DURING the emergence of all the southern swim programmes as in all successful swim programmes, an important feature was the attention paid by coaches to the overall development of swimmers out of the pool. This meant that coaches aided swimmers at times with their school work, addressed issues of discipline and other matters affecting the development of swimmers’ character with or without the assistance or knowledge of their parents. Many of the swimmers concerned in large part emerged as well-adjusted members of their communities even after leaving the sport.
So successful was the impact of the coaching team operating in the south that Andy Edward has been offered over time a number of more lucrative job offers in swimming in the region, including the latest from one of the top regional clubs in Trinidad and Tobago. In addition, Edward was the head coach of the Saint Lucian OECS swim teams in 2006 and 2008 to 2012 and in 2016. He was also the head coach of the Saint Lucian team to the 2010 CAC Games and the 2016 Goodwill Games.
The impact of the swim coaching team was such that the wider non-swimming community in Vieux Fort and Soufriere began to take note of and discuss swimming as a viable alternative sport for their children. Such was the attraction of swimming in the south that at one stage such was the demand to join the SFF that some applicants had to be turned down due to lack of space.
The SFF and the southern swim programmes generally led the way as regards public relations for swimming in Saint Lucia with regular in-depth articles which reported and analyzed the phenomenal development of southern swimming. Sadly, after December 2012, the presence of southern swimming in the local media virtually disappeared with only a few articles in the print media and even less of a presence in the electronic media. To make matters worse, the SFF website founded by a SFF member, Naomi Hemmellman, became non-functional and even the SFF Facebook page lacked activity for a long time.
It is vital that all stakeholders in southern swimming come together and learn the lessons from the successes and failures of southern swimming.
A unique feature of southern swimming was the use of senior competitive swimmers to assist coaches in the SFF with pre-competitive swimmers and beginners in its learn-to-swim classes. Not only did this allow the SFF at times to enter in excess of 50 swimmers at local meets, but assisted the senior swimmers to hone their techniques while at the same time assisting beginners and pre-competitive swimmers to learn proper swim techniques.
The time has long since past when a competitive pool should have been operational in the south in a manner that will spread swimming as a sport among southern communities and initiate a programme leading to swimming becoming the mass-based sport that it deserves to be — teaching thousands not hundreds to swim and allowing them to acquire a life-saving skill.
Both the Saint Lucia Labour Party and the United Workers Party in their 2016 election manifestos recognized this need in the south. The time has come for the government of the day to act now in building a competitive pool in the south, either by themselves or in conjunction with the private sector.
Another area which will allow southern swimming to flourish will be co-operation programmes with the northern swim fraternity and swim programmes outside of Saint Lucia. The SFF in the past utilized co-operation with Sharks and Les Squales, Guadeloupe to their benefit.
Finally, coaches and learn-to-swim instructors MUST once again rekindle their enthusiasm for swimming which in the past inspired them to burn the proverbial “midnight oil” in developing world-class swim programmes.