Swimming is still the most popular participation sport in the country, yet swimming numbers are in decline. How can we reverse this trend?

Why are fewer people swimming?

THIS September saw the launch of the first All- Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Swimming. Organised by Catherine West MP and co-chaired by Nicky Morgan MP, the group brings together parliamentarians from across the political divide to focus on a range of issues facing swimming. Despite swimming being the largest

participation sport in the country, the number of adults swimming at least once a week in England has fallen by more than three quarters of a million in the past decade - a drop of 23.7 per cent (Active People Survey Nov 2016). A keen swimmer, West set up the APPG to

encourage more people to swim. The group comprises more than 30 MPs and Peers from across the UK who will look at such issues as the affordability of swimming and the need for greater access to the activity. “Currently 31 per cent of children are unable

to swim competently by the time they finish primary school. Our APPG aims to raise issues surrounding school swimming and access to affordable swimming lessons as well as to promote the restoration of swimming baths, uptake of outdoor swimming and water safety,” says West. The formation of the group follows the

launch of ukactive’s Moving Communities: Active Leisure Trends report (see page 19), which gives an insight into how local leisure facilities are being used by the public. Compiled in collaboration with the DataHub, the research uses data from over three million customers and 130 million individual visits across 315 leisure centres over the past two years. It shows that while swimming remains the most popular single activity, accounting for 35 per cent of all leisure centre visits, the proportion of swimming visits has fallen by 15 per cent since 2016. So, what is being done to halt this decline in

swimming? What, if any, innovation is taking place in the sector to encourage participation? Three industry professionals give their views.

Most recently, we have introduced a new

clothing policy across all our sites to encourage more people back into the pool. We realised that only wearing a swimsuit could be a barrier for some people who feel self-conscious, so we now allow swimmers to also wear close fitting t-shirts and leggings.

we need to offer diverse programming Since February 2016, we have focussed a

Alison Sutherland, regional swimming development manager, everyone active To encourage more people to swim is about ensuring a variety of programmes are on offer such as fitness classes, technique improvement sessions as well as sport specific sessions. It’s also essential that we create a welcoming environment with knowledgeable colleagues on site. We run a wide number of different initiatives

to encourage more people to swim. These include free swimming to anyone enrolled in lessons with us and free family passes for those attending our school swimming programme. Swimming is also included as part of all fitness memberships and we run a wide variety of swim 4 fitness programmes and adult swimming lessons.

large amount of attention and resources on women-only swim. We helped launch the This Girl Can Swim campaign, in partnership with Sport England, which promotes women-only swim sessions in many of our centres. The campaign isn’t just about offering women only swim sessions, it’s also about getting rid of the barriers to participation. We have female lifeguards, we allow women to wear t-shirts and bring robes on the pool side, and we have also made many improvements to the female changing facilities. We are also involved in a Disability

Accessibility Project in partnership with EFDS and Sport England to encourage more people from this group into swimming. For instance, we run a number of different partnerships with local community groups to offer visually impaired swimming lessons. Initiatives like these have helped to increase

casual swims by 19 per cent in the past 12 months to 7,154,214. We have also seen 1,097 swimmers more in July and August this year than the same time last year. We need to offer a diverse programme to

encourage all members of the community into the water. 23

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