Joining a swimming club is often the best way to make your swimming most effective. Perhaps you’ve been taking lessons and are looking to take your swimming further? Maybe you have ambitions to compete? Or perhaps you enjoy swimming and want to use it as a fitness activity? Whatever the reason for considering joining a club, you’ll probably have a whole host of questions… Read on for our comprehensive guide to joining a swimming club.
Choosing a Club
Smaller towns usually only have one swimming club. To begin with, particularly if you’re just starting out, it is often best to stick with the local club until you get an idea of how much training your level of swimming requires, the coaching provided and the level of competition available to you. Unless you have any particular reason to go elsewhere and drive out of town two, three or even more times a week it is usually best to stay local until you’ve really got an idea of what its all about!
Larger towns may well have more than one swimming club. Often the local council-run leisure centre is home to the most established club in the town and will probably be the easiest to find. Clubs you didn’t know exist may also be found in garrison pools, swimming schools or at schools which have pools. If your town/city has a major Olympic training centre, then the club based here will obviously be very elitist and will be home to many top athletes.
If there is more than one club in your town, the most established is likely to be the biggest, oldest and, therefore, the club you will have heard about. However these clubs can have much longer waiting lists and pricier memberships. The main benefit of a larger club is that the level of coaching will be higher as they may well have paid professional coaches with many years of experience and a whole team of coaches to keep ideas fresh. Larger clubs also tend to have access to better quality pools and have more money in the pot to invest back into the club. However, the bigger clubs are more competitive and getting into the elite squad will be much more difficult. Smaller clubs may offer a friendlier, more laidback or perhaps more family friendly feel to them. Those in smaller clubs may benefit from one to one coaching with the same mentor rather than different coaches on different days. So, there are advantages and disadvantages of small and large swimming clubs.
The vast majority of competitive swimming clubs in England are members of the ASA. It’s always best to seek out clubs which are affiliated to the ASA because the organisation provides them with information and guidance, as well as laying down certain standards and benchmarks. In particular, clubs which are Swim21 accredited have been recognised as offering an excellent level of service to its members.
A full list of ASA swimming clubs in the UK can be seen here:
Nearly all swimming clubs have websites which are useful for finding out about the prices, session times and days, and to gain general contact information. Those club which have been Swim21 accredited will proudly display the kitemark Swim21 on the site. There will also be full guidance of membership details on the website as well as recent news about the club and their swimmers.
How are swimming clubs structured?
Before you join a swimming club, it’s helpful to get a good idea of the structure and framework of a typical UK swimming club. On the whole, clubs run as non-profit organisations which means that all membership fees go directly into the renting of the pool and the running of the club. The club is run by a board of committee members, such as the treasurer, secretary, chair, and president. Roles are typically carried out in a voluntary capacity. The club also relies on a wider team of volunteers without whom it could not operate. This includes the coaching staff and poolside helpers. Some clubs, particularly large ones which employ staff, become incorporated companies or charities.
Clubs are made up of a number of squads divided by both age and ability.
The coaching team will decide which squad you join after you go for a trial. Once you are part of a squad, you will be able to compete in swimming competitions and you can expect to have your first experience of competitive swimming certainly within your first year. To compete in any national swimming events for juniors, seniors or masters, you’ll need to belong to an ASA accredited swimming club and have your own membership to the ASA.
How much will it cost?
Every swim club is different but, on the whole, those who intend to swim regularly at a club (three or more times a week) will make a saving in comparison to paying for public swim sessions at the local pool. On average, monthly membership fees will range from £15 to £50 and will depend on the squad you end up in. There may also be a joining fee to cover administration.
Membership fees can usually be paid annually at the beginning of the year or by direct debit on a monthly basis. Individuals or parents in a situation of financial hardship may be able to receive reduced memberships costs. Not all clubs can afford a hardship scheme but many of the larger, more established clubs do offer some help when they can.
What will I need?
A swimming club will be in possession of plenty of training aids and the more established and elite the club, the more advanced the training equipment may be, but in general, you will still need some of the basic equipment yourself. The essential kit you will definitely need is a swimsuit, water bottle, cap, goggles and towels, along with a swim bag to keep it all in. Depending on the level or ability of the squad you may need some essential training aids, including pullbouys, fins and kickboards but you’ll be told what you need when you start training. Many swim clubs sell their own branded caps, bags, bottles, poolside t-shirts and jumpers but again you’ll be made aware of these when you start training. Clubs like members to use these where possible, especially for attendance at swim events and for many clubs, these items are an important method of raising funds too.
Questions for parents
Parents of children joining a swimming club will undoubtedly have plenty of questions. Every club has its own policy when it comes to safeguarding children, and all swimming clubs take this very seriously. If you have any concerns, it’s fine to discuss these with the committee. Many larger clubs will have designated safeguarding officers. You can ask to look at the policy too, or you may find it on their website.
Many parents choose to volunteer at a swimming club, although it’s not mandatory. Volunteering, however, is hugely rewarding and fundamental to the running of most clubs. It’s also a really good way to be a part of your child’s experience and feel that not only do you understand how the club works, but you are actively involved in making it work.
As well as kit they need, parents need to be sure to pack their children with a suitable drink for each session. They also need to make sure they’ve eaten a carbohydrate filled meal ahead of the session to make sure they have enough energy.
Swim clubs already expect children to have caps on before the session starts, so if your child needs help with this make sure you are on hand.
What else does a club offer?
Some swimmers feel that as well as swimming, a swimming club is a great place to make friends and socialise. You can really feel a sense of belonging with a group who have similar interests.
Joining a swimming club could be the best thing you ever did – give it a go!