Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Partnership approach pays dividends for Stirling

Yesterday’s Olympic swimming announcement not only showcased the talent and determination of individual athletes but highlighted how strong partnerships and quality coaching can support the nurturing and development of athletes through creating a positive training environment. With five Scottish-based athletes named by Team GB, all training out of The University of Stirling this is a strong example of how this approach can work successfully.

Based on a partnership between the University of Stirling, Scottish Swimming and British Swimming, the University has a reputation as one of the UK’s leading high-performance swimming centres. Reflecting not only on the last ten days following the British Swimming Selection Trials and the lead up to yesterday’s announcement, but a year like no other with Covid and lockdown, Head Performance Swim Coach at the University, Steven Tigg, said,

“We have a saying at Stirling, ‘we develop people, we deliver results and we inspire others.’ Yesterday’s Olympic announcement really cemented that as a statement, but such success is born from a collaborative approach, not just between us as the coaching team and the athletes, but through support from the University, British Swimming, Scottish Swimming and sportscotland.

“The past year has been a prime example of that wider support helping us to get where we are today. We would not have got back in the water and be at the performance level we are at without the work of British Swimming, Scottish Swimming, The Scottish Government and sportscotland.  And we would not have been race ready for the Selection Meet, without the work of British Swimming putting on Invitational Meets at the start of the year. I think it is really important that the work that went on behind the scenes is acknowledged.

“Within the programme itself, we have an incredible support team at Stirling. As Head Coach I’m probably the least important person and once you can get to a point where the athletes themselves are so responsible and independent, then they can source who to go to for the support they need.  It’s great to stand back and watch. Yes, sometimes you need to manage that eco-system at certain times and do certain things but they deliver the results, they’re the ones who stand behind the blocks, they go to the call room and it’s all on them at that point and I think they are starting to demonstrate that really, really well. Athlete independence is something we work hard on at Stirling.

“It is important to mention the collective effort: Brad (Hay) and Josh (Williamson) do a great job, play a massive part in the programme and take lead roles on certain projects that we run. We had discussions around who we bring to London for the Selection Meet at the cost of potentially one swim, or if we run another simulation, as we have over the course of the year, to provide greater racing opportunities. The University has been massively accommodating in doing so and some of our International athletes couldn’t compete in London anyway, so it made sense. They were able to follow a familiar format, run under official guidelines with Josh staying behind to support. It allowed some to post best times, or at least get a feel for the competitive arena again, in an accredited event open to the wider return to training group.  So despite lots going on at one time, and the management of it all being a bit of a juggling act, while all the time trying not to take your eye off the fact there’s an impending Olympic Games coming up, it is the commitment of the people involved that makes it possible.

"We also have great support from Ade (Adrian Campbell), Shanksy (Neil Shanks), JT (Jon Twynham) and the wider sportscotland Institute, as well as the expertise of colleagues at British Swimming."

Ally Whike, Performance Director at Scottish Swimming, said,

“The last 15 months has highlighted the importance and strength of the partnerships that we have in place supporting performance swimmers across the country to train in preparation for key Olympic and Paralympic competition.  The University of Stirling and British Swimming have been integral to the progression of the athletes over a number of years, providing critical investment, expertise and on the ground support.”

Cathy Gallagher, Executive Director of Sport at the University of Stirling said,

“A key element of the successful High Performance Swimming programme at the University of Stirling is attributable to the impactful strategic partnership we share with Scottish Swimming and supported by British Swimming.  The relationship is founded on shared values and our unwavering objective is to provide a world-class environment within which athletes are supported to achieve their sporting ambitions.  The partnership continues to go from strength to strength and this is reflected in the performances, results and experiences of the swimmers and coaches.  We will continue to build on this success and impact.”

Reflecting on the last few weeks and then what lies ahead, Tigg finished by saying,

“I think on balance it has been a great few weeks overall for British Swimming, for Scottish Swimming and the sport as a whole. It has been unreal to get back in a competitive sense domestically and in a meaningful way. And you can tell that the athletes have got an appetite for it, the coaches have an appetite for it and I really think that if we can get beyond all the hardship with the closures and lack of resource we’ve had then the future for swimming is really bright. “