You’ve seen SwimSwam post announcements regarding British athletes being named to its World Class Performance Pathway and Podium Placement programs in the past. But, as with the age group development system in the United States, there are several key milestone squads that are usually hit along a British athlete’s path to the upper echelons of training.
For example, Swim England’s Talent Program includes several more local steps a swimmer would ideally follow on his/her path to upward growth. The Talent Program is aimed at ‘identifying, developing and nurturing the best swimmers in England, by creating a world-leading talent system.’ Each phase is designed to develop and enhance skills to better prepare athletes for what’s in store as their young careers progress both in and out of the pool. Long-term success is the self-identified staple of the Swim England Talent Program.
To that end, the first phase generally traveled through by emerging Swim England swimmers is a County Development Program, which typically hosts 24-36 swimmers per county in a training group spanning April through October. Per Swim England, the County Development Program ‘will link the team behind the performer, support and tutor coaches to give valuable ‘on the job’ experience and knowledge’ to help swimmers improve.
County teams are broken into two divisions for the annual Counties Team Championships for scoring purposes, with this year’s County Team Championships taking place on October 6th at Ponds Forge. The following counties representing Division I: Berk & South Bucks, Cambridgeshire, Devon, Dorset, Essex, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Middlesex, N’Land & Durham, North Hamptonshire, Oxon & North Bucks, Scotland East, Scotland West, Somerset, Suffolk, Surrey, Swim Wales East, Swim Wales West, Yorkshire.
Division II is composed of Bedfordshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Nottinghamshire, Scotland Midland, Scotland North, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Sussex, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire.
Beyond the County Development Programs, swimmers typically the move to Regional Development before progressing through subsequent Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 stepping stones of the Swim England Performance Pathway. Then the athletes may move on to Podium Potential, Podium Program and beyond. Swimmers can essentially join the pathway at any point, but the journey is designed for sequential progression.
In recent county news, Somerset ASA, who were County Teams runners-up in 2002 and 2014, has appointed James Clarke from Millfield as its County Pathway Program Head Coach. Clarke was recently named to United Kingdom Coaching’s Performance Foundation Coach Support Program as well.