About the Dartes Programme
For many people new to Doncaster Swimming, Dartes causes quite a lot of confusion. The usual opening question goes: is it a club, or just a training squad? After that one is answered, things tend to get even more confused. To avoid as much of that confusion as possible, this page aims to provide the answers.
Everything You Wanted to Know about Dartes
Firstly, what's in that name?
Because the detail behind the name gives a massive clue to what Dartes is all about, let's start there. Firstly, it's pronounced "Darts". Secondly, it's an acronym. Each letter of the name corresponds to one of the original clubs or pools used by swimming clubs in Doncaster. Since the creation of Dartes, new clubs have formed and old clubs have disappeared, some have even re-appeared after disappearing. At least one has renamed itself and it's almost certain that more changes will occur in the future. Fortunately none of that has had any impact on the name Dartes.
D - Doncaster, Dearne Valley, Don Valley.
A - Armthorpe, Adwick.
R - Rossington.
T - Thorne.
E - Edlington.
S - Spa Askern, South Axholme Sharks.
Where did it come from?
Doncaster has had a competitive swimming club since the mid 1880s, but with new pools shooting up in each of Doncaster's mining villages in the 60s and 70s, a bunch of new clubs quickly established themselves.
A local swimming association was formed, the Doncaster Metropolitan ASA (DMASA), to serve the common interests of all member clubs and promote communication between them.
In 1976 a group of like minded coaches and club officials realised that each club had a small minority of athletes who would benefit from more water time than each could offer individually. Furthermore, those athletes would clearly show greater improvement training alongside each other instead of being mixed in with less ambitious swimmers.
A proposal was put to the DMASA, and before long "The Met Training Scheme" was born. Initially, The Met Scheme provided an additional session or two over each club's standard offering. The bulk of an athlete's training was still performed with their home club.
Then over the next decade the scheme's popularity allowed it to increase its water time substantially. So much so that by the end of the 1980s the top swimmers from all of Doncaster's clubs were working together in a more intense training environment than their individual clubs could provide on their own. With help from Doncaster Council and funding from all the clubs via the DMASA, a part time coach was appointed to lead the training scheme forward. The 1990s saw Dartes establish itself as one of the top programmes in the country.
Today, the personalities have changed but the essential ethos remains intact: To provide the more ambitious and talented swimmers from all of Doncaster's clubs with the intense training environment and professional coaching that will allow their talent to shine through.
So is Dartes a training scheme, or is Dartes a club?
The simple answer is that it's both.
It provides the more ambitious swimmers from the DMASA's member clubs with the intense training environment that today's sport demands at the top level. It also provides them with a collective identity at big meets and County, Regional, and National Championships.
It was realised very early on that most of Doncaster's village clubs lacked the resources to properly support 2 or 3 of their members at meets stretching right across the North East. As most of these swimmers were now training together each week anyway, it made sense for them to compete as a unified team with unified coaching support and team management. That way 2 or 3 swimmers from each club would become a viable squad of 20+.
As ASA rules prevent an association from competing in competitions, the DMASA needed to create a unified club for this purpose. The result was Doncaster Dartes.
Ever since, any of Doncaster's swimmers competing at County Championships and similar have been able to join a well supported, expertly coached, and strongly competitive team on pool side. Irrespective of whether they train with Dartes, they can all represent Doncaster and enjoy the same team atmosphere as any of the big city teams like Leeds or Sheffield.
This year for example, the Dartes support team at all 3 weekends of the Yorkshire Championships will include at least 2 coaches and 2 team managers with countless parents being noisy on the balcony and plenty of fellow swimmers to offer encouragement on the pool side. Much more fun than travelling alone or with a tiny handful of team mates.
But shouldn't swimmers represent their home club?
You missed the first paragraph where we described the name Dartes, didn't you?
Everyone competing as Dartes is representing your home club as well as their own.
The Dartes programme represents the best swim programme that Doncaster's swimming community is able to deliver. Whenever Dartes brings home a Yorkshire Gold medal every club associated with the DMASA should feel proud to have played their part in that success. Doncaster's clubs may compete against each other in local league fixtures and B Grade meets, but in A grade competition we've all competed as one for decades. Besides, apart from 1 or 2 coaches who ply their trade exclusively at Dartes, the coaches from our clubs contribute their time for the improvement of all.
At Dartes you might find Adwick coaches working with Armthorpe swimmers; a coach from Edlington spending time coaching Spa swimmers; and so on and so forth. It's a joint effort, club colours are well and truly mangled together so it's appropriate that the reward and honours are shared around equally too.
No where is that more evident than when it comes to team events!
Historically our bigger clubs have been able to enter their own teams for events such as the Yorkshires. That option's been open to them, but they've chosen not to. Our smaller clubs often have 1 or 2 swimmers strong enough for a team, but not enough to form an entire team. Their swimmers would never get the opportunity.
Elsewhere in the country, this situation often results in clubs merging (and creating such bland names as Leeds East or Leeds Central) or swimmers just plain missing out. By contrast, in Doncaster each club retains its own identity but joins forces with all the others when it's appropriate to do so. It has long been understood that the Yorkshire Championships (and equivalent open meets) represents the point at which Doncaster becomes one.
Together as Dartes, we put together all those eligible swimmers from all of our clubs and enter the very best combined teams that Doncaster can produce. Swimmers from the smaller clubs get a chance to swim side by side with those from the bigger clubs; events they otherwise wouldn't have been able to compete in. The top 4 in each age group get to compete for the medals no matter which club they're from or how many swimmers their club has contributed.
Dartes regularly enters A, B, and sometimes C teams, mixing together swimmers from big and small clubs alike. It's not uncommon for a successful Dartes team to comprise members of 4 different clubs, but equally there are occasions when all 4 are from the same club. It makes no difference, the united ethos still stands.
Many such Dartes teams have gone on to represent Doncaster at Regional and National Championships and frequently bring back medals.
By being selfless and insisting on representing the whole of Doncaster Swimming, our clubs have provided much greater opportunities for their swimmers than they ever could have hoped to do by striking out on their own. TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More