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Lydney go to great lengths to encourage all their swimmers

All Areas > Sport > Swimming

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Monday, 27th November 2017, 09:00

Lydney Swimming Club now have 120 members and boast around 70 swimmers Lydney Swimming Club now have 120 members and boast around 70 swimmers

Anyone who watches Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday evening will know that the pay-off line at the end of each show delivered by presenters Tess Daley and Claudia Winkleman is “keep dancing!”

You can imagine a similar message would emanate from Lydney Swimming Club if the TV cameras ever headed to Freedom Leisure at The Dene Academy because their philosophy is very much one of “keep swimming”.

The club’s vice-chairman Helen Harding told The Local Answer: “Our underlying ethos is to keep people swimming. It’s healthy exercise and provides an active lifestyle. ”

That’s indisputable of course. The club were only formed in 2000 but they now have 120 members and boast around 70 swimmers from the ages of six up to 60.

Norman Sterry is the chairman and has been involved with the club since 2001. His CV is typical of so many at voluntary clubs up and down the county, starting as a poolside helper and committee member and then going on to be team manager and now chairman of the club.

“We are an inclusive club aimed at competitive and non-competitive swimmers,” added Helen. “Our aim is for all swimmers to reach the best they can be and be the best they want to be.

“The aim is to improve participation and performance in swimming.”

Achieving that aim is in part down to lead coach Georgina Dempster who has been a coach at the club since 2013 and in her present role since January.

She is assisted by a poolside team of nine volunteers and is also given a helping hand by some of the senior swimmers at the club.

One of those senior swimmers is club captain Phoebe Sparkes, who has taken on one of the top positions even though she is only 16.

“Because our ethos is to try to encourage youngsters to stay in swimming we like to promote them to leading roles,” said Helen.

“Phoebe is an excellent role model in terms of the commitment she shows towards the club.

“She’s a good swimmer too and will swim whatever strokes she is asked to in competitions, she’s a team person through and through.

“She’s really good at encouraging everyone around her and has swum for the club for many years. She’s just started her swim teacher training as well.”

And while Phoebe – whose vice-captain is Eva Marie Kear – is clearly thriving on the responsibility, there are other youngsters who are coming through with bags of potential as well.

“Orla Delaney is only 13 but she’s a very gifted swimmer,” said Helen, who is deputy to Norman Sterry. “She works very hard and this year has competed at regional level after competing at county level for the past couple of years.

“She’s also competed in the Three Counties for Gloucestershire against Herefordshire and Worcestershire and is very good at all strokes.

“Her best stroke is the breaststroke over 50 and 100 metres and she’s a county under-13 champion.”

Young Orla has clearly benefitted from the opportunities afforded to her by a club which treats every swimmer as an individual.

“We try to nurture our swimmers rather than push them,” said Helen. “We like to take into account their physicality and wait until they are ready to be pushed.”

Once swimmers show that they are ready to take the plunge into the competition arena, there are plenty of opportunities for them to make waves.

“We compete in the Four Seasons League against Gloucester, Hereford, Cinderford and Tewkesbury,” said Helen, “and we also compete in four or five open meets.”

One of those is run by Lydney in conjunction with Brockworth and Cinderford swimming clubs, with the next one taking place at GL1 on Sunday 17th December.

“We’ve been doing that for a number of years now,” said Helen. “We’re friendly rivals. We form a committee for the meet and it works out well.”

Helen, who lives just three minutes’ drive from the pool in Lydney, knows her swimming of course, even though she has only been involved with the club for the past three years or so.

She used to swim for Ross – the club 16 miles down the road – when she was a teenager and dipped her toe back in the sport when her two oldest children – Joe, 14, and Alice, 13 – started pounding out the lengths.

Eight-year-old Jed has also swum in the Four Seasons League and Joe and Alice are likely to be involved in the junior county championships that take place at the start of next year.

So who would win if mum took on her kids in a race?

“Well,” she laughed, “I beat them in a race when we were on holiday,” before adding, “but I think they’d have beaten me if it had been more than two lengths!”

Other Images

Lydney Swimming Club’s aim is to “improve participation and performance in swimming”
Chairman Norman Sterry with volunteers at this year’s club championships
The underlying ethos at Lydney “is to keep people swimming”
Chairman Norman Sterry has been involved with the club since 2001
Award winners at Lydney’s annual presentation evening

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