The Masters section coach was palpably unconcerned by the fact that I no longer felt included within the club's activities, and my posting on my Facebook page that I had decided to leave because the focus on pool competition did not meet my training needs was met with a very snotty posting from someone who I had swum with for several years that two new international level swimmers had recently joined and how great it was. Add to this the fact that another non-competing, mostly open-water swimmer was told that because of "over-crowding" on Wednesdays and Fridays, she would no longer be able to use her once-a-week membership on those days (limiting her to days that her schedule wouldn't allow her to attend). The implementation of this concocted nonsense occurred while at the same time, new competing members are being actively recruited, giving the lie to the overcrowding excuse that was clearly designed those deemed to be of no value to the club. So, all of this convinces me that I have made the right decision and I am not interested in swimming in a club that has so little imagination about what swimming is / can be.
At the heart of the recent transformation in the club's ethos is the awarding of Beacon programme status last Spring - a move that has radically shifted the focus of the club towards competition. I did a bit of research about the programme, and for those who don't know, here's an explanatory extract from a paper by Nick Sellwood (ASA Talent and Development Manager):
"The business structure of the Beacon programme is a unit that is an evolving, integrated and vertically managed business unit that creates a quality assured environment for the delivery at all stages in the talent pathways, embracing lifelong participation".
All clear? No? Perhaps this will help...
"The Beacon programme will provide quality assured programmes of coaching and development and where appropriate competition at every stage of the talent pathway from Foundation to World Class Podium and encompassing lifelong participation in aquatics. This is achieved with an integrated programme where all aspects of the development process are effectively and efficiently interlinked".
Aside from the fabulous dissociation of words from meaning in this management nonsense, at the heart of the programme is the goal of focusing intensive competitive training on the country's relatively scarce 50m pools. In itself, I don't have a problem with trying to nurture top level talent; what is not clear is how Masters swimming fits into this, especially since, as the ASA acknowledges on the Masters section of its website, the majority of Masters swimmer don't compete.
Ultimately, I can see why the club might have chosen to go down the Beacon programme route, since it brings with it funds, coaches, pool access, land training and sports science support, and status. Plus, I know that many of my former club colleagues are really enjoying the competition-focused training sessions and weekend galas, which is great. What I regret is that as club members, we were never consulted about the Beacon programme and what its impact would be; and that so little regard is given to other forms of swimming which, with a little flexibility and imagination, could easily be included within even such a competitively oriented Masters swimming context.
So, while I think it's a shame and utterly unnecessary, me and my lifelong participation in aquatics are happy to go elsewhere.
And with that in mind, I'm hoping to have a new coaching arrangement in place shortly, and have transferred most of my training to a pool belonging to a local private school which offers some public memberships of its pool and gym facilities out of school hours. It's close to home, and has the advantage of being open late in the evening (until 10pm) and is always virtually empty after 8-ish. I'm really enjoying being back in the pool and getting back down to training.
More news to follow shortly about training, Catalina, plus a very exciting opportunity next April....