April 01, 2021

Dear all,

Many thanks to the committee members, head coaches and club children’s officers who attended recent catch up meetings with the Clubs and Community, Performance Pathway and Youth Department teams.

Club Meetings

We believe these meetings provide important opportunities for clubs to share their suggestions and concerns with Swim Ireland staff and also offer a chance to reconnect with other clubs. Every meeting that we hold with our clubs generates new ideas and suggestions.

It can be challenging to capture all of these in a letter so we have also included the recurring points from the recent meetings below. These include requests for support with facilities, social media and marketing campaigns, and concerns for athletes, coaches, and committees.

It is our intention to continue with these informal meetings until the end of 2021, holding them approximately every eight weeks.

The Club Children's Officer Forums will also continue with the CCO’s as established, with the Youth Department.

Return to Water Roadmap

We are now looking ahead to a return to training and competition, which we expect to be a phased approach over the next few months.

Following recent announcements both North and South of the border, we now know that the Northern Ireland Executive have indicated 12th April as a provisional date for a return to outdoor training, and the Irish Government have signposted a return to outdoor activity for underage athletes from 26th April. Both jurisdictions indicate that groups can exercise in pods of up to 15.

Return to Water resources are currently being updated to align with current Irish Government / Northern Ireland Executive guidance and updated guidance documents will be published in due course. These documents will be available on the COVID-19 Return to Water page and will be date stamped, so you can be assured of having the most up to date information.

We would encourage you to consider how your club can engage in outdoor activity, on land or in water, in the short term.

Feedback from clubs suggest that club members, particularly young people, are eager to get away from their screens and exercise together (as restrictions allow). Check out our Circuit Plan and Games, Goran Sablic’s Water Polo Dry Land videos or Paul Talty’s Workout videos for some ideas.

Return to Competition

Return to Competition was also discussed with Masters, Swimming and Water Polo clubs, and with Regional management committees recently.

In general, there is a desire to return to some form of competition this season which we continue to plan for, with a focus on fun and celebrating being back in the water, rather than an emphasis on achieving times or performance.

Your feedback in this area is greatly valued and will be considered as we plan for a return to competition in all disciplines this summer.

Government Engagement

To finish, we want to reassure you that we continue to campaign for the re-opening of swimming pools and leisure facilities as a matter of urgency, writing last week to the Irish Minster of Sport on this matter.

The Minister has also indicated that there will be a meeting of the COVID-19 Sports Monitoring Group late next week, which our CEO Sarah Keane will be attending, to provide further updates and more clarity.

We have also shared the proposed roadmap for a Return to Water (see below) with the Minister, which we believe enables our disciplines to plan for a safe return to training and competition. Please note: This roadmap is Swim Ireland's interpretation of Government guidance and is dependent on Government restrictions being eased. It is for advisory purposes only, and subject to change. Swim Ireland will provide updated guidance as it is available.

Thanks as always for your continued support and engagement.

Clubs and Community Team

Head of Clubs and Community – Adam Cox adamcox@swimireland.ie

Club Support Manager – Aisling McKeever aislingmckeever@swimireland.ie

Discipline Support Manager – Sarah Kelly sarahkelly@swimireland.ie

Competitions Manager – Pat Daly patdaly@swimireland.ie

Connacht Support Officer – Vincent Finn vincentfinn@swimireland.ie

Munster Support Officer – Damien Fitzpatrick damienfitzpatrick@swimireland.ie

Ulster Club & Workforce Development Officer – Ruth McQuillan ruth@swimulster.net

Answers to Feedback from March 2021 Club Meetings

Feedback: Clubs would like as much notice as possible in advance of changes to restrictions to support RTW planning.

Swim Ireland Update: Swim Ireland and other NGB’s, through the Sport Expert Group, have asked the Government for advance notice to support our sports, clubs, and individuals to adequately prepare for a Return to Sport.

Feedback: A timeline would be helpful for clubs to commence some planning, understanding where competitions might recommence and when clubs should take a summer break.

Swim Ireland Update: A draft roadmap is available at Return to Water Roadmap 2021. This is an advisory document and all dates are subject to change, depending on Government announcements, COVID-19 cases, and vaccine roll-out.

Feedback: Clubs would like support accessing pool time and negotiating with facilities

Swim Ireland Update: Swim Ireland is open to discussing what this looks like further, from the perspective of Clubs, although unfortunately we cannot negotiate individually with the pool operators.

We are however working closely with Ireland Active, who comprise many of the pool operators, and we will arrange a Panel discussion with them around pool time.

We have also set up working groups with the NAC to seek to facilitate the different disciplines in our sport. We also have a number of support initiatives planned over the coming weeks, including a Negotiation Skills Workshop on Monday 10th May. More details to follow shortly.

Feedback: More CPD’s for various levels of teachers and coaches, and specifically to support returning to the water.

Swim Ireland Update: This feedback has been passed on to the Swim Ireland Education Department. Check out current CPD’s on the Swim Ireland CPD Calendar.

Feedback: More social media coverage to campaign for swimming pools to re-open

Swim Ireland Update: As an organisation Swim Ireland have prioritised engagement at Government level, and this is our preferred route over social media campaigns.

Swimmers from Galway SC and Shark SC recently met with the Minister for Sport, CEO Sarah Keane featured on RTE Radio One’s This Week programme and Chairperson Peter Conway appeared in a segment on RTE news on 24th March to highlight Swim Ireland’s concern for swimming lessons.

Feedback: A marketing plan or strategy for Learn to Swim that could be shared by facilities and clubs.

Swim Ireland Update: A #JumpBackIn media campaign is ready to launch once a date for re-opening of facilities is announced. We will also be seeking funding to promote Learn to Swim programme later in 2021. These will be available to all clubs and facilities to share on their own pages.

Feedback: Concerns for retention of young people – mixed age groups (younger athletes have not returned in a year and teenagers who don’t feel they can return to prior fitness).

Swim Ireland Update: We acknowledge this as a pressing concern for many clubs and will continue to review this as we return to training and competition, with a focus on enjoying the sport, rather than performance.

We have been fortunate to secure funding from Sport Ireland’s Retain and Retrain fund, which has been used to fund recent initiatives such as Instagram Live classes, Water Polo dryland training, online coaching webinars, online athlete clinics and most recently: New Swim Ireland Scholarship Programme for Teenagers | Swim Ireland, which is still open for applications.

Feedback: Concerns for our young members returning to their clubs.

Swim Ireland Update: We are working with the Club Children's Officers to recognise difficulties and/or concerns young people may have in returning to water and to ensure that club, coaches and CCOs are working together to ensure this transition works well.

Feedback: Clubs are worried about loss of experienced committee members.

Swim Ireland Update: We are anticipating a turnover in club management committees in 2021. The Clubs and Community Team are on hand for direct club support and have a number of training opportunities available through online modules and individual club workshops.

A more comprehensive Club Resilience programme will be offered to clubs in September, aimed at incoming committee members. For more information, please contact your club support officer.

We recognise people in other essential roles e.g. CCOs may not return and we will provide required training to encourage clubs to prepare for this.

Feedback: Variance between what is deemed elite and who has been able to continue training in ROI and NI has been frustrating and worrying.

Swim Ireland Update: As our clubs fall into two different Governing jurisdictions there can be variances in the approaches taken at Government level. Whilst Swim Ireland do not set the classifications for what is deemed ‘elite’ we continue to engage with both the Irish Government and Northern Ireland Executive regularly in an effort to extend these parameters.

Feedback: Are there mental health supports available to coaches?

Swim Ireland Update: Coaches can avail of the LAYA EAP programme, details below. This is a confidential service.

Reach out to your EAP today:

Freephone ROI: 1800 911 909

Freephone NI: 0800 0988 350

Email: hello@layaeap.ie

EAP portal: www.layaeap.ie

Feedback: Are there mental health/concern supports generally?

Swim Ireland Update: We have a comprehensive set of supports available; these can be found here: Here to Listen.

We offer a supportive network through our Head of Youth Dept. Kate Hills, working with the CCOs for young people and their parents.

You can also take part in any of the session on our next Mental Health and Well-Being Virtual Workshop Series, which begins on April 28.