Junior Inter County competition: success for 1 Direction approach

On 21 September Swim England Hertfordshire sent a massive 59 strong team to compete at the Junior Inter County competition at Luton.

The Swimming Committee had designated this as a process meet for the swimmers and briefed the coaches to focus less on the times and more on the skills that the swimmers were executing. This was tied in to the 1-Direction camps that the county are running for 11 and 12 year olds; the committee wanted to provide a space for the swimmers to race, but to be able to focus on the execution of the skills they were being taught both on the camps and in their home programs in that competitive environment. In particular in the 11 and 12 year old age groups the intention was to spread the races around and get as many of those on the 1-Direction camps as possible involved.

The coaches spoke to the swimmers beforehand to explain this, and to explain that feedback would be around this concept rather than times. To ensure this was carried out the coaches didn’t have anyone’s times with them!

Once issued with shirts by Michelle and Mel the swimmers headed down to change. On poolside they received their blue and white face paint and had a whale of a time before, during and after warm up covering themselves in handprints and patterns!

The team were competing against Bedfordshire, Essex, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincolnshire. They got off to a good start with 4thin the Mixed 10 year olds 4 x 50m freestyle relay, and continued to sit mid-table in most races. The first win came from the Boys 13 year old 4 x 50m medley team of Nathanial Mapley, Oliver Blight, Callum Cox and Alex Twyford, with 10 year old Callum Deacon winning the 50m backstroke and Joel Pietersen winning the 12 year old 100m freestyle.

More importantly though, it was great as a coach to stand near the end as the swimmers got out and have them engaged in the feedback being given on starts, turns and finishes as appropriate. Very few swimmers asked about times, there were a fair few comments of ‘yes, that’s exactly what my coach says’, and in general swimmers were very receptive to comments and points to take back into training.

The team finished 7thoverall, a DQ in the final squadron meant we managed to keep Lincolnshire behind us by just one point! With a focus on skills and execution rather than times and a team built to include as many swimmers as possible we couldn’t expect to win, but there was some fantastic swimming in there anyway and we were pleased with the outcome.

Big thanks as always go to Kate Burchell who does all the organising behind the scenes. Thank you to Michelle and Mel for marshalling the many swimmers into the right places, handing out hats and shirts and providing face paint.

It was a great competition and a really friendly atmosphere. The 1-Direction camps might be designed to improve skills, but it was clear to us that it’s actually creating groups of swimmers, regardless of clubs, who all get on really well, which is lovely!

Amy & Jack

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