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Swimming is for everyone at Wellington

07 January 2019
Shane Hambling is Wellington’s Director of Aquatics, tasked with overseeing the growth of the College’s swimming teams, training sessions and competition schedule while building new opportunities for pupils of all ages to engage with the sport. How do you want swimming to develop as a sport at Wellington? Shane: In previous years, we’ve had excellent swimming teams but their rosters were generally made up by a small number of pupils. Ideally, I would like every pupil with an interest in swimming to be coming forward and finding a place on a team. My starting point is that I don’t ever want to refuse any pupil who wants to swim and I don’t want them to have to choose swimming over something else they enjoy. Across the College, everyone should have the opportunity to swim competitively and you don’t have to be a top level swimmer in order to do that. If you can swim safely, then there is a squad for you. So how is swimming going to expand this year? Shane: We’ve already expanded significantly during the Michaelmas term in a number of important ways. Firstly, we’ve greatly increased the number of opportunities to swim; there are now training sessions every morning from Monday to Friday, every day co-curricular activities (CCA) sessions 1 and 2 are open to swim team training and we now run after-school swimming training sessions on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That’s 20+ separate sessions spread across the whole week, allowing pupils to pick and choose so they can meet at least their minimum training requirements without missing out on other sports and activities they enjoy or want to explore. The other form of expansion is the number of pupils who are now swimming on a regular basis. Last year, we had a roll of perhaps 70 regular swimmers. This year, we already have over 200 swimmers who are training in the mornings, during CCAs and after school. This is a big step forward in terms of inclusivity and it has created a much deeper talent pool – if you’ll excuse the swimming pun! If the number of pupils involved in swimming has grown so rapidly, will they all get the chance to swim in a team and take part in competitions? Shane: Yes, and that’s a really important part of what we want swimming to be. We are layering our existing teams more evenly while adding in new ones so that there is a viable starting place for swimmers of every ability level. As well as our Gold, Silver and Bronze Squads, we have also introduced White Squad for Upper Prep and Red and Blue Squads for Lower Prep. We also have the year 2 squad in Pre-Prep and this term we begin with the year 1 extension CCA to get our youngest swimmers engaged in training. Entry into the respective squads is determined by timing standards. This way, each pupil knows exactly what they have to do to move up to the next one; there’s always an incentive to keep improving their abilities and their overall timings. In terms of swimming competitions and events, will Wellington pupils have more opportunities to look forward to? Shane: Naturally, that’s another area we’re trying to expand, because it’s extremely valuable for our pupils to test themselves against competitors outside their own peer group. There are now three or four big swim meets per term that Wellington attends, all involving between 10-15 different schools. While these are great events, I’m currently working on putting together some ‘mini-meets’, where one school hosts another. Hopefully, this will prove to be a great chance for our newer swimmers to get some competitive swimming experience. This is particularly relevant for the younger pupils, because the big competitions can be a little bit daunting for say a 7-year-old when there are hundreds of swimmers generating a lot of noise and movement. Whereas, taking just 25 pupils to a nearby school is still an excellent opportunity, but one which serves as a gentler introduction to competitive swimming. We also want to arrange more internal swimming competitions. We already have the annual inter-house swimming gala but ideally we will work up to having one College-wide swimming competition per term. Again, this gives pupils more chances to compete, to put their training into practice and gain greater exposure to competitive swimming.   How have the swim teams performed so far this year? Shane: Last term was a great start for all the swimmers and I think that there are some very strong squads forming. We attended four swim meets and the average points ratios are increasing as our swimmers engage with different events and pull in more points. In our last competition, Wellington swimmers entered approximately 115 individual events and over two thirds of them resulted in swimmers setting or beating their personal best times by either giving their best performance to date or trying out an event they had never competed in before. Not only are these very impressive results in of themselves, it’s also important for our swimmers to keep testing themselves no matter their ability level. This approach helps them become more well-rounded athletes and it is Wellington’s educational philosophy to stretch and challenge pupils in everything we do. To put it another way: we wouldn’t let a pupil only stick to trigonometry in their maths class and refuse to engage with algebra just because it was new to them. In just the same way, it’s vital for our swimmers to engage with the whole of the sporting discipline in a positive and measured manner, tackling new challenges in a way that makes them aspire to be better.   Is there anything you’d like to say to any Wellington pupils who are considering giving swimming a try? Shane: Swimming is for everyone. The trials are open to everyone. If you can swim 25 metres on your back and front, enter and exit the pool safely and tread water, there’s a squad for you. We will train you and you will get the chance to swim competitively, if that’s what you want to do. Most importantly, swimming is challenging, rewarding and a lot of fun.