Surge in new members helps Swindon Dolphin buck the trend

Swindon Advertiser: Lauren Matthews and Mathew Sambrook Lauren Matthews and Mathew Sambrook

SWINDON Dolphin have recorded a staggering 15 per cent increase in their membership figures for the last year, which marks a significant contrast to the declining participation in swimming across the rest of the country, as has been found by Sport England.

Head coach Louise Clayton puts this pleasing rise in numbers down to the strengths of the club itself, more than the influence of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

“Yes, there is evidence of Olympic Legacy, but I think it is more down to the quality and service we provide,” she said.

“We don’t do much marketing, it is mostly down to reputation and recommendation.

“We now have about 200 in the Learn to Swim programme and another 200 in the club structure.”

The immense popularity of the club was demonstrated at their recent presentation evening at the Punjabi Community Centre. Learn to Swim co-ordinator Anthony Clark, who organised the event, was extremely pleased to see such a strong turnout.

“Our presentation evening was a resounding success, with over 300 swimmers, parents and friends attending,” he said.

“It was a rare opportunity for whole families to get together in a party atmosphere and fantastic to see swimmers aged six up to 52 receiving their medals on a floodlit stage.”

In addition to enjoying the boost in numbers, the club has also appointed two new club captains and a new chairman, and has three new life members. Sixteen-year-old Lauren Matthews and 17-year-old Mathew Sambrook were chosen as new club captains for their all-round contributions to the club, including their help as assistant teachers and their own performances in the pool. Clayton explains how much time and effort her pupils have dedicated to their swimming, and how this has paid off.

“Both of them complete between eight and 10 sessions every week, and are core members of our performance squad,” she said.

“They were chosen as club captains for their commitment and dedication to their swimming as well as the club.

“Lauren is a National swimmer, and competed in last year’s Nationals in 200m butterfly and the 4x200m freestyle relay.

“Mathew is probably on course to make nationals this year in the 400m freestyle, and has had great success in regional and county championships.

“Both of them have the drive to push themselves to the Olympics, as do many of our other very talented swimmers.”

Matthews, who came through the Learn to Swim programme, seems to be thrilled with her new position and reveals her own ambitions of a swimming career.

“I don’t see it as a pressure, I see it as an achievement to be club captain,” she said.

“I suppose James, our club captain last year, showed me what you can get out of swimming, and I want to do that too.

“I am hoping to go with Mathew to the Moonraker galas where the youngsters compete, to support them.

“Personally, I want to get as high as I can in swimming, I’d definitely prefer to swim rather than do an actual job.

“My aim is to represent Great Britain in swimming.”

Sambrook also seems to be taking up the mantle of responsibility and has ambitions of his own.

“I want to be someone for the little kids to look up to,” he reveals with more maturity than his years would suggest.

“I want to show them how to train properly too.

“My aim in the short term is to make Nationals next August.”

With these two and many other budding swimmers buoying up the membership and performance side of the club, it is no wonder that new chairman Mike Ward is pleased with the current situation.

“I think the club is pretty healthy in terms of the swimmers we’ve got, with their enthusiasm and energy,” he said.

“And the coaches as well, you can’t beat it.

“I think certainly as any club does, we have our challenges, with the economy and the potential privatisation of Swindon leisure, as these could pose challenges for pooltime, but we are looking at possible alternatives should we need to.

“Swindon Dolphin has a rich heritage, having been in existence for 60 odd years, and we have great diversity within the club, in terms of age and ability.

“Our squad structure is great for maximising the potential of all our individuals so they can follow their ability through to Nationals, Commonwealths and maybe to the Olympics.”

With fresh faces in leadership roles ready to take on their respective challenges and a general buzz of excitement around the pool, Swindon Dolphin is set to go from strength to strength.

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