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News February 2022

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

Yorkshire Sprints and Teams

28 Feb 2022: For many, it's the highlight of the competition calendar. We don't get many opportunities to race as a team so everyone likes to go a bit nuts to finish off Yorkshires and the support from the balcony reflects that. The Saturday is a full day of sprinting to get everyone in the mood, then Yorkshire's finest get together to contest the teams.

Sprint day got us off to an exciting start. 'C' squad coach Andy Kershaw had mentioned on Friday evening how good Molly Chambers (Drn) looked during a few training sprints on Butterfly.

"That's exactly the stroke you want the young ones to copy, isn't it?" he'd asked Coach Dave.

"Pretty much," was the confirmation, "she'll win a medal at Yorkshires this weekend."

A bold prediction about a girl who, last time out, finished 14th and previous best 50m Butterfly placing was 7th in 2018. She's won medals at 100m and 200m in previous years (and this championships too), but never the 50m. The prophecy came true, Saturday saw her add that elusive sprint Butterfly medal: a Silver in 29.03 - a 1.5sec improvement over her 2020 effort. That's 50m Silver, 100m Silver, and 200m Bronze for 2022 - a brilliant way to close her long Yorkshire Championships career. She will also swim those three events at British Championships in April.

1.5sec is a big annual improvement for a 19 year old over 50m. But Molly's Silver medal wasn't the stand out swim from Saturday. That honour belongs to Greta Highfield (Ros) pulling out an insane 3sec PB at 50m Breaststroke.

She's looked a little tired at meets of late, and we know she wasn't happy with her performances at Sunderland last month. But a few big top 10 finishes at Yorkshires in recent weeks set her up well for this final weekend of Yorkshires. Having never qualified for the final of 50m Breaststroke before, she dominated the second half of her heat to win by a good body length. That was 3sec PB number one and a 35.27 to take a surprise lane 4 for the final.

She came back for the final and looked every bit as dominant down the second half of the race. She confirmed the earlier 3sec PB wasn't a fluke, and lowered it a little bit more to win Gold by a good half second in 35.08. That bit was good, but it was what we realised later that put the cherry on top.

The flagship event of British Swimming is April's British Championships. It doubles up as one of the qualifying events for our World Championships team. We already have Molly and Madison Johnson (Arm) contesting three events at that meet, plus Callum Broadhead (Arm) with two. Callum would go on and win two Silver medals this weekend himself. Greta wasn't really on our radar for British Champs, summer nationals is all we dared hope for this season. It wasn't until panicking that she was now ranked 5th in the country and hadn't entered a 50m Breaststroke in the qualifying window, that we realised what she'd done.

British Championships has qualifying times just like Yorkshires and NER's. 36.00 is the ladies standard for 50m Breaststroke and Greta had just dipped beneath that by almost a full second. She becomes the fourth member of our British Championships squad. Great job Greta.

At the youngest end of the spectrum Archie Ainslie (Ros) was busy winning more Silver medals in the Backstroke and Breaststroke events. Jenson Owen (Edl) picked up another in the Backstroke and fought his way to Bronze in the 800m Freestyle before Sunday's teams kicked off.

On with the teams.

With the pandemic it was hard to know the level to expect from other teams around Yorkshire, nor the quantity of teams likely to be entered. Previous experience gives a rough idea normally, trends don't change much over time and Head Coach Dave has produced a Yorkshire Teams Guidance Document full of numbers that highlight potential medal winners, range of entry times, and all the rest. 2022 was always going to be a bit of a mystery though.

We knew, for instance, that our 13/14 year old boys would be in the medals. With the Medley led off by Nathan Massam (Ros) who finished 5th in the individual, followed by Harrison Maskrey (Adw) who was within a second of the final, and then Butterfly powerhouse Louie Nightingale (Spa) who just missed out on the medals, handing over to 13 year old medal machine Jenson Owen (Edl), it was always a strong team on paper. Bring in Maciej Banas (Adw) for the Freestyle team and that's a solid quartet too.

The times swum by them this weekend would have won both Freestyle and Medley Golds in 2020 and 2019. For 2022 they set the fastest times by a Dartes team since Yorkshire Championships switched back from age on day to age at end of year, but that was only good enough for Silver and Bronze this time round.

Predictions based on historical trends are all well and good. On the other hand, we didn't expect our 9/10 year olds boys to medal. A big thank you to Adwick and Armthorpe for the swimmers they contributed to this team. We don't like Doncaster going unrepresented in the youngest age group so begged, borrowed, and stole to put these teams together.

There were a few nerves early on but they were quickly forgotten once George Knop (Adw) got the Medley team underway with a very strong Backstroke leg. Matthew Blair (Adw) braved our first relay takeover of the year (always the most nervous moment for the coaching team) which he executed perfectly. James Ellis (Arm) showed off his style on the Butterfly leg, and handed over to George Kaye (Adw) to bring us home on Freestyle.

The coaches breathed a huge sigh of relief that the first team of the day had completed with no hiccups, and were then pleasantly surprised to qualify 3rd fastest for the final. They came back a short while later to go one better and claim lane 5 for the Freestyle final.

Unfortunately the finals didn't deliver quite the same result. The boys got touched out for 4th in the Medley, but still came home strong in the Freestyle for a Bronze medal. Nevertheless, an outstanding job for the four young boys, well done all.

It was a similar story with the youngest girls too, where we also fielded a team of 9 year olds who could very well find themselves back on the blocks for the same age group next year. They managed to qualify for both finals in 3rd place. Abigail Jinks (Ros) led out the heats on Backstroke, only for an excited Emilia Keefe (Spa) to open up a lead on the Breaststroke. The dreaded Butterfly leg fell to Jessica Wilson (Arm) who handed over to the new girl on the team Emily Kirk (Arm) to claim the Bronze in the final.

Alas, they couldn't quite match that in the Freestyle final, settling for 4th place instead. Winning a Yorkshire Teams medal is an awesome achievement anyway, so well done to all four. From what we hear, the finalists pennants went down well for both the boys and girls on the teams where they missed out on medals.

If the 9/10 years age group is traditionally short on numbers, the 11/12 is anything but. 31 teams from around Yorkshire were entered for the girls, and Dartes A and B both reached the final for the Freestyle. The A team just missed-out on medals with Darcy Nelson (Ros) sprinting into the wall and touching 4th at the end. Before her, Phoebe Weatherill (Edl) had got things off to a good start, with Lexie Goddard (Drn) and Jessica Hubery (Drn) digging in deep to keep us in the action, but 4th place was as good as they could manage.

In the Men's 15/16 years team, it was farewell to two of our older swimmers as Nicholas Honeybone (Arm) and Cody Watkinson (Adw) move on to other projects. They joined forces with Callum Broadhead (Arm) and Jack Torrington (Adw) to reach their pair of finals too. We hope to see Nic again during the Regional teams competition in a couple of months time as our junior boys have an outside shot at qualifying for Nationals.

Before everyone gets excited anticipating a re-run of Yorkshire teams at Regionals, it is definitely not the same environment and we will probably only enter a single team. There are only two age groups: Junior and Senior. Both are geared up purely for national qualifying and the standard of teams entering is exceptionally high. Without four Yorkshire medalists towards the older end of the junior age group, a team will get left far behind - we've learnt that lesson before. For the senior age group, there's often only one or two teams compete, and the gulf between them (all university aged athletes in their 20's) and any team Doncaster can field (17/18 year olds) tends to be enormous.

Finally, Sunday was also the farewell of Coach Helena Honeybone. Having been with us for most of the last 9 years and offering a lot of coaching and organisational support along the way she will be missed by swimmers and club officials alike. A big thank you to Helena for all her hard work over the years.

An Afternoon with Jamie Main and Mia Slevin

16 Feb 2022: Performance 4 and 5 took a trip to Alfreton in Derbyshire on Wednesday afternoon to spend some time with Jamie Main, Head Coach of Derventio eXcel and Mia Slevin, Elite squad athlete and 4 x British Champion.

The theme of the talk was based around the Characteristics of Champions and the Performance Environment. Core values, beliefs and attributes are often the difference between the average and the high performer. Many of the excellent examples of characteristics were: resilience, being humble, being optimistic, seeking solutions to problems, and demonstrating a high level of dedication and commitment.

We listened to Mia’s journey from learning to swim, her selection as a 9 year old into the DXDS squad, and her uprising into the Elite squad as one of the youngest athletes in her peer group.

Mia talked about how fortunate she felt at several points including when she was selected to go to Japan as part of a British Swimming training group. She was part of the Sprint group due to a shoulder injury and all of the workouts were in Japanese with no English speaking coach. She had to take a flexible approach and think on her feet. She also talked about the difference in culture and the level of respect for their facilities in comparison to the UK where we expect facilities. Upon arriving at the pool the athletes bow to their coaches, peers, and the pool.

More recently during the lockdown as a 17 year old, Mia had been offered the opportunity to train as an elite athlete due to being on the Swim England Performance Pathway. At this point she had only very recently passed her driving test and the location of training was in Moulton, Northamptonshire. So, instead of driving to and from the pool everyday (a 90min trip) a decision was made to stay alone, in a hotel, so she could live nearby.

Each week she packed everything she would need into her small car. All of her land training kit including weights, all of her school work, cooking essentials such as microwave and fridge. She would cook all of her meals, complete her school work and log on to her land training sessions from her hotel room. Mia also spent her birthday on her own. The level of dedication, sacrifice and commitment is a true testament to her desire to be the very best at her sport.

Mia is always very humble and recognised the impact this had on her and others. She is also extremely grateful for the time, funding, dedication and support that her parents provide her with in order to train and compete at this level.

Culture was also drawn upon which is huge in the programme where they come from. The culture is very much solution based and the older athletes are recognised as the role models of the group who are leaders in the pool.

An excellent point that was made by both Jamie and Mia was around turns practice. The argument often heard from swimmers is that they never get the opportunity to practice their turns, yet they turn at the end of every length. Ultimately, it’s on you (the athlete) when you don’t train your key skills at every session. The athlete expects progress, but if you don’t repeat the skills correctly on a daily basis you shouldn’t expect these skills to translate into a successful race.

A very insightful and engaging talk. It was great to hear of the individual and collective journey that both Jamie and Mia have been on so far. It was definitely thought provoking and offered plenty of opportunity for reflection around the attributes that cultivate success.

Thank you Jamie and Mia for taking time out of your rest schedule to come and speak to us.

Coach Rob Research into Psychology

9 Feb 2022: Performance 4 were treated to a visit from Magdalena who is a Masters student from the University of Derby. She is currently working towards her Sports Psychology Accreditation, works on the Talented Athlete Scheme and has an abundance of experience academically. Previously, she swam at National level in Poland, and is now part of the Volleyball team at the University of Derby.

Magda led a thought provoking and engaging workshop based around Performance Pressures. She started off discussing what Sports Psychology is about and had the swimmers in groups writing and drawing what sports psychology means to them.

The workshop progressed to more of an interactive and anonymous questioning application which pinged messages onto the screen. The theme around performing under pressure continued with swimmers posting what pressure means to them. Words such as “overwhelming, nervous, shaky, stressful, anxiety, choking and demanding” were some of the words used to describe the feelings and emotions the swimmers feel when they are under pressure.

The next question was based around how the swimmers deal with pressure and there were some excellent examples such as “talk to your coach about it…”, “listen to music…”, “relax, think about the situation and what I CAN do, not about what I can’t do…”. Other examples were the use of mindfulness which impressed Magda.

The workbooks were then focused on taking a look at stressors and identifying whether statements were likely to create a big stressor or little stressor for each individual swimmer.

The next activity encouraged the swimmers to consider control and whether they were able to control aspects such as preparation, outcomes, effort, body language and the opposition. There was some really good discussion around this with the swimmers.

The second activity looked at the what if’s…then what… scenarios before we wrapped up the session.

The exposure of concepts in Sports Psychology are vital for athletes - in all sports, ages and at all levels! Your mind is the key to unlocking your performance potential, and it often goes ignored.

"The mind is just like a muscle - the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand." - Idowu Koyenikan

Thanks to Magda from Performance 4

ESSA North East Selections

8 Feb 2022: Formed in 1949, the English Schools Swimming Association (ESSA) organises championships based on school years at various levels throughout the country. Such championships usually build up from town level, to divisional level (roughly Swim England regions) and then the March Inter-Divisional Championships pits teams from each division against each other.

Due to Covid, most of those competitions have been suspended for a while, but it is hoped that next month will see the 71st edition of the Inter-Divisional Championships take place in Coventry.

For the 2022 edition, the North East division has selected Dartes age-group record holder Callum Broadhead (Arm) for the boys team. He will be joined by Dartes senior record holder Madison Johnson (Arm). to represent the girls.

An interesting difference from most competitions we take part in is the age-groups. Based on school years, instead of calendar years, they are calculated at 1st September. That throws up different "Fastest Swimmers" in each age group. There are also different categories: Junior (11-12), Intermediate (13-14), and Open (15-17) which shakes things up further.

Selection for these teams is a prestigious event and success could see further selection for international teams. Michael Gartside (Spa) represented English Schools in 1999 for instance, and Emma Parker (Adw) did likewise at Cork, Ireland in 1995.