Synchronised Swimming Spring Update from Maria Ramos

11th March 2016
I want to start this month’s news with a massive congratulations to the GB Synchro Squads. Firstly, the GB Duet of Katie Clark & Olivia Federici secured a quota place for GB at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The competition was fierce, with tiny margins deciding the results.  GB were ranked 15th after the first round, but with some smart coaching from Katie Chapman and hard work over the next 3 days, we achieved top spot in the free routine second round. The Duet broke the 80 barrier for the first time since 2013.

We all know how hard Synchro can be, and our elite athletes have to work through aches, pains and niggles, however sometimes an injury occurs that cannot be ignored.  Genevieve Randall and Jodie Cowie, our duet athletes who have worked so hard over the last 2 years have had their training and competition programme disrupted by injuries. They have been fantastic team supporters, being an extra pair of coaching eyes while they have been going through their rehabilitation and we wish them a speedy recovery back to full fitness.

For those of you who followed us on the social media channels, I cannot express how much it meant to receive the messages of support, Likes, retweets, comments and shares. It felt like you were all there in the pool with us, so thank you. We are now waiting for the formal invitation from FINA and then approval from the British Swimming Board and the BOA to confirm our attendance, but the signs are positive.

Secondly, congratulations to the GB Senior Team who won a bronze medal at the prestigious Make Up For Ever, French Open.   It’s the first time we’ve had a senior team compete since 2013 and for many of the athletes, it was their first major international event. The team swimming were Phoebe Bradley-Smith, Jorja Brown, Emma Critchley, Danielle Cooper, Zoe James, Hannah Randall, Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe. Hannah Randall also swam her solo in her first international event and she finished a very credible 8th place. Well done!

Our international reputation is important, and this was a great way of saying to the global community that we continue to thrive and want to challenge the best in the world.   It’s been a great team effort, not just from the athletes and national coaches,  but the club coaches who give up their time to assist at the training camps and the parents who support the team by driving all over the country to wherever we can get pool time. So thank you to all of those involved and Well Done!

Innovation and Leadership
GB’s vision to become one of the world’s most respected Synchro nations, came to life at a workshop held at the beginning of February. It was a privilege to spend a day with some Synchro Innovators, with representatives from coaching, judging, competitions, and regions. After stress testing some of the early thinking into the priority areas that is going into the new strategy, the result was lots of energy and some great ideas.

The new Synchro Leadership Team has now been appointed, and I am thrilled to be working with such a great bunch of people. The new LT is responsible for driving the strategic vision, building cohesion and delivering the plans. The team are:

Ian Atkinson: Most of you know Ian as our Exec Director at our National events. He brings a wealth of experience in sports presentation and event management, but also brings fresh thinking to our approach to technology and innovation.
Sarah Clarke: As you know, Sarah has been leading on Athlete Awards as part of the previous Management Group and she will continue to focus on this, along with building a powerful workforce.
Hannah Secher: As one of our FINA judges and a busy coach, Hannah will be focussed on developing the workforce, in particular the Judge pathway and coaching.
Sarah Speers: The Head Coach at City of Leeds, a qualified tutor and creative thinker, Sarah will be looking at the Coaches pathway, and competition frameworks.

Along with Karen Thorpe our Talent Development Officer and Sarah Darragh, our National Development Officer, I know we have a powerful team in place that can help drive England Synchro forward.

Key Activities
There have been many offers of help and I am always grateful to receive them. As the plan is coming together, there have been some key projects identified as priorities. As stand-alone projects, we can bring in specialists who can focus on these projects through to approval and then implementation. We have kicked off 4 projects in the last month:

1) ASA Awards, level 8, 9 and 10: This project is being led by Sarah Darragh. The ASA are planning a major launch of all the awards in the summer of 2016, so it’s a perfect time for us to refresh our intro to Synchro awards.
2) The Competition Framework: I will be leading this review, with any changes likely to be made from 2017.
3) Exam marking for key courses: The aim is to streamline and decentralise the process, while still maintaining consistency and transparency across the nation. My thanks to Steve Fuller for taking charge of this activity and driving it forward. He will be liaising with the presenters in due course, with the new process and guidelines.
4) National Scorers and Chief Recorders: These are popular courses and Richard Crisp is leading a review of the training to ensure we can provide the best information and expertise for the job.

National Championships 16/17 April 2016
The Entry Pack is available online and can be found by clicking here. The Event Officer from the ASA is Laura Hillyard (laura.hillyard@swimming.org). The closing date for entries is 12 noon on 17th March 2016. It’ll be great to see as many of you as possible at the competition to support our best athletes. It will also be the last chance for us all to cheer on our GB team before they head to the European Championships in May.

The Gemma Yates Memorial Trophy
This trophy is awarded for Endeavour – to a synchronised swimming competitor who has had to overcome or cope with great difficulties. Each club competing at National or Regional level is invited to nominate a swimmer/ athlete who has shown endeavour over the previous twelve months. There is no nomination form but nominations should be signed by the Secretary/ Manager of the Club making the proposal and include the following information: Full Name, Club, Competitive history of swimmer, Reason for the nomination.

The closing date is Monday 4th April 2016 and nominations should be sent to Anne Clark (annewclark4@aol.com). The award will be presented in Nottingham during the ASA National Synchronised Swimming Championships.

Save the Date – National Synchro Get-together – 21/22 May 2016. More info on this will follow shortly.

The Beacon Games – Sunday 10th July 2016
Following the successful inaugural Beacon Games last year, the dates have been confirmed for the Beacon Games and Leeds Open on Sunday 10th July 2016 at the John Charles Centre for Sports Aquatics. The Beacon Games is designed for Regional Beacon athletes to compete and demonstrate their skills after working with the England Talent Coaches. The Beacon Games events will be 12 and under figures, 13/14/15 figures and routine demonstrations from Beacon Squad and England Talent development athletes. The Leeds Open will be run on the same day, for more information on this, please contact Sarah Speers (sarah.speers@leeds.gov.uk).

Useful Club Resource
Many of you may have heard of Join In, the organisation that was set up after London 2012 to help more people get into volunteering, after the extraordinary success of the Games Makers in London. They have recently published some excellent ‘How To’ guides from how to find and keep volunteers, how to promote your club, through to useful hints and tips on running a club. It’s a great resource and worth taking a look (click here).

Synchro at Sport Relief and Find a Club
Finally, it is wonderful to see that Synchronised Swimming will be featured on Sport Relief once again, as part of the Clash of the Titans. Our friends in Aquabatix are helping with this very popular segment and with such a great profile of the sport on 18th March 2016 we hope to see a spike of interest in people wanting to do Synchro.

We are hoping to have updated info about your clubs on the Synchro Hub website in preparation for that event, so if you haven’t yet sent your “Synchro Club Survey” form back to us, with the latest contact details, please do so quickly, as you don’t want to miss out on this free advertising of our sport.

As always, you know where I am and thank you for your on-going work in the wonderful world of Synchro.
Maria Ramos, Chair – ASA Synchronised Swimming Group