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News April 2021

Keep up to date with what's happening at Dartes and performance swimming in Doncaster. This page records the news as it happens -- history in the making!

The Stories behind the Headlines

Double Olympic Selection

30 Apr 2021: Many of you will have watched Olympic trials earlier in the month full of excitement at being back in the water. Three Dartes swimmers qualified for the meet and would have been competing in any normal season, but with just one day of training out of lockdown and crazy rules in place to comply with Covid restrictions, it was decided by all to give trials a miss this year.

For two of our former athletes however, it was most definitely a worthwhile experience. Currently training at the National Performance Centre in Loughborough and given special permission to train through lockdown Max Litchfield (Spa) and younger brother Joe Litchfield (Spa) are set to become the first brothers to represent a GB swim team at the Olympics since Helsinki in 1952. It was a few years ago since the boys graced our training lanes, and to all but a few in Phase 5 they're just names on a TV screen these days, but look over the club records and you'll still find them sitting pretty atop most of the senior mens events.

This week the Doncaster Free Press published their story.

They both represented Dartes until after competing at European Junior Championships on the British Junior team (and World Junior Championships for Max). Then once university beckoned, they made the short trip to Sheffield before the slightly longer trip to their current training base in Loughborough. A quick glance at our All-Time Medal Table backs that up, with over 400 medals won at Yorkshire and North East Championships between the pair, and 27 at Nationals including 9 Golds! If that sounds like they had it all their own way throughout their career then you're very much mis-reading the sport.

A shoulder injury plagued Max through most of his early years, reoccurring with a vengeance just a few years ago. An almost religious attention to pre-pool and the shoulder pre-hab work assigned him by his physio kept that at bay most of the time. But that should be a big lesson for young athletes suffering similar problems, follow the guidance from your physio to the letter and you will recover - but be sure to follow that guidance.

The threat of injury is bad enough, but in the pool the competition for both boys was fierce. Max grew up in the shadow of a certain Matthew Johnson (Borough of Kirklees, then City of Leeds, and finally City of Sheffield). In fact, throw in Ryan Flanagan and one or two others, and a Yorkshire final for Max looked ever so similar to an NER final, which in turn looked almost a carbon copy of Nationals too. Johnson was regularly touted as the British equivalent of Michael Phelps as he broke British age-group records seemingly every meet he attended.

Maybe having such a standard-bearer to chase pushed the Dartes boys on. Four of them weren't far behind, Richard Lee (Spa) and Elliot Trofimowicz (Spa) not quite making these lofty heights (a National final being their limit), but Nicholas Grainger (Spa) grew a few feet taller and went on to represent Team England at Commonwealth Games.

For Joe there wasn't quite the same dominating star at the head of the pack in the North East. City of Leeds had Blake Bennett (later City of Sheffield) and in their younger years the pair struck up quite the rivalry along with Joe's team mate Jarvis Parkinson (Arm). There were a good four or five vying to be top dog from various clubs, but over the years the others fell away to leave Joe and Jarvis leading the pack.

Where Max faced a dominant competitor until hitting the Junior ranks, Joe's big hurdle was a birthday that fell perilously a week prior to Nationals (age-on-day was still used). Where team mate Jarvis tops the Dartes medal table having enjoyed an almost perfect birthday (the exact opposite), Joe struggled even to qualify for Nationals for a few years in the age group above. The boy who amassed 58 Yorkshire Golds and 48 NER Golds with Dartes, finished 6th, 6th, and 7th at Nationals as a 14 year old - the same year Jarvis brought home 5 medals, a 4th, and a 7th in the age group below (there being less than a month between them). As a result of that unfortunate birthday, he also missed out on the early steps of the England Talent programme.

The two brothers were far from being carbon-copies of each other either. They've ended up in more or less the same place, but the routes taken were different. Hopefully neither takes offense at the description, but Max was the work horse from an early age. A number of coaches have been caught claiming: "I can't break him, no matter how hard the work I throw at him I just can't break him!" By contrast Joe was far more technically elegant and skillful. Anyone watching his underwater work at trials can testify to that. A final turn and 15m dolphin kick has won him gold on many occasions.

But whatever challenges they've overcome along the way, and however they made best use of their individual talents, they both massively deserve their spot on the British team for Tokyo later in the year. Two of our own - we are immensely proud of them both and you can read much of their story within these pages.

Dryland in the Park

29 Apr 2021: On Thursday evening Phase 5 were treated to a fresh face for dryland training before it starts back for them properly next week. We've been considering options with local S+C specialists Accelerate Fitness for a while to see what extra benefits they can bring to the table (or field in this case). This week will see Phase 5 and Phase 4 experience a taster session each (P4 is on Saturday, you should all have received an email with the details).

Coach Howard put our older athletes through their socially distanced paces on Town Fields - Covid restrictions still preventing indoor work of course. Many of the moves we've been working on over a year of dryland-only training were included: squats, bear crawls, lunges, press ups and planks.

Those taking part were glad to avoid the hail stones and rain that disappeared just as we started. The blue sky in the photo a stark contrast to the black clouds looming behind the camera.

So where is this heading going forwards? We're always looking at ways to improve our training environment and bringing in specialist S+C coaches may be one way to achieve that. Once Covid restrictions are eased and we can get inside to use more equipment, our older athletes may well benefit from a more extensive S+C programme than we have been able to offer previously. It is still early days and the coaching team are still balancing the potential list of positives against the negatives to see where this additional support would be best applied.

For Phase 4 taking their turn on Saturday, we hope the sun pays a visit, wrap up warm either way, and be sure to bring along a drink and exercise mat for the occasion.

Phase 5 First Time Timed Turny Thing

25 Apr 2021: In week 1 we re-introduced The Turny Thing to Phase 5. They all had a practice, but week 2 introduced a more critical approach with precise application of the rules and subsequent DQs. It's all about race sharpness which we clearly still lack (it seems like we've been back forever, but it is only 2 weeks). We're also low on numbers due to COVID isolations - yep that didn't take long to kick off all over again.

We haven't recorded times for this set previously so we don't know if these are good or not quite so good. We look forward to smashing them out of the pool next time. As you'll see in the video from last week, this is all about speed around the walls, so we're timing it to the half way steps at the end of the drill.

Pos Name Rep 1 Rep 2 Rep 3 Avg
1 Callum Broadhead 20.5 19.1 18.0 19.2
2 Daisy Purchase 20.7 21.2 21.0 20.9
3 Daniel Bailey 21.2 20.9 21.2 21.1
4 Nicholas Honeybone 23.2 23.5 23.1 23.2
5 Daisy Guttridge 23.4 23.6 23.3 23.4
6 Ruby Barker 24.5 24.2 23.7 24.1
7 Rose Keefe 25.2 24.6 25.6 25.1
8 Luke Gilliver 19.0 19.0
9 Madison Johnson 20.0 20.4
10 Cody Watkinson 20.2 20.5
11 Molly Chambers 23.0 21.7
12 Megan Wood 23.5 24.2

It also followed on from our first pair of gymnastics rings workouts for a few months, so arms were probably feeling quite heavy to say the least. We tend to save the rings for the guys in Phase 5 when we're happy they can do the body weight version to a good level, so we don't automatically include everyone from day one. We filmed it the first time we introduced it to our older athletes at the start of the pandemic. Warning - this is really, really tough!

Phase 3 Looking Good in the Morning

17 Apr 2021: As week 1 of our return to training draws to a close it was nice to see happy Phase 3 faces arriving for training at 05:30 this morning. Phase 4 and Phase 5 are well used to those early mornings, but for most in Phase 3, this Saturday's session represented their first experience. We usually find the kids enjoy it - the parents on the other hand ...

Through the week Phase 3 has been run by Head Coach Dave Cuthbert. Today was Asst Head Coach Jordan's turn to put them through their paces. Alongside him was Dearne Valley coach Chris Goddard and Harry Ainslie. On top of the hard work they also got to try out some of the more advanced relay take-over techniques.

On arrival they just caught the back-end of a Phase 5 discussion on RAMP dryland warm ups. Yep that's right, a 5am poolside chat covering many of the details presented in the following video filmed during lockdown land training in the summer, but without the crazy voice over man interrupting.

Being outside at the time, we took the opportunity to introduce a bunch of activities we wouldn't normally do around poolside - always worth adding to their toolbox of exercises. So this doesn't look perfect, was definitely unrehearsed, and we didn't have a specific use in mind when deciding to film the session. A-Skips in particular are a hard movement to grasp (try it at home), it's quite confusing, but they gave it a good go and were pretty much there by summer's end.

The key point to takeaway is that a RAMP warm up has an almost endless variety of exercises. With a little thought, an athlete can come up with a new sequence every day, incorporate it into a dance routine, or find their own routine that works for them and stick with it.

Return of the Dolphin Test

15 Apr 2021: It's been a long time since we last performed this test set. So long ago that it was done in Hall Cross' 25 yard pool. If you click down the list you'll find a few names that expand to show their previous results in the shorter pool (left in for no good reason, they're clearly not comparable).

So what is it?
A 25m dolphin kick sprint, from a push, for a time. Last night we put Phase 5 through six reps to establish a ball park figure early in this training cycle. We'd promised them some early cycle speed work, and we've done a fair bit so far considering it's only week 1. We don't really have much to compare this to for context, but as an opening attempt 14.80 looks pretty fast; 16s and 17s probably are too, we'll find out next time.

Pos Name Date Reps Average FastestSlowestSpread
1 Callum Broadhead 14 Apr 2021 6 15.93 14.80 18.80 4.00
2 Daniel Bailey 14 Apr 2021 6 17.23 16.00 18.50 2.50
5 Jun 2017 8 18.20 17.30 18.80 1.50
24 Apr 2017 8 17.90 17.50 18.30 0.80
5 Jan 2017 8 18.77 18.20 19.30 1.10
21 Nov 2016 8 18.65 18.20 19.00 0.80
5 Sep 2016 8 19.82 19.20 20.30 1.10
3 Ella Bainbridge 14 Apr 2021 6 17.88 17.20 18.20 1.00
4 Blaine Underwood 14 Apr 2021 6 18.16 17.30 19.40 2.10
5 Jun 2017 8 17.87 17.20 18.40 1.20
24 Apr 2017 8 17.62 16.50 18.30 1.80
5 Jan 2017 8 19.11 18.60 19.60 1.00
21 Nov 2016 8 18.92 18.30 20.60 2.30
10 Oct 2016 8 20.13 19.10 20.80 1.70
5 Sep 2016 8 21.72 21.20 22.40 1.20
5 Daisy Purchase 14 Apr 2021 6 18.28 17.80 18.80 1.00
6 Madison Johnson 14 Apr 2021 6 18.75 17.90 19.20 1.30
5 Jun 2017 8 18.40 17.40 19.30 1.90
24 Apr 2017 8 18.63 18.30 18.90 0.60
5 Jan 2017 8 18.92 18.20 19.50 1.30
21 Nov 2016 8 20.03 19.40 20.80 1.40
10 Oct 2016 8 21.18 20.80 21.80 1.00
5 Sep 2016 8 21.52 20.80 22.40 1.60
7 Molly Chambers 14 Apr 2021 6 19.30 18.60 20.40 1.80
8 Greta Highfield 14 Apr 2021 6 19.30 18.70 19.70 1.00
9 Daisy Guttridge 14 Apr 2021 6 19.40 19.00 19.70 0.70
5 Jun 2017 8 20.66 18.80 24.50 5.70
24 Apr 2017 8 21.75 21.00 22.20 1.20
5 Jan 2017 8 22.65 21.80 23.50 1.70
21 Nov 2016 8 27.28 26.10 28.40 2.30
10 Oct 2016 8 30.06 27.50 32.90 5.40
5 Sep 2016 8 26.20 24.70 27.60 2.90
10 Cody Watkinson 14 Apr 2021 6 19.73 18.90 20.70 1.80
11 Rose Keefe 14 Apr 2021 6 19.95 19.40 20.60 1.20
12 Ruby Barker 14 Apr 2021 6 20.78 20.20 21.90 1.70
13 Paula Mellor 14 Apr 2021 6 20.80 20.30 21.10 0.80
5 Jun 2017 8 21.72 21.00 22.40 1.40
5 Jan 2017 8 24.46 23.20 25.10 1.90
21 Nov 2016 8 26.32 25.50 27.40 1.90
14 Megan Wood 14 Apr 2021 6 21.23 20.10 23.10 3.00
15 Jack Torrington 14 Apr 2021 6 22.75 21.40 24.90 3.50
16 Nicholas Honeybone 14 Apr 2021 6 23.73 23.00 24.80 1.80
Click on the name to expand previous results

So where to go from here?
Improvement comes from purposeful practice. Work those dolphin kicks off the wall in training, and during kick sets. Experiment with different amplitudes (big and fast, or small and fast). Are you better off utilising a large kick at the beginning of the effort or a smaller kick? Think about how you might use gears on a bike or car. To get moving you use a smaller gear, then to reach full speed you need a bigger gear - is it the same in the pool? Don't forget that the fastest you will travel should be the beginning; pushing off the wall should be the fastest part. Your dolphin kick is a doomed attempt at maintaining that initial fast speed. Does that mean big gear to start with and smaller gear later?

Some of the British Swimming coaches at Loughborough Uni were looking at this earlier in the season, they've even commissioned studies by bio-mechanists to work out it out. The evidence either way appears contradictory so far, but don't let that put you off trying to work it out for yourself. It's likely different for everyone (body types, limb lengths, flexibility, etc).

What we do know, is that for those who get it right, it's a race winner!

Phase 5 Saturday PM

15 Apr 2021: As you will all know, the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral is taking place from 15:00 this coming Saturday (17th April). Unfortunately that corresponds to the start of training and with the hustle and bustle of getting everyone through the building there is little scope for a 1 min silence while that happens.

Therefore, to give everyone the chance to pay their respects to Prince Philip:

I would urge everyone to spend that 10min thinking about the extraordinary, yet somewhat unseen, legacy that he leaves behind. Numerous Dartes athletes have participated in the Duke of Edinburgh's award in the past, and I'm sure in the future too, but that is just one aspect of his decades of contributing to the society of both the UK and the Commonwealth.

Maybe the best way to honour his life is to explore the many ways he supported good causes and strive to do similar in yours.

Dartes Coaching on YouTube

14 Apr 2021: Swimming coaches spend an awful lot of time trying to conjour up new sets to keep training fresh and interesting. It's usually hard to remember if a newly dreamt up set or drill is an entirely original creation or a mix of things seen or heard of elsewhere - or sometimes an exact copy of something long forgotten. So to play our part in that shared coaching knowledge base we call the Internet, we're tentatively dipping our toes into building a Dartes Coaching YouTube channel.

We posted a few bits and pieces over lockdown in the hope of keeping everyone engaged (and for us to learn the basics of editing), we've also added to that collection in the last couple of weeks. On Monday, our first day back in the pool, Phase 5 took part in a set we call "The Turny Thing". We filmed it, edited it, threw in a voice over, and released it to the world.

We're still learning the ins and outs of YouTube content creation, and we're largely armed with a single Go-Pro, but we'll see where it takes us. Be sure to subscribe to the channel to be notified of new additions. The objective is to build up a library of drills and sets that we use for other coaches to make use of, and for our athletes to learn from.

Often you can find videos of Olympic superstars performing such drills perfectly, in stunning facilities that are empty apart from them. That isn't what this channel is about. This is real-world, we suspect it's very similar to most other clubs. County, Regional, and National level swimmers, in less than perfect conditions. Often it'll be the first time they've performed the activity, or before they've mastered it. We'll show what often goes wrong, how difficult drills often look when non-Olympians tackle them, and hopefully highlight the good bits along the way.

Similarly the video editing and picture quality might leave much to be desired too. There will be experiments with different video settings, underwater footage, dryland S+C work, human voices, artificial voices, down right crazy voices. If it helps a coach or an athlete somewhere, it'll have achieved its aim, but we're likely to miss the mark and make a pig's ear of it just as often as we get it right. We'll learn as we go, and we invite you to come along and learn from what we're doing if it's useful to you.

First ones back in the pool?

12 Apr 2021: It's taken a long time, and this last COVID lockdown was certainly the hardest for many, but at 5am this morning all of that was put behind us as Phase 4 and Phase 5 celebrated the latest easing of restrictions with an early morning dip in the pool. The car park was heaving as everyone who was supposed to be there was there.

Training at that time in the morning surely makes us among the first to get back into training, and we made good use of it. The gentle increase of training volume begins (a stiff and achy 4km for Phase 5), and a few 50s of backwards swimming for Phase 4 (among other things of course). Sculling featured heavily too. Tuck scull with leg raises being a cruel welcome back, but there were plenty of "blow away the cobwebs" sprints to make up for it.

This evening Phase 5 are back for more, following in C squad for their first splash back as we say hello to our new home at Rossington CSP. The car park is likely to be very crowded tonight, so be prepared to look around for alternative parking.

A New Chapter for Dartes

8 Apr 2021: It's fair to say that the last few months have been challenging for all of us. Here at Dartes though, the hard work behind the scenes has continued, or maybe even stepped up a gear.

The coaching team has enjoyed a never ending stream of educational Zoom talks with top international coaches. Our Head Coach Dave Cuthbert has been invited to be part of the Swim North East coach mentoring programme (twice actually, the 2020 version didn't really happen, but it kicked off again for 2021 this last month). He'll be working with GB Olympic coach Russ Barber along with three other coaches from the region. Part of that will involve the group visiting Phase 5 sessions a number of times, and reciprocal visits to their programmes.

Then the committee led by Chairperson Gail Burton, along with Assistant Head Coach Jordan Allerton have been busily incorporating our new competitive stream into the club.

On behalf of the club, we wish them a warm welcome into the Dartes fold.

Up until yesterday we were expecting to return to training on Monday 12th with our previous, emergency pandemic training schedule. That had been confirmed just two weeks ago, but yesterday that all changed and a comprehensive new schedule was thrown our way. We've been locked in talks with DCLT (our facilities operator) for many months, discussing future plans and how we can each be of benefit to the other. Our major concern for the past five years has been securing adequate pool time for our performance squads since leaving Hall Cross school, and the possibility of finding a permanent base for Dartes; a home if you like. A pool where we feel we belong, and we're not treading on the toes of our partner clubs.

We're delighted to be able to announce, that Rossington Community Swimming Pool will be that home for our afternoon and evening sessions (early mornings remain at Adwick). This came as a surprise to us yesterday, but following the merger with Rossington RASCALS it makes perfect sense long term. At the time of writing refurbishments are currently being completed. We're led to believe the decorators will be busy all weekend and hopefully finished for our arrival Monday evening. We were promised a tour before opening, but that is now looking unlikely (but watch this space). We have no idea what to expect, and alas, they didn't entertain suggestions for the colour scheme.

Our new pooltime looks very colourful in all its glory. It's slightly fewer lane-hours than the combined Dartes-Rossington-Sharks had before, but bringing it all together in one pool allows us to make much more efficient use of that space.

It is extremely challenging to fit a programme of this size anywhere. Scheduling is significantly easier now that the water time from all three groups involved (Dartes-Rossington-Sharks) can be manipulated lane by lane for the best fit. As stated above, we've managed to achieve more with less pool time. We also keep our coaches together in one location which makes covering holidays, illness, and talent camp absences much easier. Hopefully it works as well in practice as it looks on screen.

A massive thank you is owed to DCLT for helping to make this a reality (unexpected though it was). A more detailed breakdown is available for each squad. Be sure to check that detail if you're Phase 4/5 as not all sessions will be available for a few weeks. Emails are on the way out to each squad over the course of Friday - each squad has slightly different instructions.

This represents an exciting new chapter for Dartes, but the hard work is only just beginning.

The Dartes name is synonymous with Performance Swimming around the North East. It's what we do, and definitely where our focus remains. As of Monday though, we become a "full pathway club". We now have a Competitive Stream (A, B, and C Squads) to go alongside the Performance Stream (Phase 1-5). We will have links directly into DCLT Learn to Swim, which we're also delighted to hear is returning to Rossington CSP - "our pool".

For the most part, the Performance Stream will train separately from the Competitive Stream, the former will of course continue its role as Doncaster's performance programme for all our feeder clubs. Our lead coaches will be on-hand to spot talented young swimmers or talk to swimmers and parents about the options available and what they entail.

Older athletes from either stream (or indeed parents) will have clear opportunities to step into coaching (or even train as competition officials). Our links with DCLT may well open up paid teaching opportunities as well. Enthusiastic older swimmers are always in demand for such roles, and doing so benefits the club by producing higher quality swimmers in Learn to Swim.

Our coaches will be able to move freely between squads and share expertise wherever they wish. We will do whatever we can to assist our coaches further their coaching careers whatever level that might entail. That includes encouraging new coaches poolside (parents or ex-swimmers alike). As mentioned in the opening paragraphs, we are well connected around the Swim North East world and will push our staff in the right direction to further their chosen career in the sport.

Now that we're operating as one, the real work of building an ambitious club can begin. The pandemic has thrown a few complications at our plans, but from Monday we start in earnest. We hope you all jump up and contribute to the success it will become. For those who haven't volunteered for anything previously, playing even a small role in our future will be exciting and rewarding. Whether you try your hand at coaching, judging, team management, or even training as lifeguards (we desperately need more lifeguards), we have expertise in all those areas and would be delighted to have you on board. Help to make this your club.

A central location to help our role as Doncaster's Performance Programme.

There can be no doubt (among those of us who remember) that Dartes suffered after its decision to move away from Hall Cross school in the centre of Doncaster five years ago. It was a necessary move, but it still hurt, and forced us to take water time at the extreme edges of the Doncaster borough (and even outside its borders in Minsthorpe). We've always kept one eye on travel distances when considering new pool time, as we know it's one of the two big deterents to joining the Dartes Performance Stream (the other being early mornings).

We measure travel times between pools as a rough approximation for the distance Doncaster's swimmers need to travel (each pool being considered as the centre of each feeder club's catchment area). The travel times below are taken from google maps, going the fastest route, pool to pool. Minsthorpe is included for historical reasons. As suspected, the numbers backup the claim that Rossington CSP is one of the more central locations since the Great Yorkshire Way opened.

AdwArmAskDrnEdlMinRosThnAvgno MinMinMax
Adw181016161220261718 1026
Arm182222162412161918 1622*
Ask102226201224221921 1026
Drn162226102020282020 1028
Edl161620101816261717 1026
Min122412201822302020 1230
Ros201224201622201919 1224
Thn261622282630202423 1628*

For those who have never visited Rossington CSP, you can find the usual postcode and interactive map in the Locations Section of this website.

As a club we are growing in scope and ambition, yet will not forget our Performance Heritage.

Our coaching team is keen to make the training environment at Rossington CSP the best it can be. The committee is eager to support that and our close relationship with DCLT will help achieve that. We already have equipment being transferred to the new site from our various previous locations, but we have a shopping list for more. Being located largely in a single location opens up a number of exciting ventures which we will announce in due course as discussions take place with potential partners.

This truly is an exciting time for Dartes and a fantastic opportunity for all our members no matter which stream best suits your needs. Let's get off to a flying start next week, and begin making memories and training traditions to make Rossington CSP our Pool of Dreams.

Swimming Coach Mentor Programme

1 Apr 2021: Russ Barber on a previous visit to Dartes Last year, Swim England North East Region jumped on board the inaugural year of the national Swimming Coach Mentor Programme. Due to the pandemic, that initiative never really got off the ground, but it's back for 2021 and our Head Coach Dave Cuthbert has once again been selected to take part.

Mentor for our area will be GB Olympic coach Russ Barber (currently working with British Triathlon and Director of Swimming for our good friends Kingston upon Hull). The programme will involve a number of visits by Russ and his other mentees to look at how we do things at Dartes. Reciprocal visits to their clubs will also take place. So expect to see familiar faces around the place occasionally.

It is hoped that the coaches on the programme will get the opportunity to visit clubs further afield too. It would be good to re-establish connections with coaches not seen since 2019 Nationals and of course seeing how other top programmes have managed to survive the pandemic.