Open water swimming is going through a huge growth period and to make the most of this growth, it is important to create some grass roots for the sport. These grass roots would allow people to develop their swimming in a number of different ways.
So in 2014, a pilot project was set up to create 3 new OPENWATERCLUBS in the Upper Thames area.
From the outset, the purpose of the clubs was:
• To create a model of self-managing, sustainable clubs; that could then be rolled out nationwide.
• To create new swimming communities and give them access to a safe, welcoming and structured approach to getting involved with open water swimming.
• To target existing, as well as new demographics and introduce them to the benefits of both pool and open water swimming.
• Encourage competition, friendships, health and fitness and good swimming.
The clubs aim to be accessible to all “types” of swimmers, from leisurely to competitive swimmers, and support each member in their personal achievements:
• People who don't come from a traditional swimming background, can develop their speed, endurance or competitive skills.
• Distance – Training programs for people who wish to focus on longer more endurance based swims, with a greater focus on personal achievement.
• Technique development – Whatever the goal, good swim technique development.
• Adventure swimming – One of the joys of open water swimming is the ability to explore the many beautiful locations to swim, across the UK.
• Just swim – Everyone has different reasons to swim, and should be encouraged to participate and swim, whatever those reasons. As one of the best forms of exercise, swimming has been shown to have numerous positive impacts on well-being.
The new season 2016
With well over 100 members across the clubs in 2014, and positive feedback, the clubs are moving ahead into the 2016 season.
Although the original 3 clubs will move forward independently within their local areas, with their own committee, communities and their own sports and social activities, they remain part of the wider OPENWATERCLUBS network, which enables them to share resources, best practice and swimming venues, to meet for training and social swims, like local antennae of a big open water swimming club.
We wish to further:
• Develop links with other existing open water swimming clubs and groups
• Support and facilitate the setup of new clubs by providing working procedures, best practice advise and a web platform
• Widen the network and potential to share the tools to help open water swimming grow safely and make it accessible to everyone who would like to take up or pursue the sport
Some of the most successful and welcomed activities from last year, which we wish to carry forward were:
• Inter-club friendlies with team relays – For members of each clubs to compete against each – find out more events on our facebook page (www.facebook.com/OPENWATERCLUBS)
• Distance awards (from 200m to 10K) – These were used by many of our members, novice or experienced, as a season goal. These were also available to non-members for a small fee, as it was seen as a good tool for development across abilities.
• Coaching sessions – some guest coaches joined us for a talk an practical sessions in the lakes – find out more events on our facebook page (www.facebook.com/OPENWATERCLUBS)
• Social swims, events and club trips.
• Winter swimming sessions
And this season, we already have plans for more trips, events and social swims.
The various activities of the clubs are shaped by their members and will reflect their wishes, goals and expectations, but all should thrive towards these clubs mission statements:
– to support the practice and development of safe open water swimming for its members
– to provide its member with the opportunity to participate or compete at local, regional and national events
– to allow the practice of open water swimming as a non-competitive leisure
– to treat everyone equally within the context of its activity
– to promote the sport of open water swimming and encourage others to give it a go in safe conditions
– to have a social responsibility to the communities in which it operates
Who can get involved?
Anyone who likes the idea of open water swimming, and wants to become involved in a club. It doesn’t matter if you have never been open water swimming before, or are an experienced open water competitor. The clubs are all about introducing new people to the joys of open water swimming, as well as engage existing swimmers to develop their swimming and become part of a community.
Any existing club or group who would like to engage with a wider network of open water swimmers. There are different ways we can engage: social joint swims, offering our distance award program, aligning club constitutions and vision, becoming on full open water club and sharing our administrative platform and membership rules and conditions.
Where can I join?
Our two main clubs are based in Oxford and Henley (http://openwaterclubs.org.uk/clubs/) Oxford has its “home” at a Queenford Lakes, whilst Henley has its home on the Thames. Little Marlow Lake at Westhorpe Watersports Centre is associated to the clubs and members have subsidised entry there too.
Members of one of the clubs, have subsidised access to the lakes and access to join the training groups in the Thames and their various events.