complete star jumps and press ups, then jump back into the pool for more swimming. Why don’t we have swim doctors or the aquatic equivalent of a personal trainer? And what is swimming’s answer to Park Run? We will only develop innovative programmes

Steve Parry, Olympic swimmer, director of Total Swimming, chair of School Swimming Review Group Swimming is the most popular sport in the country. And for good reason; it’s great for mental and physical wellbeing and it’s suitable for people of all ages. But it could be so much more. Swimming hasn’t kept up with innovation as

other activities have. Gyms have changed dramatically over the past few decades with new equipment, classes galore and all sorts of personal training. By contrast, swimming has stayed largely the same - you get in the pool and swim up and down. There’s so much more that could be done

with programming. I’d love to see more family swimming offers to get parents swimming with their kids; bespoke programmes for seniors, triathletes and aspiring competitive swimmers. In the US, I’ve seen operators combine swimming sessions with military fitness training where swimmers hop out on to the side of the pool to


and evolve the swimming offer if we bring like- minded people together to share ideas and best practice. This is what we do at the Swim Group, which comprises representatives from across the education, sport and leisure sectors who check and challenge what is being done in swimming.

participation may be harmed if we take accessibility out of the pool space

I’m also concerned about the general

decline of pools. I’m talking about accessibility here. Yes, we have the same amount of pool water as we had decades ago, but we have less swimming pools. Small pools in local communities are being replaced by bigger pools in the centre of town. I’m afraid participation may be harmed if we continue to take accessibility out of the pool space. Accessibility is a problem that disproportionately effects those on lower

incomes as transportation costs them become a major barrier to participation. This may explain why there’s increasing

interest in modular pools, which can be in place for up to 15 years and cost significantly less than traditional pool builds. They allow local authorities, trusts and operators to bring pools to where people want and need them. Lowering costs of building facilities helps build a business case for operating pools which I hope will result in more pools being available and participation going up as a result. One challenge we can’t ignore when it

comes to participation is the poor attainment rates among children leaving primary school. More than one in three children can’t meet the national curriculum standard of swimming 25m, which means tens of thousands of children probably never will learn this vital life skill. So over 10 years a million youngsters will be lost from ever having the opportunity of participating in swimming. This isn’t a problem exclusively for schools but we know if children don’t learn to swim it is highly unlikely to happen later in life.

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