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Cheltenham swimming club chairperson defends aquatic sports following a national review that warns of a poisonous environment for swimmers

Cheltenham Swimming and Water Polo Club’s chairperson James Ross has defended aquatics, claiming that are ‘still a lot of good things’ across aquatics as a whole, despite the outcome of the listening research.

Last week Swim England published the outcome of a report completed by Behavioural Architects (an independent research organisation), it was first announced last March as part of Swim England’s pledge to improve safeguarding, welfare and culture across aquatic sports. 

With swimmers walking away from the sport because of bullying, mental health issues and disordered eating as a result of treatment – Swim England has apologised for the ‘toxic environment’ that has loomed over swimmers, volunteers and club members.

The CSWPC’s chairperson and water polo coach believes that the findings are ‘unsurprising’ whilst insisting that aquatic sports should avoid dwelling on the negatives from the findings.

James Ross during a water polo training session

“There is a lot in the report and it is stuff that cannot be ignored, now it is all in black and white.

“But we cannot let this be a sweeping brush across everything, there is still a lot of good things going on in aquatics.

“We must not get bogged down by the findings, but it is also a chance to react and make a positive change,” Ross exclusively told Parklife Sport.

The report has warranted an apology from the governing body after swimmers, volunteers and parents felt ill-treated following a string of events that have been highlighted by the findings.

“There was some criticism with the findings, the argument being that the research had in fact been done incorrectly.

“That was down to the way in which Behavioural Architects were asking questions and the sample (of 1,000 members of the aquatic community that took part in a mixture of qualitative research methods) they chose to question.

“Personally I do not think there is enough there to question them, they are a widely-recognised organisation and it will be interesting to see if there is any improvement within the next year,” added Ross.

The pledge plans to develop the heart of aquatics in this country, looking into artistic swimming, diving, and water polo as well. 

Overall, some parts of the report shed a positive light on water polo – a stark contrast to the review on the swimming discipline. 

Yet, as the chairperson of the CSWPC, there is a concern for those behind the scenes of the Gloucestershire outfit.

“For myself, the concern is with the culture around swimming.

“This is not a new occurrence within the sport, the culture is embedded, however it has changed slightly due to the way in which swimming clubs compete.

“20 years ago, there was a lot more emphasis around clubs competing with one another, you would turn up to event with a team (for instance: 20 boys, 20 girls and a few coaches) and it would be a team building process.

“The team element has been taken away, it was a slow-burner, but sped up massively by Covid-19 of course,” claimed Ross.  

The CSWPC are one of the most decorated swimming teams in the country across a breadth of sports and this report could enable a brighter future for members, volunteers and the next generation of talented aquatic prodigees.

To read the full report, click here.

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