In those early years, overcoming fear of the water can be a real challenge for toddlers. As parents, we all want them to be able to swim; we understand the need for our youngsters to have that vital life-skill which will keep them safe and look after them in later life. As many parents will tell you, it can be a trying time, but also a rewarding one when they eventually take that first brave plunge!
Back in 2012, 4 year-old Jamie-Lea Mawer was no different. Her mum Paula remembers how Jamie-Lea was petrified to get into the water and how as parents, it seemed like there was literally nothing they could do to get her into the pool. Eventually, her mum and dad decided it was time to give someone else a go at teaching Jamie-Lea to swim and so they enrolled her on the Lincs Inspire learn-to-swim programme at the old Scartho baths. And it worked; Jamie-Lea overcame her fear of the water and quickly developed her basic swimming skills with her then swim-teacher, Sandra.
With regular half-hour weekly sessions, Jamie-Lea quickly grew her competency until she out-grew the learn-to-swim programme. For many young children, this is all too often the point at which regular swimming comes to an end; it becomes something which has been learned and taken no further, other than the kind of recreational fun that we all enjoy over the years with family and friends as we get older.
Sadly, this is the point at which many youngsters who have come to love the water and who have so much untapped potential, simply move away from swimming and don’t get the opportunity to grow within the sport and benefit from the development and life-skills that competitive swimming brings. But why is this? Well, the answer is often quite simple. More often than not, it’s because there isn’t an established pathway for swimming development which effectively links local learn-to-swim programmes with competitive swimming clubs. The two may exist alongside each other and may even share the same facilities. In fact, the reason that both exist is to develop swimming skills for life and so the opportunity for identifying those youngsters who will come to love the sport and who will grow, develop and benefit from it is obvious.
In Jamie-Lea’s case, her teacher Sandra could see a little girl who was enjoying what she did and who could go on to develop within a competitive club and so she put Paula in touch with Grimsby Aquatics Swim Team. Grimsby Aquatics had a bridging programme designed to help youngsters on the Lincs Inspire learn-to-swim programme transition into competitive swimming.
Jamie-Lea came along to GAST for her first try-out visit and her nerves returned! There were lots of people there and she was scared to get into the water, but Head of Grimsby Aquatics Swim School, Louise Reece, quickly put her at ease and off she went. Following a successful trial, in March 2016 she gained a place in the Bronze Squad at GAST and then went from strength to strength, quickly progressing to the Silver Squad.
Jamie-Lea’s first taste of competition came when she travelled to Hull later that year to take part in the Grimsby Aquatics Club Championships, racing in 25m events, winning medals and thoroughly enjoying the experience. When Aquatics started to host their own Championships Events at the newly-built Grimsby Leisure Centre, Jamie-Lea had progressed to 50m races and enjoyed further medal success. In fact, her race pace was strong enough to earn her some well-deserved qualification times for the 2017 Yorkshire County Winter Championships in Leeds where she competed with some of the best 9 year-olds in the county, winning her heats with a strong show all round. And it wasn’t long before she was back competing in Leeds again at the annual Christmas Cracker event, where clubs from across the region compete against each other for individual and club success.
After what was a hesitant start to swimming, Jamie-Lea found something she loves. Her strong determination, progression and success clearly demonstrates what can be achieved when children are helped to overcome their initial fear of water, find that they love to swim and succeed and importantly, have the right support from parents, swim teachers and clubs to make that a reality.
Grimsby Aquatics Swim Team and Swim School is a Swim Mark Essential Club, dedicated to providing the highest standards of coaching and the very best development opportunities for competitive swimming in North East Lincolnshire and the surrounding areas.