Memorandum submitted by Mr Stuart Sherman
I have two daughters aged nine and 12 who are
active competitive swimmers. I am currently competing as a masters
swimmer. At times I am amazed that my daughters continue to swim
at all, considering the disgusting water and pool side facilities
that they often have to endure, and the unsociable hours at which
they have to train. Northampton Swimming Club do a magnificent
job under very difficult circumstances. There are hundreds of
swimming clubs operating similarly.
I have seen at first hand the facilities that
Australia had in the early 1980's and am ashamed that we in Britain
are so far behind 20 years later. Northampton desperately needs
the proposed University College of Northampton dedicated, modern,
competitive 50m swimming pool for the following reasons and I
urge you to accept it.
1. UK facilities for exercise, competitive
and elite level swimming are very poor. Most North American, Australian
and Western European Countries have at least one 50m pool for
training and competitions in every town or city with a population
of 180,000 or more and often there are two or more such pools.
The UK has fewer than 20 in the whole country and only two of
those (Tollcross and Sheffield) are full 10 lane 50m pools which
are the standard for major competitions (the new pool in Manchester
is only an eight lane pool).
2. The USA has been the most successful
country in Olympic swimming in almost every Olympics over the
last 50 years. The strength of the USA swimming is built on the
swimming teams based at universities which provide an opportunity
for a strong and broad base of swimmers able to move into elite
level. The high-level inter-university competitions also provide
the opportunity for swimmers to harden their competitive edge.
3. General leisure and "fun" swimming
(pools with flumes and wave machines) is well catered for in the
UK but the opportunities for exercise swimming and competitive
training are limited. Lane swimming in public sessions is often
limited to early mornings and there is no guidance or instruction
to the public given about how to get the best from such exercise.
As swimming is excellent exercise and has major health benefits,
this failure to provide sufficient exercise swimming sessions
also reduces the opportunities for improving the health of the
4. Young swimmers are often put off continuing
with swimming as pool time for competitive clubs is limited and
a large proportion of the training therefore has to be in the
early morning. This can typically mean a 5.30 am start requiring
that swimmers get up at 4.45 am or even earlier.
5. There are already a number of large swimming
clubs in the UK that have full-time professional coaches. Nearly
all these clubs are based in a university (or university college)
town or city. Most universities have sports science department
who would often already give time to supporting local sports clubs
(including swimming clubs) as they can develop research and teaching
projects from that involvement.
Universities do not generally employ coaching
staff and are unlikely to do so unless given additional annual
funding. If there was an investment in university facilities (50m
pools) in those towns with clubs that already have full-time professional
coaching staff, around 15 to 20 university centres could be established
creating a similar high level training and competition environment
to that in the USA.
This link between large swimming clubs and universities
offers a major value-for-money opportunity to make a significant
impact on the sport of swimming.
6. If universities were supported to develop
50m swimming pools by public funds, a requirement could be that
they offer exercise swimming sessions to the public. In addition
the swimming clubs would be required to offer some pro bono coaching
to support that public exercise swimming. This would potentially
greatly enhance the health benefits that could be gained from
offering exercise swimming sessions.
7. Developing such facilities in universities
would also ensure that swimmers gained educational qualifications
and could therefore be supported by a grant rather than being
paid a salary from central funds.
8. The scheme could be strengthened further,
if the establishment of such 50m pools at universities also required
that the universities linked up with their local Further Education
Colleges to allow provide educational opportunities for all and
not just those qualified for higher education.
9. This value-for-money approach would noticeably
widen the base of swimmers who might reach elite level as the
opportunity to study and train would keep more swimmers in the
sport (there is a substantial decline in the number of competitive
swimmers among those who have left school).
10. The approach of combining training with
education already well established in the USA is also being adopted
by the Australian Institute of Sport.
11. Many of the UK's recent Olympic medallists
in swimming have had to go to universities in the USA to realise
their potential because there have been no opportunities in the
12. Having 50m facilities linked to large
swimming clubs at a number of universities from old to new universities
and university colleges ensures that swimmers will have the range
of educational opportunities and be able to meet the entry requirements
for those courses. If confined to a few elite universities this
opportunity will be lost.
24 November 2001