A History of East Grinstead Swimming Club

East Grinstead Swimming Club was officially founded in 1912. Why it should happen 1912.  A search of historical 200information on East Grinstead soon reveals the answer to the latter question.  In 1911 a public swimming pool was first built in Brooklands Park (between Brooklands Way and West Hill).  This was a small pool, filled by spring water, with no changing facilities and also no mixed sex bathing (not unusual in those days before women even had a vote).   In fact, before this pool was built a swimming group known as The Water Rats existed from as early as 1898 and they swam in what is described as a water hole filled by a spring in Brooklands Park.  There is a picture of this group (men only) looking very macho in their baggy woollen costumes.  It is logical to assume that the water hole became the swimming pool.

Water Rats 

Looking back at other records there was a golden age during the last decade of the 19th Century when not only the Water Rats emerged but also a Cricket Club (1890), Football Club (1890), Cycling Club (1892), Tennis Club  (1896), Athletic Club (1896) and Hockey Club (1897).  It is surely no coincidence that all this happens not long after the East - West (Tunbridge Wells to Three Bridges) railway opened in 1866 and the North – South (London to Lewes) railway opened in 1882.  At this time of the Victorian Industrial Revolution, people began to take up sport of all kinds throughout the country and also, in East Grinstead itself, the population increased from about 7500 in 1870 to 11500 in 1900.

It is only reasonable to argue that the Water Rats evolved into East Grinstead Swimming Club when the Brooklands Pool was built.  But who was instrumental in this?   The current club has recently found the original notebook contain all the minutes of meetings of the club from 1912 to 1914.  We also have 2 trophies dating back to 1913.

One cup is for 400 yards freestyle and the cup is called the E Blount Cup.  There has been, and still is, a Blount family in East Grinstead and they live in Tilkhurst Farm.  At the start of the 20th Century they owned and ran a large estate on the western outskirts of East Grinstead which include Tilkhurst, Imberhorne and Gullege.  In 1905 a Mr Edward Blount took over the running of this large estate from his grandfather Sir Edward Blount and it is believed that this is the E Blount mentioned on the 1913 cup.  The first two names on this cup are K D Rusden – 1913 and W J Lipscombe - 1914.

The other cup dates from 1914 and was presented by a Major A Musgrave who was probably part of the Musgrave family who lived in Hurst & Clays and later went on to be a leader of East Grinstead Urban District Council (Brigadier-General Arthur Musgrave).  Unfortunately no other names are on this cup until 1937 but it’s presented for the Ladies Open Freestyle.  This in itself is unusual because as far as we know, ladies were not allowed to swim in the club until well after the First World War ended in 1918.

The information contain in the 1912 minute book is absolutely fascinating.

A public meeting was held in the Queen’s Hall on Monday 13th May.  Mr E L Steer was voted into the chair.  Those attending were Misses Gush & M A Huggett, and Messrs Woollam, Huggett Edwards, Boyce, Webb, Chapman, Fielder, Yearnsley, Gasson, Wing, Sherlock, Maplesden, Card, Thomas and Bennett.  Interestingly, there is no further mention in the Minute book to any ladies attending after this first meeting.  Mr Bennett apparently called the meeting with a view to the formation of a Swimming Club.  A provisional committee was established of

Mr E L Steer – Chairman,  Mr W H Bennett – Hon Sec,  Messrs Boyce, Edwards, Fielder, Sherlock, Yearnsley, Webb and Wing and they were given the task of forming the club.  A letter of support was read from Tunbridge Wells ‘Monson’ Swimming Club (Hon Sec Mr H J Saxby).

Immediately after the public meeting the newly formed committee met and drew up a set of provisional rules.  In addition, various local ‘dignitaries’ were to be invited to fill various position in the club such as President, Vice President and Hon Members.  Further information later in the minute book indicates that these people were expected to donate money to the club and failure to do so resulted in withdrawal from the position.  Donations were certainly expected each year (Minute book ends 1914).  Mr E C Blount was the first President of the club.

A public meeting was held on 30th May at which the Rules of the club were officially approved.  These rules were

  1. The club shall be called the East Grinstead Amateur Swimming Club.
  2. The object of the club shall be to promote and encourage the art of swimming, diving and life-saving; also the game of Water polo, and to give free instruction in swimming to any Member of the club.
  3. The club shall be affiliated to the Southern Counties Amateur Swimming Association, and any other Association that the Members at a General Meeting, or Committee deem necessary, and conducted in strict accordance with the rules of each association.
  4. The Club shall consist of a President, Vice-President and Honorary and ordinary Members (Amateurs only) those under 16 years of age having no voting power.  The Annual Subscription shall be for Honorary Members – 5s; Ordinary Members – 2s 6d: Boys under 16 years of age – 1s; and shall be paid on or before the 1st day of June.  Members whose subscriptions are in arrear shall not be entitled to the privaleges of the Club.

Further rules controlled application for membership, classes for life-saving, election of committee and what constituted a quorum (5), selection of Captains, Responsibilities when holding a club trophy etc.

  1. The colour of the club shall be dark blue, with the East Grinstead Coat of Arms in white on costumes or drawers, letters beneath ‘E.G.S.C’ in red.  Members are particularly requested to wear the same in all competitions.
  2. The polo ball shall not be used by less than 2 Members of the club who, if damaged, shall be responsible for the cost of repairs.

Further rules covered the loss of personal belongings from changing rooms, the auditing of accounts and alteration of rules before finishing on

  1. Any question not provided for in these Rules shall be decided by the Committee.

Many of these rule are very similar to those still in the current constitution.  They also show that Water Polo was an extremely important part of the club activities from the start.

May 31st minutes show the committee contacting the council asking for allocated swim times in the pool.  6.30 am to 9.00 am  and 5.30 pm to Sunset each week day, 2 pm to Sunset on Wednesdays, 6.30 am to Sunset on Saturdays and 9 am to 10 am on Sundays.  It appears that this request is for general public swimming and not just for the swimming club.  A specific Club evening was also requested and the council replied allocating a Wednesday evening (7 to 8 pm) to the club for 1s 6d.  This was accepted and paid in full until September 25th.  By the 13th August the club had been affiliated to the South Counties and Mr Blount had donated £5 for a cup to be presented to the ‘Swimming Club Champion’.  Goal Posts had been made and painted for the Water Polo as well as a nets (for the Goal posts) and a Polo ball and Caps, Badges and Club Note Paper organised.  Organisation started for a ‘Grand Water Gala & Aquatic Fete’ to be held on the 21st September. Eight different events were planned each with an entry fee of 6d and various prizes ranging from £1 down to 5s.  The main events were a ¼ mile Club Championship, Plunge, Diving and Water Polo match (with either Lewes, Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge).  Various Rules were drawn up for the Championship including ‘No competition shall be held unless there are five starters’.  If a cup was won 3 times in succession, the winner became the possessor of the cup.  Minutes show sponsorship was obtained from local organisations and tradesmen and everything was proceeding well according to the last set on minutes on the 10 September.  However, the next minutes on March 11th 1913 indicate the gala was abandoned although no reason is given.  This ended the first year of the club.

The second AGM was held on 24th March and for the first time the matter of Mixed bathing was raised.  This was put to the Urban District Council but permission was refused.  The club ‘Grand Gala etc’ was scheduled for Saturday July 26th and an official program is filed in the Minute book for the gala: the event were ¼ mile championship (for the E C Blount Challenge Cup), a Diving competition, Walking the Pole, Plunge< 2 length handicap and a Ginger Beer & Bun Race. Again cash prizes were given to the first 3 places.  Price of admission was 1s Reserved, 6d Seating & 3d Standing.  In addition, a 500 Yard Salt Water Back Swimming challenge was organised off the West Pier at Brighton on the 24th July.  This year the Gala was actually held and the final committee meeting was held on 8th September when the Hon Sec resigned as he was leaving the town.  The new secretary was Mr J W Lipscombe (who has much more legible handwriting).  The final item of note in the minutes was that the accounts showed a balance of £4-15-5.

The next year starts with the AGM being set for 31st March 1914 to be followed by a Smoking Concert.  Wikipedia definition of Smoking concerts were live performances usually of music, before an audience of men only; popular during the Victorian era. These social occasions were instrumental in introducing new musical forms to the public. At these functions men would smoke and speak of politics while listening to live music. These popular gatherings were sometimes held at hotels.

The committee meeting held on 17th July discusses the annual gala setting the events and the date as Saturday 15th August.

There are no further minutes in the book which is hardly surprising as the First World War started on July 28th with the invasion of Serbia by Austro-Hungarians and of Belgium by Germany.  However it is known that the championship was held sometime during the summer and that W J Lipscombe won the Blount Cup.

We can find no further information about the club until 1924 when a committee minute book exists covering the period 1924 – 1956.

The first minutes in this book are dated 26th September 1924 and they are for the AGM held at The Laurels in East Grinstead.  Those present were

  • Mr H Griffin – in the Chair
  • Mr C R Foxall – Treasurer

He had a total balance on the books of 10 shillings & 1 ½ Pence (50p in current money.

  • Brig Gen A D Musgrave – President
  • C Rusden – Re-elected Captain
  • Committee members – Mr Douglas, Mr D J Holden, Mr Pannell and Mr Stone.

The minutes themselves are brief but seem to point to a continuation of the club from previous years although there is one mention of thanks being given to a Mr A I Hett for the formation of the club during the year.  This is a little confusing.  This AGM is followed a week later by another meeting at which it was decided to approach the council for ‘improvements‘ in the pool.  This is something that regularly crops up in minutes over the next 15 years although no success in this endeavour is ever reported despite Brig Gen Musgrave becoming the council leader during this time (no change there over the years then)

We then go on to the next year (1925) where meetings are held regularly throughout the season which starts on June 11th swimming for 2 hours from 6.00 pm at a cost of 3 shillings (15 new Pence) for the season.  At the end of June a request is made to allow mixed bathing.  There is no specific report of the result of this request but a separate Ladies section is formed charging 1s 6d per member and 2 lady representatives are added to the main committee.  The first gala was also organised this year but is appears to have been internal to the club.  The only trophy awarded was for the 400 Yards freestyle to the club captain C J Rusden.  The AGM that year 22nd October also confirmed the existence of the Ladies section with their own sub-committee with representatives on the main committee.  It was at this AGM that the club became reaffiliated to the SCASA (Southern Counties ASA). 

The normal swimming season during the whole of the time the club was based at Brooklands as early as mid-May until mid September but it was, of course, very weather dependent.  There are just a few people with the club today (2010) who can remember the latter days at Brooklands and just how cold the water was at the start of the season in particular.  Water temperatures as low as 22 Centigrade are talked about with awe and horror.  There were no wet suits in those days and you must remember that the club was teaching swimming with all the stopping and talking that is associated with that activity.  This probably explains why Water Polo was so important to the club at Brooklands.

It is interesting that a Club Chairman did not at this stage exist.  It appears that at each committee meeting, a person was elected to chair just that meeting.  This procedure continued through the period covered by the minute book.  During the whole of this period the main responsibility for organising & running things in the club seems to have fallen on the shoulders of the Secretary helped by the Treasurer.  The President seems to be a remote titular position only.  Linda Rees writes that as she remembers it, it was an honorary post.

1926 was quite a significant year in the club.  Water polo was reintroduced, a gala was started for the local schools (secondary not at this stage primary) with the Dewar Shield presented by Lord Dewar to the winning school.  The event is still being held although the shield itself was unfortunately lost (not for the first time) by one of the local schools in 2004.  The club gala in 1926 included Life Saving as well as the 400 yards challenge (won by A I Hett)  The year ended with Mr R.D.Green being elected to president and Mr Wilde taking over as Treasurer and the club still asking for improvements to the pool.

In 1927, the Water polo team officially joined the Sussex league and in 1928, mixed bathing is permitted on a Thursday evening (which is the night the club normally swim). 1929 & 1930 continue with Water polo very active and the 400 Yards still being the main club event (won by A I Hett 1928 – 1931). In 1931 the Treasurer changes to Mr Tyler but Mr Green is still president & Mr Griffin the secretary.  For the first time the employment of a professional teacher of the Front Crawl specifically is mentioned.  This was a Mr Chapman who remained with the club for 20 years.

1932 – In this year there is a mention again of the club forming in 1924 although, because there are also many Gala programs & other items saying formed in 1912, we believe that this reference probably means Reformed in 1924.

In 1934, the records refer to 12 Water polo matches.  Although not specifically confirmed since the Brooklands Season is normally less than 12 weeks, it does imply that many of these matches must have taken place at other venues most probably in indoor pools. Also the club is swimming in Galas and for which, £3.00 is normally spent on preparing a specific printed program of events.  By this time the Treasurer is reporting an end of year balance of £16 18s 10d and the final significant thing in the AGM is that a Lady is elected to take the chair (Mrs Strettford).

Sometime during 1934/35 there is a significant upgrade to the Brooklands Pool Facilities including being lengthened to 33 & 1/3 yards.  A filtration unit is installed which provides continuous circulation & filtration of the water and the changing facilities were improved.   Until this was built, the pool was emptied & refilled every Monday throughout the season.  This promotes even greater sympathy for the swimmer of that era as the pool could not have warmed up much throughout the summer.  The ‘New & Improved Pool’ is mentioned in the Minutes of the time. 

This year there is mention of a Southern Counties (SCASA) race being held at Brooklands.  It would seem that in those days the right to hold a specific county event was sold or auctioned to competing clubs in the region.  Apparently, if a club had a really good swimmer or team they thought was capable of winning an event, they would bid for the right to hold it and thus give their own swimmer a home advantage.

At the AGM in 1935 two new cups are introduced.  These are still used today (2010).

  1. Mens Open 100 Yards – Sir Frederick Green Cup– won by F Murrell in 1min 12 1/2 secs.
  2. Ladies Open 100 Yards- Leslie S Woods  – won by Miss M Warburton in 1min 45 Secs

The Treasurer’s report now shows an Income/Expenditure of approximately £50 for the year

Mention is also made of the possibility of Winter Swimming in Croydon however there is no mention of it actually happening.

1937 – a lady is elected to be the County Representative although it is not clear if this is just in the Ladies area.  This time the 100 yards cup is won by Miss J Piddlesden (in 1min 24 secs) and K Wickenden (of the recently closed Wickenden Sweet shop in the High Street) wins both the 100 Yards (in 1min & 1/2 Secs) and the 400 Yards (no time).

Health & Safety in 1930

Below is a picture of the Brooklands Pool staff circa 1930.  This apparently was the total staff to control /take the entrance fees to the pool, patrol the changing rooms etc and do the lifeguarding. The lady is Mrs Piddlesden who was the Great Grandmother of 2 of our current members (2010 – Edward & Imogen Arnold) who lived in Brooklands Way

Family History      - Mrs Nellie Piddlesden (became Mrs Lambird)

Daughter              - Miss Joan Piddlesden (became Arnold)

Daughter              - Miss Linda Arnold (became Rees)         

Daughter              - Miss Julie Rees

Son                      - Andrew Arnold                                             

Son                      - Edward Arnold        

Daughter              - Imogen Arnold                                                                                             

Keep these names in mind as they crop up throughout the history of the club providing a continuous link almost to the start of the club.  We are also indebted to this family for providing much of the background information about the club.

Unfortunately little is known about what these pool staff did during the winter and spring when the pool was closed.  Linda Rees says that during the winter Percy Jennings was employed by the council as a general handyman sweeping up the leaves and keeping East Grinstead clean & tidy.  Tom Deacon lived in a little cottage (now demolished) owned by EGUDC close to the pool near the bottom of Orchard Way.  I think this provides a real contrast with the Kings Centre Pool today which requires a considerably larger poolside staff and administration staff to run the pool.

As mentioned above, there are no Minutes from the war years, however, it is known that the pool was actually open during the war.  In fact, it was extremely important and active with almost all the County & Southern County championship events being held in the pool.  The reason for this is simple – it was the only pool open in the south east of the country.  All other pools which were mainly in coastal towns were official shut down during this time – can’t allow the enemy to envy our pools and use it as an excuse to invade – sorry that’s a bit frivolous.  Also no mention is made anywhere that the EGSC Secretary Mr H Griffin is elected to be president of Sussex County for the year 1944.

The Minutes restart again in 1948 with Mr Griffin still active as Secretary.  Ladies no longer have a separate section and are active on the main committee.  The Water polo section is still active and playing in the Sussex league and although there are galas against other clubs there are not many.  It should be remember that at this time, shortages in Britain were the norm with Food & Petrol rationed.  Until fuel rationing ended (in 1950 although it was reintroduced several times after that during times of national crisis) travel to other clubs/towns for a small sporting event would have been considered a waste of precious resources.  There is a rather amusing note in the minutes about the pool manager (Mr Jennings –the one in the photo) who would not allow spectators into the pool sessions until after 8.00 pm.  Speaking to some old members of the time, there are stories of all the young lads climbing trees etc to peer over the high pool fence and catch glimpses of the girls swimming.

IN 1952 Mr Griffin became the president of the club although he also continued as the Secretary.  The treasurer is named as Mr J Dixon and his balance sheet shows the club has a reserve of £82 11s 8d.  (Linda Rees writes – Jim Dixon was in the Water Polo team – a very good player and his brother Disk Dixon who was also a club swimmers and water polo player, ran the pool in the 1950s after Mr Jennings retired.  The club has now added more events to its own championships extended to Under 12, U14, U17 and Open age groups.  The original championship events are still being contested with S J E Martin (Syd) making a winning appearance for the first time.  The ladies cup this year is won by Miss A F Gibbons.   Although this is not the first year that young swimmers have been involved in Galas, this is when they start having their own races at the championships.  Cups begin to appear for the Under 17 age group and strokes other than Freestyle are also being contested.  However, for the first time, one gets the feeling that the nature of the club is beginning to change from an adult dominated club into a club for teenagers and upwards.  There is still no reference to very young children (Pre-teens) who provide the current club with the bulk of the membership.  This was mainly due to the cold water which was not comfortable for very young non-swimmers.

In 1954 sees the introduction of winter swimming at Caterham Barracks probably due to the increased personal mobility provided by the motor car.  The club travelled by coach every week to and from the cinema car park and the journey was normally followed on the return by chips from the shop in Ship Street !   This is also the year when the Arnold family notably Linda Arnold really take the club into the top level of county swimming by winning the first of several county events and reaching the Southern Counties championships.  The club events are dominated throughout the 50s by Syd Martin and Ray Leppard and the ladies events by Janice, Linda, Hilary and Gillian Arnold.  Syd Martin was the club Captain for some years and after that the Club Manager (which was probably equivalent to the current position of Club Coach).

The County Championship races were still auctioned to the highest bidder although when Linda Arnold won the 110 yards backstroke she did so without a home pool advantage.  Water polo was still a very active section with both mens and ladies teams and a Lifesaving section is also strongly supported.  In 1953 Syd Martin is elected president of Sussex County.  The Club is still operating in the Brooklands Open Air pool from June to early September with water temperature ranging from 17 C up to the dizzy heights of 25 C.  Members continue to shiver throughout the summer and give themselves the official name of ‘The Puffins’ (which is a hardy North Atlantic sea bird).  Meanwhile, in 1964, Crawley has a new 36 & 2/3 Yard pool opened. The club still travels to Caterham for winter swimming but back in Brooklands things are deteriorating.  The council first discuss covering the pool in 1967 for all year use but this proposal rumbles round & round until being discarded in 1973.  The pool is now over 60 years old and definitely showing its age.  It is a great pool when the sun shines but this is rare (except for 1976) so by the end of 1978 the pool is closed for good .  A new pool is promised and then cancelled as soon as Brooklands is torn up.  A mass public protest is organised and a referendum held after which a new pool is built at Kings Centre and opened in 1982.  After 4 years in the wilderness travelling to Caterham, Haywards Heath and Crawley, the club finally has a home of its own.

However, things are still difficult.  The council, who run the pool, will not allow the club to hire the pool for more than one evening a week.  Of course it was available throughout the year but not the amount of time the club really wanted.  To be fair to the council, when the pool opened, it was very popular with the public, so popular that it was said to be one of the only pools in the country making a profit.  Eventually, after several years, the club was able to hire the pool for 2 one hour morning sessions.  These were used for the top competitive swimmers.  One other slightly odd thing was the fact that galas were never held at Kings Centre pool but at Haywards Heath or Tunbridge Wells.  This was because the spectator facilities and poolside area were so limited (spectators in particular being even more limited than currently) and the galas, especially the Club Championships were usually well supported.  There was also a strong interest in diving and the best diving ‘pits’ were at Haywards Heath (now closed) and Tunbridge Wells pools.  Diving competitions were gradually phased out mainly because there was nowhere convenient to train.  The facilities at Kings were not considered suitable on what would now be called Health & Safety grounds.  The Lifesaving section became a club on its own and also had one session a week.  They provided all the cover for the swimming club sessions.  Water polo stopped totally as Kings Pool was not suitable although several swimmers transferred to Haywards Heath Water polo club which trained in the deep water diving pool.

The Arnold family have been heavily involved throughout this time but, by the time the new pool opens, Ladies swimming is dominated by the next generation of the family.  Julie Rees (Daughter of Linda Arnold) is the queen of the pool.   Allan Rees is the club coach and Syd Martin is the president.  Allan & Linda Rees (nee Arnold) also run the Lifesaving Club and with Syd Martin start a new club (The Tadpoles) for the disabled.   Syd becomes the Chief Lifesaving Examiner for Sussex for some years and is eventually awarded an MBE for his services.

When the new pool opens there is an initial improvement surge with more swimmers taking part in County events.  Such events are no longer ‘auctioned’ to the clubs but organised and run by the county at several 25 metre venues throughout the county.  There is more interest in swimming in the town but a lack of pool time restricts the intake into the club itself.  After a few years things settle down and the club does well in Level 2 galas and in Lifesaving events it performs brilliantly.  We are still not able to negotiate any more pool time although a Triathalon club opens and many swimmers take advantage initially to gain extra pool time.  The junior section of the Tri club which is populated almost entirely by swimming club members becomes one of the strongest clubs in the country supplying more than 50% of the national team for several years.

In the early 1990’s, the ASA impose a major change of rules that govern Lifesaving.  These are restructured to reflect the new ‘world’ of Lifesaving in swimming pools rather than the previous ‘Open Water’ emphasis.  Although this is a reasonable reorientation, the way this is imposed on  clubs eventually causes considerable anger in the Lifesaving section and all current examiners, including the chief examiner, are informed that their current qualifications count for little and a total requalification, at considerable cost of course, is required.  The Lifesaving section reacts by closing down completely (in 1997) and members retire meaning new coaches are required throughout the club.  Luckily we have enough coaches who are not affected by the changes so we can continue although we are affected in so far as lifesaving cover is now provided by newly qualified Kings Centre staff.  Lynda Bradford takes over as chief coach.

Before too long the club begins to search for alternative swimming venues to augment training times.  We start swimming at new pools opening at Ardingly College and Caterham School (both in 1998).  It is not too long after that that Kings Centre finally allow us to utilize the pool for more sessions initially on a Sunday and extra morning swimming  The extra swim time now available soon takes us to the next level of general competition and we get promoted to Division 1 of the Sussex swim league.  This is a big step up but it really pushes the club forward and we also gain promotion in the National Speedo Swim league (1998).  For a club which is entirely run and coached by volunteers, the extra sessions prove to be quite a strain on resources.  As a result we decide to investigate the employment of a paid coach to take the club forward.  With no previous experience of this, it takes some time to progress to our first coach and the process is initially not very successful.  No local coaches are available and using coaches who have to travel to EG for training sessions is not a good solution.  In addition the coaches we do try are all newly qualified.  We try several coaches with Lynda always in the background supporting our efforts.  She is helped on occasions by a young local coach (Nigel Hitchcock) who is still gaining full qualifications with another club.  Eventually Nigel agrees to join us permanently (2003) and he turns out to be an excellent coach and communicator.  Swimming progresses by leaps and bounds and under Nigel we become one of the top clubs in Sussex and even gain promotion to the Speedo Premier League for a short while swimming against the really top national clubs such as Portsmouth, Guildford and Millfield.  We have to admit that ultimately this did prove a step too far but it was nice while it lasted.  In the County Championship, we now have a large number of our swimmers participating and we have many county champions at all ages.  It is an extremely satisfying and successful time for the club.

During this time, the swimming world is itself changing considerably.  During the 1980’s and 90’s, competition was provided by galas swum against other clubs (18 Galas in 1995) and the next level of swimming was still the County championship followed by Regional championship.   We did have reasonable success with quite a few winners at county level each year and several participants at the regional level.  However, with the introduction of a new ASA initiative called ‘Swim 21’ in 1999, emphasis began to move to fewer interclub galas and more open events for the top swimmers supported by 3 Sussex league club galas and the 3 National Speedo League galas.  By 2003, we partake in only 4 of the old interclub galas and even those are not fully supported (i.e. less than 6 clubs competing).  Also in 2003, the ASA moves its emphasis to longer distances races with 100 & 200 metre races becoming the norm for all ages including 10 year olds.  This is a considerable change but with Nigel in charge we cope quite well.  The club reacts by finally changing it’s internal swimming practices to a full Squad structure (Gold, Silver, Bronze & Mini) something that the coaches have been trying to implement since the first paid coach in 1999.  It has taken time to organise as such a structure also requires a lot of pool time.  For example, Gold squad swim up to 8 hours per week at this stage and even mini do 2 – 3 hours.  This should be compared with 1hour for all swimmers in the 1980’s (or 2 hours if you were good enough and keen enough to get up at 6.00 a.m.)

The next significant event in the club history is actually triggered by events elsewhere.  The complete sports centre & pool in Crawley is replaced in 2005 by a totally new facility (K2).  This includes major improvement in all sports and particularly Gymnastics.  Unfortunately, Nigel is not just our coach but also runs the complete administrative side of the new Gymastics club which has over 1000 members.  The strain of both jobs proves a little too much and Nigel gives up the swimming.  We recruit a replacement coach but Nigel is a hard act to follow and the replacement leaves quite quickly.  Fortunately, Nigel is by now in a position to rejoin us and ‘normality’ resumes except that he pushes through the final squad reorganisation.  As part of this, Kings Centre renegotiate our swim times and offer many more sessions including the facility to hire just a couple of lanes on occasions.  This greatly improves flexibility and swimming results improve again.  We now not only perform well at county level (over 80 participants in 2009 with championship in almost all age groups) but many swimmers go on to Regional level and just a few to National level.  Currently we have no National Champions but with 2 second places in 2010 we feel this is only a matter of time.

The future looks good.

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