Chairmans Letter - July 2010
21st July 2010
END OF TERM REPORT
Incredible though it seems, we are almost at the end of another swimming season, and what a season it has been- our best ever! As we all head for the sand dunes and reach for the sun-tan lotion, we can do so in the knowledge that Atlantis is in rude health.
Atlantis is a competitive club and our success is measured primarily by performances in the pool. On this measure we can be well pleased:
* A record qualification for, and haul of medals at the Sussex County Championships, winning the Girls’ Age Group title, with Cameron Lambourne taking the Blue Riband event, the 100m Freestyle Mens’ Open Championship;
* A record number of swimmers achieving qualifying times for the South East Regional Championships, with Atlantis finishing with more medals than any other Sussex Club;
* Equalling last season’s best-ever placing in the Arena National Swimming League and securing our highest ever placing in Division 1 of the Sussex League, as runners-up to Crawley in a photo finish;
* 4 (7 including the relay) swimmers have qualified for the Nationals at Sheffield in August - two for the first time; our 14 and under boys’ relay team secured the marvellous achievement of also qualifying for the Nationals and would have been seeded 12th in the whole country - sadly owing to injury, it has had to withdraw;
* Our younger swimmers regularly amongst the medals in Open Meets around the Region, and the Penguins and Seals acquiring a taste for competition at our own Race Nights;
Well done to all our swimmers for their hard work and commitment, on which these successes are based. And well done to Bill and his coaching team for doing such a fantastic job in maximising the performances from our current crop of swimmers.
Improving Swimming Programme
The biggest commitments the Club makes are the costs of pool time and coaching.
Bill is our only fully professional coach. All our other coaches give freely of their time, and we are indebted to them. In recognition of the increasing time they give, the Committee decided for the first time to pay expenses. We have also continued to invest in improving the quality of our coaching, with 2 coaches completing their Level 1 teaching, 3 their Level 2 and Paul Blyth embarking on his Level 3 coaching. We now have 19 people who are regularly involved coaching for us.
We have also worked hard with Horsham District Council and DC Leisure to increase our pool time by nearly 30% over the last 12 months. This has allowed us to do a number of things.
We have increased the amount of pool time for our top squads to nearly 15 hours and introduced National and Regional Development Programmes. This means that swimmers Atlantis has developed no longer have to leave the Club to achieve success on the national stage. It has been really great to see the swimmers’ commitment; it is not unusual to have over 20 swimmers turning up regularly at 6.15 for training 5 mornings a week! The pool time is reinforced by one of the best Land Training Programmes in County, organised by Sam Stocker, and regular Long Course training in the 50m pool at K2.
Our other priority has been to continue to build the base of the Club and a key milestone was passed in April, with the establishment of a second Bronze Squad, based at Billingshurst.
After a break of a year, we ran a very successful (extended!) training camp in Italy in April and introduced clinics for the Bronze Squads.
We have also started to select a wider range of galas in which to compete and enter squads in galas to suit their stage of development. So for the first time we took a handful of swimmers to the Scottish Nationals in Glasgow and entered for the first time the Bracknell Long Course Meet at Aldershot.
Our own Atlantis Open Meets in December and May have now become firm fixtures in the swimming calendar, under the leadership of our Vice President Roy Pennington, and both were fully subscribed, highly successful and earned valuable revenue for the Club.
The Social Dimension
Out of the pool, the Club has also continued to develop. Sue Reay, our Social Secretary, has organised three great events. The Christmas Disco and Awards was held for the first time at the Holbrook Club to celebrate the Club’s 30th Anniversary and was very well-attended and enjoyed by all. We held an AGM and Quiz Night in May - also at the Holbrook Club. It was a great night with a tasty Ploughman’s, some lively discussion about the Club and the Quiz brought out everyone’s competitive instincts - this format will definitely be repeated next year. And the season was capped off with a well-attended (estimates suggest 160 parents and children) Summer BBQ in Partridge Green with good food, conversation and sporting activities ranging from tennis, swimming, rounders and croquet. Thanks to Sue and all her team of helpers!
We have continued to try and improve communications within the Club.
The website remains the focal point of this effort. Since the New Year we have launched a members’ only area, with blog and forums - ably moderated by Andy Kershaw - and providing access to the Club’s database, so that swimmers and their parents can check best times and how they have improved over time. To date nearly 120 people have subscribed to the Members’ Only area. If you haven’t yet subscribed, give it a go! Gill Sutherland, Kathryn Hundleby and Paul Clarke do a tremendous amount to ensure that the information on the website is kept up-to-date - and it certainly became a lifeline for many parents when our kids were stranded by volcanic ash in Italy. Other new features have been the Picture Gallery and we are now able to provide You Tube links so that members can relive the action from galas - Atlantis TV has arrived!
The Club newsletter NewsSplash has been re-vamped to include a wider range of content and to involve swimmers in generating “copy”. This now appears bi-monthly, rather than monthly so that we can accommodate more articles that might not otherwise be covered on the website. We have also produced a new introductory leaflet about the Club, which we are using as part of our marketing to recruit new members.
We have pursued a very proactive strategy to secure regular media coverage for the Club. There is now an article, often with accompanying photographs, most weeks in both the County Times and the Resident. This higher profile will also help to attract new swimmers to the Club.
Over the course of the year there have been a number of changes in the composition of the Committee. Caroline Dedman has replaced Debbie Windle as Treasurer and Fiona Morris has taken on the important role of Child Welfare Officer. Two new committee members were elected at the AGM - Alan Wheatland and Andy Lambourne. Thanks to all retiring committee members for their service - Nicky Kane, Nicola Underwood and in particular Debbie Windle.
In April, Andy Lobley succeeded Paul Blyth as Team Manager, allowing Paul to focus fully on the important job of lead coach for the Bronze Squads. Thanks to Paul for a successful period in the “hot-seat”.
Thanks to the hard work of Committee Member Brian Elkins, the Club has once again retained its Swim 21 accreditation. This is the ASA’s quality mark that indicates the Club is being run to an approved standard.
The state of the Club’s finances is robust. Our membership has grown by over 10% over the last 12 months and now stands at 215. We finished the financial year having made a surplus of £6500. It is important that the Club maintains healthy reserves; these provide a necessary buffer and working capital to withstand any unforeseen shocks and allow us to continue to invest with confidence to develop sustainably our Club. Our working capital requirements are obviously greater as the Club grows and our liabilities increase to secure additional pool and coaching time.
Subscriptions remain the bedrock of our income and broadly cover the core costs. Gala income is our second most important source of income. Kit sales also bring in some income; we have broadened our kit range and sales have been increasing. Our final source of income is from sponsorship and donations, which we are looking to increase.
Plans for the Future
The new season starts again in September and we will continue to improve all aspects of the Club. The plans we intend to implement over the next 12 months are as follows:
1. Drive for new Members. Our aim is to increase our membership from the current level of 215 to around 250. We feel we can accommodate this without increasing our current pool time or coaching resources. Much of the additional capacity is at Billingshurst, where we now have 3 two-hour sessions per week and there is scope to recruit swimmers into the Penguins and Seals, following the establishment of the new Bronze Squad. Our intention is to forge closer ties with local schools and swim academies to create a stronger pathway for those with the potential and desire to be good competitive swimmers.
2. Introduction of a new Club Squad. The Club is committed to catering for not just those who want to compete, but also those who enjoy training for health and fitness reasons. We are therefore merging the existing coloured squads into a single “Club” squad. This squad will have its own dedicated coach and pool time, and will train alongside the Masters. The benefits to those joining the Club Squad will be that they will be training with people who have similar swimming goals, have a programme that is tailored specifically to their needs, dedicated water time that will minimise lane over-crowding and subscription levels that are aligned to this level of training, rather than the higher rates of the competitive squads.
3. Renewed Focus for Competitive Squads. The coaches have reviewed the competitive squads to ensure that swimmers are in the right squads, given their aspirations, performance levels and stage of development. There will be an expectation that those in competitive squads will compete on a regular basis and will fully participate in the training programmes developed for this purpose. All swimmers will have log books that set out their personalised training objectives. Broadly the competitive squads will align with development towards the main levels of competition – county, regional and national standard. Gala selection will be tailored by coaches under Bill’s overall guidance to fit in with the overall training programme and support the ASA’s Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model (information on this can be found on the website). Coaches will be communicating in more detail with swimmers about this over the next few weeks.
4. Exploiting Opportunities to increase pool time. We will continue to explore every avenue to increase pool time. One area we are currently looking at is Steyning, with the potential to turn the Wednesday session into a two-hour slot. We are also planning – subject to gaining the agreement of K2 – to build into the programme a weekly 2-hour long course training session for the top squads. Our longer-term goal is to be able to offer up to 20 hours pool time for our top swimmers – with an intermediate step next season of 16 hours - and the appropriate levels of training to support LTAD throughout the Club. Optimising the allocation and use of pool time requires careful thought and organisation, hence the attention given to the structure and composition of squads.
5. Enriching our training programme. We will once again be holding an overseas training camp in Lignano, Italy next spring. In addition it is our intention to organise a weekend training camp for the Bronze Squads in the autumn, reinforced by technique clinics. We are exploring the potential to attract a current international swimmer to provide the focal point for an Atlantis Open/Demonstration Day. We also plan to acquire our own underwater video equipment to support and illustrate our existing training sessions.
6. Website Development. We will make further improvements to the website to provide a secure payment facility. This will enable kit orders to be placed and paid for over the web. Our aim is also to make it possible to enter and pay for all galas via the website. We also hope to be able to offer an electronic payment facility via the Atlantis desk on the Thursday Club Night. We hope to have this up and running for September. In parallel we will be developing the “Shop” page of the website to illustrate the complete range of Atlantis branded kit that is available.
7. Fundraising and Sponsorship. The Committee has agreed a Sponsorship plan. This plan provides for different categories of sponsorship opportunities. These are all set out on the Fundraising page of the website. The Club is appointing its first Sponsorship co-ordinator. I am delighted that Keith Davies has agreed to take on this role. If we are successful at raising sponsorship then this will enable the Club to progress and develop, whilst containing the level of subscriptions.
8. Introduction of New Subscription Levels. Subscriptions have been frozen for the last 2 years. Since then pool hire charges have risen by 2.75% and the Club has significantly increased both the quantity and the quality of training on offer. We have therefore reviewed all of the subscriptions. The AGM approved increases in the subscription levels for the 2010/11 season. Subscriptions will rise by no more than between £1.75 - £3.25 per month. Our subscription levels remain comparable to the other top clubs in Sussex. Members will be notified separately by letter of the changes to their subscription levels. We are in the process of ensuring that all members are paying the right subscriptions for the squads they are in and the training they are doing, which will aid us in preparation for the increase.
Apologies for the length of this letter, but it is an indication of how much is going on at the Club. We have enjoyed a fantastic season and can look forward with eager anticipation to next season, where I hope we can take further strides forward. Atlantis is a great community, with a fantastic group of friendly and committed people all pulling in the same direction. It is this team spirit on which our future success will be built. On that note can I wish you all a restful and enjoyable holiday and I look forward to seeing you all again in September.