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Swimming must become more visible and more relevant, says Swim England CEO

By Andy Knaggs    09 Jul 2019
Swim England wants all children to learn to swim at school
Swimming is a hidden sport, not as visible as football, cycling and running
– Jane Nickerson

People see swimming as lacking relevance to their lives, and lacking visibility in comparison to other sports. These are barriers that the sport is working to overcome, according to Swim England CEO Jane Nickerson.

Speaking to Sports Management in Issue 2 2019, Nickerson outlined a number of targets and initiatives that the governing body is working towards, with 81per cent of people in England aged over 11 able to swim, and 1.2m children and 30,000 adults on the organisation's Learn to Swim programme.

Asked what the major challenges affecting participation are, and how these are being tackled, she said: "We undertook research into the key challenges. Firstly, it’s a lack of confidence in swimming ability. In order to combat this, we’re utilising a significant amount of resources to ensure all 11-year-old children leave school able to swim 25m, are competent in multiple strokes and can perform a safe self-rescue.

"Secondly, swimming is seen as lacking relevance to people’s lives. We’re working to overcome this barrier by showing people the benefits of swimming and how it can fit into their busy lives, and by working with partners to ensure programmes are in place that will attract different audiences.

"Swimming is a ‘hidden sport’, not as visible as football, cycling and running, for example. We have worked with partners to increase the sport’s visibility, and various media campaigns have supported this work. The #LoveSwimming campaign, supported by 12 industry partners, promotes swimming and the specific benefits of being active in water."

Nickerson was also asked about Swim England's approach to making swimming accessible to all and responded by detailing initiatives designed to help older people and those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility to get into a pool more often.

"We’re working hard to engage older audiences, as in many cases swimming is the only activity that can be done in a supportive, pain-free environment.

"We’re about to launch a programme funded by the London Marathon Charitable Trust whereby a number of pools will be provided with a PoolPod, which provides independent and dignified entry into the water for wheelchair users or people with limited mobility.

"Our Dementia Friendly Swimming project provides enhanced accessibility for those living with dementia and their carers. The original programme was run in more than 100 pools across the country and the learning from these has been shared widely through our digital platforms; we know that many more pools have improved accessibility as a result."

To read the full interview, see Issue 2 2019 of Sports Management here

Swim England  Jane Nickerson  swimming  Learn to Swim 
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