Swimspire Stories: Swim England Club Development Director Jon Keating

Swimspire Stories:
Swim England Club Development Director Jon Keating

The newly minted Swim England logo

The newly minted Swim England logo

In the United Kingdom, swimming is a sport with a long tradition. Swim England, England’s national governing body, is celebrating its 148th anniversary of helping people learn how to swim, enjoy the water safely, and compete in all water-based sports. Formally known as the Amateur Swimming Association, the organization changed its name in April 2017 to reflect both its history and its outlook towards the future. We set out to learn more about Swim England and to do this, we sat down with Club Development Director Jon Keating while visiting Plymouth for the Plymouth Leander Harwich Cup National Qualifier this May. Jon shared with us Swim England’s history, its future goals and his role as Club Development Director.

Julia Galan: Jon, tell us a bit more about Swim England. What is the organization’s role and what are its current goals for swimming in England?

Jon Keating: Swim England is the national governing body for swimming in England, and as the Amateur Swimming Association (“ASA”) it was the first governing body for swimming in the world. It began as the London Swimming Association in 1869 and is the only sport to be able to use the Heraldic Crest. Swim England encompasses the sports of swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming. As such, we currently have over 200,000 members who train, volunteer, and compete with over 1,000 clubs.

Welcome to the water (photo courtesy of Swim England)

Welcome to the water (photo courtesy of Swim England)

Our vision is that of a nation swimming and we strive to inspire everyone to enjoy the water in the way that suits them. We work with our partners to create engaging programs that enable everyone to be active, have fun and stay healthy through swimming. Each month, millions of people are able to enjoy swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming because they have been through our renowned Learn to Swim Programme. Ensuring that people are safe in the water is of paramount importance to us and so we work closely with partners to keep water safety high on the national agenda. At our heart, we are a membership organization that is dedicated to supporting our clubs and members to help them develop and succeed. We maintain the laws of the sport and run world-class national events that are open to all. We also operate a comprehensive range of qualification and education programs for teachers, coaches, officials and tutors.

JG: Why did you decide to change the name of the association from the ASA to Swim England?

JK: We wanted to be really clear about who we are, what we stand for and what we do. We are incredibly proud of our history and we’re not throwing away any of our tradition. In fact, the Amateur Swimming Association remains our constitutional name. But we’re also a modern organization and we want to reflect that in our name. Swim England says what we do – we are all about helping people learn how to swim and to enjoy the water safely. We want a healthier, happier and more successful nation through swimming. Swim England encompasses that vision and it is the perfect brand to take us forward as we aim to get a nation swimming.

JG: What is different about Swim England’s strategy?

The Swim England staff

The Swim England staff

JK: Our vision is of a nation swimming, and our strategy sets out how we are going to bring all aspects of the swimming sector together to achieve this. Our strategy, which is called “Towards a Nation Swimming”, remains true to our core principles of making sure everybody has the opportunity to learn how to swim, everyone is supported to swim regularly, and everyone is able to reach their potential in their chosen sport, whether that is swimming, diving, water polo or synchronized swimming.

However, the way we are doing that now is substantially different. Because we don’t own our own pools, our role is to support those who do by sharing our research about who wants to go swimming, their needs and their expectations. Then, we bring new partners together to help make swimming a popular activity in every community. By doing this, we hope to reach people who may never have thought swimming was an option for them to inspire them to pick up their towel and head to their local pool.

JG: How are you going to implement your strategy?

JK: As the national governing body, our role is to bring organizations together to create great programs and sessions that people want when they go swimming.

We are already working with a range of new organizations and creating new partnerships to match what people want and work together to deliver it. Our Dementia Friendly Swimming Project has shown how successful this can be, and we want to replicate that for different groups.

We are also focusing on bringing the swimming sector together. Our CEO, Jane Nickerson, chairs the Swim Group, which brings a range of commercial funding bodies and third sector partners together to address key issues. By creating one voice for swimming we can ensure key issues such as facility provision and water safety remains on the national agenda.

JG: What about your own swimming background – how did you ultimately end up getting involved with Swim England?

Jon Keating

Jon Keating

JK: I was a competitive swimmer myself, a breaststroker. When I was 16, I broke my hip and had to reinvent my swimming a bit. I started teaching and coaching, as well as life guarding, and slowly came to realize that swimming was actually about more than just competing. I graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science. After graduating, I went to Australia where I ended up completely redefining my thinking about swimming. I returned to the UK with a fresh perspective and soon after, began working for ASA/Swim England. I have been working with this organization for 11 years, with my positions ranging from learn to swim, school swimming advisor, aquatic officer, and finally, joining the clubs team, which ultimately led to the club development head role. I really enjoy working for Swim England and am even more excited to work directly with clubs, helping them to develop and to succeed.

JG: What advice would you give to clubs out there who are just starting out on their journey?

JK: My advice to these clubs would be to first look at how they are structured and how they are governed. Have them ask themselves, “what is our mission?” Once they have those pieces of the puzzle, they will know how to orient themselves. After a mission, structure and governance is determined, clubs will need to determine which pool they will use as their home base, what type of pool time they will need and what the extent of their access to the pool will be. Finally, a club starting out needs to look at their member foundation – where are members coming from and where are they going? It is these key questions that will lay the groundwork for a club’s future success.

Thanks for your time, Jon, and we wish you and Swim England all the best of luck along your journey!



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