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Unsung Hero: Cathy Maggs, Cirencester Swimming Club and Cirencester Open Air Swimming Pool

All Areas > Sport > Swimming

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Wednesday, 26th July 2017, 09:00

Cathy Maggs Cathy Maggs

When Cathy Maggs gets involved in something, she jumps in at the deep end.

It’s just as well, then, that her passion is swimming – and swimming in Cirencester in particular.

The mum-of-two, who moved to the beautiful market town with her family 12 years ago, is never far from the water whether it be the pool at Cirencester Leisure Centre or the Open-Air Pool on the edge of the stunning Cirencester Park.

“I’ve always enjoyed swimming,” she said. “I competed a lot when I was younger and I still like to go swimming now.”

She no longer swims competitively but is one of the driving forces behind all things swimming in Cirencester.

She is a coach at Cirencester Swimming Club – among many other things – and is also on the committee of the open-air pool where she is vice-chairman. As with the swimming club, however, her vice-chairman’s role makes just a small ripple when all the other jobs she takes on are taken into consideration.

Her love of swimming started from a very early age many miles east (and slightly north as well) of the town she show now calls home in the county of Norfolk.

“My mum and dad were both swimming teachers,” she said, “and I was soon swimming competitively. I swam for a little club called Downham Market but I also swam for King’s Lynn.

“In those early days, my best stroke was breaststroke but the problem was that nobody could do a legal butterfly at Downham Market so I ended up swimming fly.”

Although considered by many to be the toughest of swimming’s disciplines it turned out to be a stroke of genius for Cathy.

Pretty soon she was winning club titles as well as “medalling in county championships”.

“I was swimming for both Downham Market and King’s Lynn,” she said. “I trained hard, six times a week. I swam in relays as well as the individual events and in those days swimming for the county was thought to be the best you could hope to achieve.”

Cathy didn’t lose her passion for swimming when the bright lights of London enticed her to England’s capital city when she was 18.

“I joined a club in the East End”, she said, “and I got a preliminary qualification to teach swimming when I was 20 – these days it is now considered to be a Level 1.”

Cathy also became a masters swimmer and one of the highlights of her time in London was swimming for Bethnal Green Sharks in the world masters at Ponds Forge in Sheffield.

“I swam in the relay and it was great fun,” she said.

Her husband Chris’ work brought her and their two children – Abi, now 16, and Josh, 13 – to Gloucestershire.

Pretty soon she was knocking on the door at Cirencester Leisure Centre to get her children into the swimming club but a waiting list meant they had to wait two years until they could dip their toes in the water.

It was at that time that Cathy first got involved in helping the club and she’s taken on more jobs over the past decade than former PMs David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have combined since they stepped down from high office.

A Level 2 teacher, these days Cathy is heavily involved with the Competitive Development Squad at Cirencester, which pretty much does what it says on the tin.

“It’s all about developing our younger swimmers so that they are able to compete in a fun, competitive environment,” she said. “We want them to compete and not to be afraid to compete.

“Do they have the potential to change their stroke? Do they want to be competitive? They may be only five or six but do they want to go fast? Do they have the right attitude?”

If the answers to all these questions are ‘yes’, then the youngsters will soon be making a splash in the club’s training squads which can see the competitive nine-year-olds training three times a week.

While there are still waiting lists to have lessons at Cirencester Swimming Club– every parent wants their child to learn to swim – these days there are no waiting lists to join the competitive section of Cirencester Swimming Club.

“If someone is good enough we want them swimming for the club,” said Cathy. “We go on ability. It’s only fair that the ones showing some talent are given the chance to compete.”

Cathy is heavily involved in those competitions, of course.

“I help organise teams for the novice galas,” she said. “I’m also involved in the Cotswold League which we’ve won for the past three years. I do time trials for the children and try to involve as many of them as possible.

“We have also entered the Southern Junior League this season and we won our first gala. It was in Trowbridge and was very uplifting. The youngest children were eight and nine and some of them had never competed before.”

Cathy’s own children have followed in their mum’s slipstream and both are decent swimmers.

Abi, in particular, has enjoyed success although the Deer Park School pupil took a break from the sport while she studied for her GCSEs.

Both are natural breaststrokers – “I went for the hard work with butterfly,” laughed Cathy, who was proud to represent her county of Norfolk.

“Abi has won a medal at regional level,” said her proud mum, “she’s done better than me. Josh has swum at regional level, too, but he’d rather play football and rugby. He’s going to play at Forest Green next season.”

Cathy’s involvement with the open-air pool in Cirencester began in 2007 following the huge floods that paralysed the county.

“The leisure centre was flooded and I needed somewhere to swim,” she remembers. “I had joined the committee by the end of the season ¬– I think I was the youngest on it at the time and over the past few years the pool has gone from strength to strength.”

Typically, Cathy, who still takes part in swim fit at the leisure centre, has been one of the leaders in the new wave of volunteers.

She qualified as a lifeguard “so that I could help out when they were short”, and other jobs have involved painting, paperwork, health and safety, and helping with the chlorine to name just a few.

The pool is usually open from the last week of May to the first week of September and the only slight cloud on the horizon is that they are looking for a new chairman and treasurer to replace the retiring Mike Cutts and Lyndon Gilks, who is moving away from the area.

There are no concerns at Cirencester Swimming Club, however, where Cathy, who describes her husband as “very supportive of all my volunteering work”, says there is a team of loyal workers making sure that the waters always remain calm at the club.

“There’s too many people to mention,” she said, “but Neil Marriott is a typical example of someone who carried on teaching even when his children left the club.

“Beccy Stenson leads the Learn to Swim, Rebecca Sheffield is now gaining her Level 2 teaching certificate after doing a lot of work on the admin side, and Paul Grinnell is a long-serving coach who has done so much for the club.”

And what about Cathy? How much longer does she intend staying involved in swimming?

“I got a lot out of swimming when I was younger,” she said. “I’m not doing it now for my own children, I’m doing it now for children who have potential.

“I can’t see me giving it up any time soon.”

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