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Swimming loses its amateur status

The ASA (of swimming, rather than advertising standards fame) has rebranded and turned pro! The link to a once dominant amateur sport ethos is lost in a simple name change. Today the Amateur Swimming Association has become Swim England and has also launched a bold new plan for the sport: Towards a Swimming Nation.

Almost 150 years ago in 1869, it was the world's first swimming association. A pioneer in the sport. Like so many other UK sports bodies, many of whom codified their sports, they were simply known as "The" Amateur Swimming Association, due to the absence of any other country or international body at the time. Similar to the F.A., the R&A, the RFU etc.

Swim England's launch of their 2017-2021 strategy includes a professionalisation approach to the sport in England. Their objective over the next four years is to create a happier, healthier and more successful nation through swimming. Specific goals include:

  1. Provide strong leadership and be the recognised authority for swimming

  2. Substantially increase the number of people able to swim

  3. Significantly grow the number and diversity of people enjoying and benefitting from regular swimming

  4. Deliver a high quality, diverse and motivated workforce within swimming

  5. Create a world leading talent system for all our aquatic disciplines

  6. Strengthen our organisational sustainability for future generations

Is there anything missing from this extensive list? It is very thorough and includes many key areas for development. However the one additional element I would suggest is the "Why". Why swim? Why should I get up off my sofa, travel to the pool on a rain-sodden night in February to swim? What makes me do this? What drives me?

I certainly will be happier if the result of this professional approach, insight, partnerships, and engagement leads to one outcome... and that is the creation of new swimming events and programmes which help deliver the "Why". In running, the number of half marathons in the UK in the four weeks immediately before the Virgin Money London Marathon is double the number in the four weeks after. This is due to the impact of events driving participation and engagement in a sport. The "Why"!

The growth of triathlon is an interesting comparison. Participation in triathlon is 100% event based. It is a sport which has encouraged many new or lapsed swimmers back into the pool and into the sport of swimming as a result. Let's hope this new insight-led approach will demonstrate a need for new swimming events and programmes, all to help us with the "why" of swimming.

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