend Paul Mitchell hair products for keeping your hair moisturized and in good condition.  The products are a little on the expensive side, but the results are definitely worth it.  For skin care, Simple face moisturisers and creams are kind to the face and are unscented and Nivea products are ideal for the body.  Vaseline do a selection pack of their lip therapy which is perfect for keeping in the pocket for when your lips get sore unexpectedly.

For swimming costumes, bags and everyday training equipment try visiting, this company is fast, reliable and offers a vast range of equipment suitable for the beginner right through to the competitive swimmer and once you have been thoroughly kitted out, how about a gift voucher for a swimming lesson or two with a local swim school?

Hopefully that has given you some ideas for that special swimmer in your life and I hope that you, yourself have a merry Christmas!

Swimming is very much a solitary sport, so to relieve the boredom how about a waterproof iPod Shuffle by Audioflood?  Costing just under £140, these iPods have been specially waterproofed to a depth of seventy six metres and can be used in chlorine and saltwater swimming.


Time To Take Responsibilty For One’s Actions

Camber Sands

The tragic deaths at Camber Sands have caused an outcry due to the fact that there were not any lifeguards on patrol to rescue the people who died due to drowning last month.  Cuts in funding are being blamed for the lack of lifeguards and whilst I wouldn’t disagree that lifeguards aren’t necessary; I do think that the general public on the whole do rely on the State to molly coddle them, when they are more than capable of standing on their own two feet.  One mother interviewed on national radio, said that she wasn’t going to let her children swim at Camber Sands due to incidents had happened and because there were no life guards on duty.  Instead she should have let her children play in the water, but taken the necessary precautions to make sure they stay safe.

Before going to any beach, people should take the time to Google what the potential hazards are, how to avoid them and what to do if they are unfortunate to get into trouble.  For example, do you know what a rip current is, how to spot one and what to do if you get caught in one?  Or quick sand?  People complain about too much signage and that it puts them off, but the signage is there for a reason, it’s there to give vital information that could potentially save your life.

Take into consideration your swimming capabilities, ask yourself honestly, are you a competent swimmer?  Being a competent swimmer doesn’t mean twenty five metres doggy paddle to pass the National Curriculum at school, it means swimming without rest for five minutes plus and then knowing what to do if you get tired.  Many people only swim whilst on their summer holidays, so might be remembering past swimming experiences through rose tinted glasses,

consider signing up for a few swimming lessons during the winter months to brush up on your water safety skills etc.  Unfortunately, the criteria for school swimming lessons are completely inadequate and it is becoming increasingly left to the parents to provide these as a hobby.  If you are on low income, there is funding out there to help with these, or instead it might be possible to pay weekly rather than monthly or termly.  Compared to the likes of horse riding or piano lessons, learning to swim is relatively a cheap hobby and lessons are widely available.

Following the above guidelines (and the link information), will never get rid of the need for lifeguards, as even competent swimmers get into difficulties, but should reduce your risk of getting into trouble or drowning.  Living life is a risk, but you should never shy away from an activity otherwise life would be extremely dull.

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.

Leaving So Soon?

There seems to be a trend across the country at the moment for parents to pull their children out of swimming lessons once they feel the children have mastered the basics.  The basics, being able to swim twenty five or sometimes fifteen metres in the beginnings of either front crawl or back crawl.  This is causing headaches on two fronts for swim schools, one from a business point of view and secondly from a water safety point of view.

Like all business, swim schools have to adapt to demand and currently the market for teaching competitive strokes and all the extras that goes with them is dwindling.  The Saturday classes that I take used to offer the whole range of stages from STAnley to Shark, but we now have spread the STAnley series over the majority of the morning and left the last lesson for the Goldfish series and up.  The numbers attending the sessions are still healthy, thus making Saturdays viable from a monetary aspect, but from a teaching point of view, it eventually could be hugely problematic.  Teaching roughly two levels of STAnley per class, makes for straight forward teaching and nothing too challenging, but having to mix up Goldfish, Angelfish and Shark series together in one lesson?  I would rather pass!  Luckily my teaching assistant has her level 1, so can take the Goldfish and from September, I won’t have any Shark levels; so that leaves me with the Angelfish.  It just means those swimmers will travel through the majority of the lessons (they are graded on ability) very quickly and then spend an extremely long time in the last lesson if they decide to stay on.  I just hope they don’t get despondent.

From a swimming point of view, to only get up to a STAnley 6 / 7 and then to leave is not only a shame, but a dangerous decision to make.  These swimmers can only just about manage thirty metres maximum (two lengths) of a barely decent stroke.  Admittedly, I do prefer it if my swimmers look fairly comfortable when swimming and front crawl is with arms recovering over the water rather than in it, so they should pass these stages with no concerns.  But thirty metres of a swimming pool is nothing and the relatively safe confines of the swimming pool is nothing compared to the dangers that accidently falling into open water can bring.  Firstly, the swimmer will be leaving without knowledge of open water, such as rip tides and what to do.  They won’t know how to rescue themselves or anyone else comfortably and safely.  Ask yourself, what would you do to save yourself or anyone else?  Do you really know the answer?  Every year, you hear of someone drowning because they have gone into dangerous open water to save their dog and yet the dog has survived.  As much as you love your pet (I am a dog owner and Amber does get treated like my fourth child), you cannot enter that water.  Never enter open water, unless you really know what you are doing.

What would your child do, if they accidentally got into a rip tide?  They would probably try and swim back to shore and even for a strong swimmer this would be an impossible feat (a typical rip tide will flow at 0.5 metres a second, but can have a top speed of 2.5 metres per second).  Their thirty metres swimming distance will mean absolutely nothing in a rip tide, their lack of stamina will quickly peter out and they will very quickly be dragged out to sea.  Do they have an awareness of hypothermia (another dangerous aspect of open water swimming) or the possible hidden dangers that quarries, lakes, rivers all contain?  If the answer is no, then they are not ready to give up swimming lesson by a long shot.

Until you are a competent swimmer, swimming teacher or knowledgeable on UK’s waters, you do not fully appreciate the dangers that swimming and water has to offer and that is why drowning is such a huge problem in the UK.  With this in mind, please reconsider pulling your child out of swimming lessons too early.

24 Hour Swim

One Hundred Per Cent Swimming

On Tuesday 21st June, Sue Brown and three friends undertook a unique marathon open water swimming challenge organised by 100% Swimming and Activities Away (Lincoln, UK).  The twenty four hour event started at 7 pm on the Tuesday and the last mile was completed twenty four hours later at 7 in the evening on the Wednesday.  To successfully complete the twenty four hour marathon open water swimming event, the swimmers needed to swim one mile on the hour every hour for twenty four hours.  This challenge could be undertaken as an individual, as a pair (alternating swimmers) or as a team of four people (rotating swimmers).

This aquatic marathon wasn’t for the faint hearted.  All swimmers had to be competent and experienced in open water swimming, night swimming, cold water management and endurance events.  All applications were considered based on experience.  The event was overseen by Paul Fowler – founder and head coach of 100% Swimming and Steve Poulton – founder and owner of Activities Away.

When Sue arrived at the site, there was a real buzz as other swimmers put up tents and organised their space for any rest that they might need during the course of the night.  This is where the learning curve began, when the realisation dawned that equipment that other swimmers had brought would make the whole experience more comfortable.  Clotheshorses might seem a bit absurd, but they come in extremely useful when trying to dry wet clothing, instead of just throwing

it into a damp pile!  Camping chairs would have been a good idea too, just to make those all important nap times a little more bearable and torches and florescent lights to light up the camp site when it got dark – maybe next time!

The whole event was very well laid out and safety was of the upmost importance.  There was a dry room where you could get some rest and meal vouchers were provided; the only challenge was to work out whether meal times clashed with the allocated swim slots whilst listening to the briefing.  Paul and Steve base the swimming event around swimmer safety and experience, so only twenty swimmers were allowed to swim at one time, with plenty of very enthusiastic volunteers onboard to help.

Swimming conditions were perfect on a beautiful evening and calm waters at a toasty eighteen degrees Celsius.  The midsummer’s strawberry moon made an appearance to make the night swim that much more memorable.  Sue’s team was made up of four people, so each member swam a mile six times each over the twenty four period.  Not everyone was in groups though, as several teams were made up of pairs, therefore swimming alternate hours and Sue does believe that there were six swimmers completing the challenge solo.

Swimming over twenty four hours was a challenge and after each of the six miles, Sue felt absolutely elated, but the hardest challenge of all was waiting for the next swim to begin.  To make the time go quicker it was best to keep busy, there were plenty of people to chat to or support by waiting with a hot drink and dry robe as the swimmers climbed out of the water.  As the

evening progressed and reached the early hours of morning, the water did not feel like the balmy eighteen degrees it had done at the start of the event and of course, with tiredness creeping in, your body is more susceptible to the cold.  But the support was constant, during the dark hours of night; each swimmer was supported by a kayak, all manned by volunteers.  It was truly magical; as all you could see were brightly lit tow floats bobbing across the water.

Sue had no sleep for the entire twenty four hours; she felt nauseous and couldn’t eat.  The night swims were the hardest of the swims mentally, as she simply couldn’t think of the queasiness and had to keep swimming; even though the “monkey mind” kept chattering that Sue couldn’t do it and why on earth was she getting into a lake at four in the morning rather than being tucked up in bed!  Fortunately, everyone else was in the same boat and as the groups waited on the lake side, one topic of conversation was the persistent mind games and once morning had broken, the swimmers then tried to fool the mind into thinking it was just a new day of swimming rather than a continuous twenty four hour slog.  The other topic of constant discussions was the exact distance of the course, as swimmers who had garmins said the course was measuring 1.2 miles instead of the 1 mile intended; which if this was the case, Sue swam 7.2 miles instead of the 6!

The mood of the camp changed with the coming and going of daylight.  Daylight brought a real buzz to the camp upon arrival and once the sun rose on the Wednesday morning, but during the twilight hours, there was a quiet calm, whilst everyone stayed focused on their next swim.  Obviously swimming such a vast distance is coupled with problems, but the organisers had thought of everything and fifteen hours of free physio was provided to those who needed it.  Yes, swimming for twenty four hours is possibly one of the maddest things a swimmer could do during their lifetime, but what a huge sense of achievement upon finishing.

The Dog Ate My Lesson Plans

Cartoon Of Dog Eating Lesson Plans

One of the swimming forums that I follow on Facebook today was discussing whether swimming teachers should write lesson plans for every swimming lesson and some teachers were even saying it was lazy not to write plans.

I personally (on the whole) don’t write lesson plans and I don’t necessarily follow schemes of work either.  When I first became a teacher, I used to be religious in writing a plan and following the scheme of work, but over time, I have learnt (for me) it isn’t necessarily right to follow something that can feel quite rigid.  Yes, lesson plans can be a security blanket for a teacher without experience and it makes sure that they cover all that they

need too, but if you really know the children that you are teaching, you can adapt the lesson to them as the lesson goes along.

What I prefer to do is to have a copy of the tick sheet for the certificate that each individual child is working towards.  Each child has two lines each (so that I have to assess the skill more than once to make sure it is a skill and not a stroke of luck) and I also have a very clear guideline in my head of what children should be able to do at each level.  I suppose you could call this my lesson plan and scheme of work, you could also say that I teach to test.  However you look at it, it works really well, as the tick sheet charts the progress of each child, it highlights where the struggles are for either the individual or the whole class (and if it’s the whole class I know I need to do something about it!).  These tick sheets are with me the whole time and I use them to show the parents what the child has achieved, how far they have come and if there is any queries about putting faces in the water, jumping etc. I have an official document that I feel that the parent really cannot argue with.  If a child comes to me and says the lessons are too easy, I can use the tick sheet they are currently on and the ones following to fast track to them, whilst making sure that there are no holes in their swimming knowledge.  Tick sheets make me able to really personlise the lesson to set individuals.

Each child is an individual and cannot be painted with the same brush.  They won’t all understand the same drills, depending on their age and level of intelligence.  Some might have brilliant backstroke, but a rubbish breaststroke.  In this case, I would give the swimmers more time on breaststroke (I usually try and incorporate breaststroke into every lesson for the more advanced swimmers) than I would backstroke.  The children can have more of an input into the lesson and I get frequently asked “Can we do ….?”  This leads to a more friendly relaxed environment for both student and teacher and gives the swimmer some responsibility for their own learning as they can give input.

The only lesson plans that I do have are for STAnleys 1 – 3.  These have been tried and tested and each tick sheet is run over two lessons.  The paperwork for the lesson plan is laminated, is designed on the circuit principle and is extremely detailed.  The children probably look like they are just playing, as we have made laminated cartoon characters that fit specific tasks and have bought extra equipment to make the lesson plan run as smooth as possible.  But if you trace the origins of these particular lesson plans back to where they started, you will find yourself with the tick sheet!

I used to panic if I didn’t cover everything in the lesson plan and that made me a stressed out teacher and that’s not good for the kids.  Now that I’ve thrown the lesson plan out of the window, I’m happier in the knowledge that it’s good to be flexible.

The Swimming Teaching Association

National Water Safety Week

Next week (6th – 10th June) is the STA’s (Swimming Teachers Association) National Water Safety Week and the aim is simple: to help raise awareness of water safety this summer. Did you know that around four hundred people drown in the UK every year? That works out at one person in every twenty hours. Drowning is also the third most common form of accidental death in children. No one is immune from drowning, even strong swimmers can drown and many do so.

People simply do not realise how dangerous water can be – it is possible for a child to drown in just six centimetres of water.

So what can you do to make you, your family and friends safer around water? Be selective of where you choose to swim. Open water or wild swimming is growing in popularity, but unless it is swimming in a controlled, supervised environment or you know what you are doing, please do not consider it. The water might look tempting on a hot summer’s day, but the water could be dangerously cold and the effects will be felt by your body immediately, thus hampering your ability to swim back to safety. Even if the water is warm, how clean is it? However hard you try not to, it is inevitable that you will swallow small amounts of water and it could lead to sickness or you could come out in a rash just through contact to the skin. The water might look deceptively shallow, nature can do strange things with natural light and water movement, you can never be quite sure what is lurking just below the water’s surface.

It’s not just open water swimming that could be problematic, what about paddling pools, hot tubs or similar equipment that could be found in the back garden? Children should not be left unsupervised as death from drowning can take from three to four minutes, hardly any time at all and as said at the top of this blog, children can drown in just six centimetres of water. Parents of children who are strong swimmers think it’s ok to let their offspring to go swimming unsupervised. Not so, you need to check with the owners’ of the swimming pool first what their policy is. Where I work for example, children have to be over sixteen (unless it is a fun session where there is lifeguard cover) to swim unsupervised, it isn’t fair to put your child’s health and safety into the hands of others without their consent. Even if you are sitting on poolside supervising your children play in the water, please watch them all the time. This doesn’t mean read a book, sunbathe or play on your phone. Yes, it is boring, but the consequences are far worse and can happen all so quickly.

Drinking a beer, whilst sunbathing beside a pool sounds idyllic, but alcohol and water do not mix. Remember the last time you got drunk? Alcohol can lower your inhibitions and make you do things that you will later regret. That’s bad enough, but when your senses are impaired due to a large intake of alcohol, the risk taking around water could lead to a drowning incident. Alcohol can also slow down the rate in which your brain processes information, which can lead to confusion and disorientation; this could lead to bad judgment of distance (from the side of pool or

shore) and therefore a safe exit. Most people say they feel hot after drinking, but alcohol in your bloodstream actually lowers your temperature; making hypothermia a potential problem if you become stranded if open water swimming. Reflex closure of the windpipe is more likely after alcohol consumption. This means that after swimming underwater, even for a short period of time, your airways might not be open in time for that all important intake of air.

Water can be and should be enjoyed, please just be aware of the hidden dangers and hopefully, a precious life will be saved.

Diving In At The Deep End!

My daughter, India, had her first swimming lesson at five months old.  Ok, she wouldn’t remember it if you asked her about it, but somehow, parts of it I remember as if it was yesterday instead of nearly thirteen years ago.  Don’t get me wrong, taking your baby swimming for the first time can be an extremely rewarding experience, but can also feel like a baptism by fire at the same time.  In my case (and it happened with one of my boys’ first swimming lessons too), India decided to fill her nappy literally a couple of minutes before the start of the swimming lesson, fortunately not in one of those swimming nappies!  Luckily for me, there was a nanny there who took pity on me and helped me with the necessary (it’s amazing how women can take other people’s children swimming without batting an eyelid).  That would be enough to put anyone off for life, standing around half naked whilst having to deal with a small child and up against the clock too.

There are a lot of potential problems about taking your baby swimming for the first time: Who gets changed first, you or the baby?  Where do you put the baby (after all, they don’t have the tendency to stay still and you don’t want them rolling onto a hard floor)?  What should the baby wear?  From what I can remember (and it isn’t a lot), I used to take the car seat in, get changed first and then get India changed.  That way, India spent less time in a swim nappy (they don’t hold much) and didn’t get cold, as the room temperature was a little unpredictable at the best of times.  In terms of swimming costumes, India used to wear a tiny little pink frilly thing, but when the boys started swimming lessons, I was required to put them into a baby wrap warmer as the pool’s temperature was a little cool.  Then comes the easy bit, the actual swimming lesson, there will be an instructor who should advise you on how to hold your baby etc. and there will be other parents in exactly the same boat.  It doesn’t matter if your child decides to scream blue murder, they won’t be the first and certainly won’t be last and as long as that nappy holds, you will be fine!

Getting out of the swimming pool is probably the most challenging part.  Firstly you’ll forget how heavy your baby weighs (water has a habit of doing that with all bodies) and then you will realise how bloody cold it is.  This raises the question who gets dressed first?  With a baby, I used to dry them off first and put on a fresh nappy and vest, strap into the car seat, warm and dry.  If the showers are in the changing room and there are enough mothers around, I used to have a shower to get rid of the chlorine, get dressed and then finish dressing the baby.  Once we got to toddler stage, the kids stayed in the showers to keep warm, whilst the mums got dry first.  It does take practice, but it does get easier and at some point you will probably have to deal with an exploding nappy, but by that stage you will be such a pro, that you will just laugh it off.

Tips For That All Important First Swimming Lesson

  • Go and visit the swimming pool before committing to the swimming lessons, it will help you plan in advance and you will know what to expect.
  • Does your swimming costume still fit after pregnancy?
  • Is your swim bag going to be big enough?  Your baby's belongings will probably take up more room than yours!
  • Even on the day, don't leave things to the last minute.  Give yourself plenty of time to pack (and double check your swim bag) and travel to the swimming pool.

Josef Craig Disqualified Because Of His Tattoo

Paralympian Josef Craig

Paralympic champion swimmer Josef Craig has landed himself in hot water by getting disqualified from a race at the IPC European Championships.  According to advertising policy, Josef’s tattoo of the Olympic rings breaches guidelines as it wasn’t covered at the time of the competition and that all swimmers were made aware of the policy at the technical meeting prior to the competition.  These rules have been put into place by the International Paralympic Committee, but it is commonplace for an athlete who has competed in the Olympics to have a tattoo of the rings as a

memento.  Tom Daley was given a tattoo voucher for his eighteenth birthday by his mum as she knew that he wanted the Olympic rings to celebrate his achievements at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics when he was just fourteen.  Tom Daley also doesn’t cover up his tattoo and hasn’t been disqualified in competitions.

So this asks the question is it really down to breaking advertising regulations or the fact that Josef Craig has a tattoo?  I think there is more to this than meets the eye and my gut feeling that there could be some old fashioned attitudes working behind the scenes that do not approve of body art and modification.  Body art and modification is as old as the hills and yet it still isn’t fully accepted by mainstream society.  It is seen to be the provision of the poor and the working class and those without aspirations.  This could not be further from the truth.  The likes of Josef Craig, Tom Daley and Michael Phelps work incredibly hard and have to follow a strict training and diet regime that does not allow for feckless behaviour.  Alex, the tattooist, who recently inked my forearm for me, said that anyone who had had negative comments made against them due to the fact that they were tattooed had actually been discriminated against.  Alex does have a point, as long as the tattoo isn’t sexually explicit, it shouldn’t hold anyone back.

The other side of the coin is when did the Olympic rings become an advertising logo?  The logo itself was designed in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, co-founder of the modern Olympics.  In the August 1912 edition of Olympique, Coubertin stated that

"...the six colors [including the flag's white background] combined in this way reproduce the colors of every country without exception.  The blue and yellow of Sweden, the blue and white of Greece, the tri- colors of France, England and America, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, the yellow and red of Spain next to the novelties of Brazil or Australia, with old Japan, and new China.  Here is truly an international symbol."

British Divers Tom Daley, Sarah Barrow and Chris Mears

Going by this statement, it is clear that the Olympic rings were not designed with profit in mind, but with the hope of including everyone without exemption.  It is only the greed of the modern day committees that have made it into something that it shouldn’t.  It will be interesting to see what will happen at the Brazil Summer Olympics later on this year.

Coming in From the Cold: The Winter Swim Championships, Siberia


Brit Jane Hardy travelled to Tyumen in Siberia, 8-12th March 2016 to take part in the Winter Swimming World Championships, her biggest challenge was coping with the extreme cold.

With air temperatures close to sub 20 'C with a possible wind-chill of minus 30 'C and water temperatures below zero, Jane really needed something special to combat cold as she was swimming just a swimming costume, cap and goggles.

She took daily ice baths in the UK as part of her training as well as dipping in the North Sea and a local lake throughout the winter.  On the day of her competition she had three swims, one every two 

hours so it was of paramount importance she had something to help her core recover and to keep warm between swims.

Pete and Andrea from Swim the Lakes in Ambleside very kindly sponsored Jane with the provision of a Robie Robe event jacket "It's actually the best piece of winter swimming kit I've ever had and I'm eternally grateful to Pete and Andrea from Swim the Lakes for their generosity...... the coat is like a luxurious arctic sleeping bag which  has been transformed into a long coat with a lovely soft warm fleece lining.  It kept me warm between swims in Siberian conditions...... I wouldn't dream of contemplating another winter swim without this piece of kit I was also pleasantly surprised by how much I was able to squash it down and pack it into my suitcase too...... when you consider how long and warm and cosy it was...... an added bonus if you need to travel to a swim."

Jane came away with a bronze medal, third in the world in her age group.

"Considering it was my third swim of the day in those temperatures, I can't deny the important role the jacket played."

Jane is fundraising for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue - an organisation dedicated to the rescue and well-being of all marine mammals in distress around the UK.  Her goal is £1000, here's the link to help her to get to and beyond that goal:


jane hardy with medal


Swimming Teaching Has Taught Me To Be A Better Parent

Sam Sitting On A Toy Tractor
Sam Aged 5

I wouldn’t call myself a perfect parent, I am far away from that goal of perfection, but I think I am improving and that has a lot to do with becoming a swimming teacher and working and interacting with other peoples’ children.  I think I have become more tolerant and understanding to other children’s needs and backgrounds, which I wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t qualified as a swim teacher.  Children are so diverse and whilst, on the whole, you can apply the same teaching method throughout a class, sometimes a little bit more understanding, patience and TLC is required.

As I have mentioned before in my blogging, I have three children, India, Luke and Sam.  All three are so diverse and special in their individual ways and especially Sam.  In September 2015, at the start of the academic school year, Sam, James ( my 

husband) and I started on what is going to be a long journey, as to why Sam is so different to his peers and if it hadn’t been for my background in swimming teaching, I don’t think I would have been able to cope with what we now think the outcome could be.  To be honest, the story starts further back than September 2015, but when Sam was about one and I had invited the health visitor to the house to discuss Luke’s behaviour due to James working away during the working week.  It was noted that Sam’s verbal skills were not developing the way they should be and that his speech was limited.  At the time, I didn’t think anything of it, but by the time he had reached pre-school age, it was clear that Sam would need speech therapy as he had delayed speech.

Fast forward to the autumn term 2015 and the school informs me that Sam is being discharged from NHS speech therapy, even though his speech is still not clear.  The reason given is that Sam can make the individual sounds required for speech and therefore cannot be helped any further, the school and I think it is due to NHS cutbacks.  This was the second time that Sam has had NHS speech therapy withdrawn, the first time, I ended up going private and I was told by the private speech therapist that Sam should have never been discharged (it was amazing how quickly Sam was put back on the NHS).  Sam’s teacher was clearly upset when she told me and quite frankly, I was furious, so I insisted on a reassessment.

In the meantime, there were also grave concerns about Sam’s progress at school and it was suggested that I make an appointment for an Irlens test with the local opticians.  I actually ended up making two, one with the optician and one with a specialist Irlens centre in a nearby town, which I had to pay privately.  Sam past all tests with flying colours, but a stigmatism was found on one of his eyes at the opticians, so he had to have glasses to correct this.  The lady at the Irlens centre, assessed Sam’s behaviour and through our conversation, told me that she thought Sam could be on the Autistic spectrum (her own children were).  This opinion was further strengthened when I took Sam to be reassessed by the speech therapist and as the appointment progressed, the lady started looking at Sam as a whole rather than just his speech and language skills.  It turned out that the therapist specialises in sociocommunication and works a lot with autistic children and she explained to me that parents and schools quite often cling onto speech therapists because they are only really the health profession that goes into school and if the parents and schools think something is wrong with a particular child, they cling on for dear life as that is the only help that they are receiving.  I came away from the appointment with two things; that Sam would be assessed by the therapist in classroom situation and a referral to the community pediatrician.

Over Christmas, I received the questionnaires that had to be filled in by the school and they and myself were certainly geared towards the autistic spectrum.  A lot of it, I felt at the time, didn’t apply to Sam and his teachers felt this even more so when they completed their version of the questionnaire (but they have only known him for two academic terms).  Slight panic set in though when I received the report assessment from the speech and language therapist going into school to observe Sam.  It is truly amazing how much a specialised professional can pick up on within just one session, which the school and myself had quite simply missed.  As a swimming teacher, you quite often wonder if a particular child has got some kind of special needs and why hasn’t the parents noticed, but don’t dare mention it to the parents as this would be deemed unprofessional.  However, as in mine and Sam’s case, it is behaviour that is normal for Sam, yes it is different from his siblings, but it is all we have ever known and we are not trained in spotting such unordinary traits.  The therapist had picked up on more autistic traits than what we had and that prompted me to send an email asking that the fact we had missed out on certain traits be taken into consideration.  As once they had been spelt out to us, we couldn’t disagree with the findings.

The stage we are at is that Sam has a fixed date when his case file will be discussed with the community pediatrician and relevant professionals, then hopefully, Sam will be seen in person by said professionals.  It is going to be a long haul, but one that I feel that I am prepared for.

Swimming teaching and teaching in general, without you even realising, prepares you for all sorts of eventualities.  We are all born the same, without any preconceptions, but society and what happens to us throughout life shapes us into who we are.  If it hadn’t been for swimming teaching and meeting the children who sit slightly outside the margins of what is deemed normal by society, I think I would be in pieces right now over Sam and what his future may or may not hold.  Teaching has made me more patient and more willing to understand how children tick, it has made me more aware of the fact that even if I do 

have a child that has a learning difficulty, it doesn’t mean that it is the end of the world and most importantly, every child does have potential.