Swim England, the governing body for swimming in England, has released a set of guidelines for coaches and athletes who are getting creative and trying to stay in shape from home while pools around the world are closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The current situation is unprecedented and challenges us to find ways to keep our members active and training whilst respecting government guidance around social distancing etc,” the document leads with. “One clear opportunity is to undertake online delivery of activity from the coach to the athlete(s) either via live connection, recorded content or social media interaction.”
Swim England then goes on to lay out a series of best practice guidelines.
In sports, we have become very good at enacting safety protocols to protect athletes – a movement that has really accelerated over the last decade. These protocols have evolved after years of experience which has frequently included tragedy. The idea of remote learning in sports, however, is still very new and doesn’t yet have the benefit of those same years of experience to develop protocols.
Swim England’s list helps shortcut a lot of the experience and brings up subjects that might not immediately jump to mind – including that protecting athletes from abuse is just as important via remote learning as it is with in-person learning.
The policies, while mandated for Swim England clubs, are good practices for coaches around the world undertaking similar activities to both protect athletes physically, protect athletes from abuse, and to protect clubs financially. Swim England, like USA Swimming did earlier this week, also emphasized the importance of ensuring that these remote activities are included under the Swim England insurance policies.
Remote Drylands Best Practices
Courtesy: Swim England
Level of coach
Coaches should only deliver activity for which they are trained. In all of the instances below, coaches should apply good coaching practice. They should risk assess the activity, ensuring that it is appropriate for the developmental stage of participants and also take into account the fact that they will not be in close proximity to the athletes or directly supervising them in the same way as a face-to-face environment. Adjustments should be made accordingly.
a) Coaches with a recognised land training or strength and conditioning qualification
These coaches can deliver land training activity online as long as they risk assess the activity appropriately, ensure as far as possible safe practice on behalf of the participant and work within the level for which they are trained. Extra care should be taken to ensure the activity is safe for the athlete.
b) Coaches with a recognised aquatic qualification (but not a land-training qualification)
It is clear that non-pool activity is going to be the main form of training for most participants at this time. If the coach has been educated to deliver pre and post pool dryland activity then they can use this in their online training, ensuring that they deliver appropriate technique and ensuring that the volume and intensity is within healthy limit for the participant.
c) Coaches with no recognised qualification
These individuals should not be delivering online / virtual content.
d) Activity outside of the scope of the qualification
If the coach wants to utilise techniques that are out of the scope of their qualification then ideally they would use a person with a relevant qualification to deliver this as per (a). If this is not possible, then they could refer the participant (or their parent if Under-18) to relevant and reputable content available elsewhere. There will be content available on the Swim England website and links to reputable sources of further content. It should be made clear to the participant / parent that the club, coach and Swim England accept no liability for any injury or issue arising from following such content.
Safety of the participant must be paramount. Delivering online / virtually can bring extra challenges that should be addressed. The following guidelines should be followed:
- The coach should consider all of the usual safety considerations for the training they intend to deliver.
- Consider the environment that the athlete will be training in and ask the swimmer (over 18) or their parent (under 18) to check it and confirm that it is appropriate for the training they are going to undertake. The following are examples of what should be considered:
- What is the floor like? Is it safe and will it stay so when wet?
- Is the area well ventilated?
- Do they have a mat?
- Can they exercise outside?
- Is there furniture they may bump into—can it be moved?
- Have they got enough space to exercise safely?
- Are there any trip hazards?
NB: Any equipment used should be wiped clean before and after use
- A responsible adult should be in proximity of the athlete at all times to deal with any issues that arise and to stop the athlete training if there are any health / safety concerns.
- The swimmer / parent for U18s should confirm to the coach that the athlete is fit and healthy for the intended training or seek medical advice if in any doubt.
- Appropriate clothing should be worn including suitable footwear, no jewellery etc.
- There is a mechanism for the athlete to feedback to the coach any problems or issues with the session and have a session debrief if possible.
- The coach and athlete should stay hydrated.
- Ensure the athlete keeps pets and any other distractions away during exercise.
Just as with any other form of coaching, implementing good safeguarding practice is extremely important to protect the coach and the participant.
All usual safeguarding considerations should be taken into account. In addition, the following guidelines should be followed:
- Gain written consent from parents and explain what the purpose of the training is, when it will be done, on what platform etc.
- As per the safety guidance above, ensure that a responsible adult is in proximity to the athlete (if under 18).
- Use an online-share platform – that way the coach will not necessarily need access to the children’s contact details and only use it for the purpose of the training.
- Ensure appropriate privacy settings and that images of the athlete are not shared online.
- Do not make contact with athletes outside of the training unless with parental consent.
- Ensure that you and the athletes wear appropriate clothing at all times.