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People profile: Keri-Anne Payne, Better Leisure

Olympian and adult fitness swimming ambassador at Better Leisure

Published in Sports Management Nov Dec 2017 issue 134
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Keri-Anne Payne is a two-time 10km open-water world champion and an Olympic silver medallist
Keri-Anne Payne is a two-time 10km open-water world champion and an Olympic silver medallist

What’s the Swim Doctor programme?
Swim Doctor is a new offer through Better Leisure centres, with two different aspects: to provide an induction to the pool area and to help people improve their swimming technique. So many adults don’t swim due to fear of the unknown. They might not know the protocols – which lane to use, where to get changed, what they can take onto the poolside.

So the first part of the programme is about having someone from the centre be able to answer any questions and to provide helpful information.

To help people improve, a swim doctor will be on the poolside at set times during the week. Anyone who’s a Better Leisure member can come along to get technique coaching or advice on how to train.

How often can members attend?
Each member can do 12 sessions a year. They’d probably use the first couple to get their technique set, so they’re confident that they’re spending their time well. Then they’d go off and do it by themselves, and later come back when they want to check how they’re getting on.

Why did you want to get involved?
I was so excited because they’re trying to do something different. Unless you go to a pool all the time you don’t really know how it all works. A lot of adults, certainly first-time adult swimmers, are really nervous about being in the pool environment and doing something wrong or not knowing what to do.

So helping people to feel more comfortable and confident was an absolute no-brainer for me.

What does your role entail?
We’ve recently done a series of masterclasses around the country to promote the campaign. The classes involved helping anyone of any level – we had complete beginners right up to masters swimmers. We worked on their skills and on giving them confidence.

The swim doctors in each area joined me, helping on the poolside, or getting in and joining the classes to better understand the swimmers and how to run the sessions.

I’ll also be doing a bigger masterclass specifically for the swim doctors to show them how I coach, and how they can get more and more adults swimming.

What’s the standard of adult swimming in the UK?
I don’t think there are enough programmes for adults specifically. There are a few masters programmes, but not enough emphasis on getting more adults to swim.

So many of the clients that I coach have never learned how to swim or they’ve taught themselves as adults, either because they just never got the opportunity when they were younger or they had a really bad experience that left them terrified of water. Many adults are motivated by not wanting to pass on their fear of swimming to their children.

Hopefully these people will now see that there’s an option, that someone can help them with their skills in a really helpful and non-patronising way, and then we’ll get more and more people coming to swim.

Why is swimming such a great activity?
There was a big survey done by Swim England recently around what swimming does for wellness. Not only is it great for keeping you fit, and it’s good to learn new skills, but there are lots of people who swim for wellness and their mental health.

Swimming and being around water automatically helps people to relax. It’s a great mood-booster and can help with depression. And you get a bit of me-time as well – your head’s in the water and no one can talk to you or shout at you – you’ve just got the bubbles and your own thoughts. It’s a great way of looking after yourself as a whole rather than just your fitness.

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