New Year’s Honors: MBE for the coach who helped keep Hetton Swim Club afloat

A SWIMMING coach caused a stir for a small community club, increasing numbers and helping to keep them afloat during the lean season for the pandemic.

Anya Francis’ dedication as a volunteer at the Hetton Amateur Swimming Club, in Hetton-le-Hole, earned her “surprise” recognition in the Queen’s New Year’s Honors.

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The 48-year-old day official was awarded an MBE for service to youth through swimming.

Once an enthusiastic swimmer and coach at the club, she reached the quarter-finals on a relay team trying to qualify for the Olympics.

But after quitting the sport as an adult, she returned to the baths when her daughter Scarlet started attending the club as a young girl.

“I was just sitting by the pool and one of the coaches recognized me when I was a coach in his youth.

“He just said, ‘I need help,’ and that got me back to it.”

His enthusiasm has created a real team spirit within the club with around a hundred young people, aged 8 to 19, including several disabled swimmers.

She persuaded some of the older swimmers to keep the cycle going by trying to train themselves.

Despite the dark days of Covid, which particularly affected swimming, it helped keep the numbers going, even at one session per week, and they took advantage of the first gala in two years recently.

Anya said: “To my friends and family; ‘speechless’ is not something I am synonymous with, it seems unreal to me – why and how me?

Echo of the North: Anya Francis

“It is an honor and a privilege to receive such recognition and to be held in such high regard by my colleagues for my appointment. I never thought that at my age I would still make my parents so proud. , my family and friends and I hope this is an inspiration to all public servants and volunteers.

“I had no idea that I had been nominated. Receiving a letter titled ‘In Her Majesty’s Service’ from the Cabinet Office even piqued the interest of my postman. I read the letter about four times and couldn’t still not believe it – isn’t that a joke?

“Once the shock was over I felt so proud. I hated keeping it a secret for four weeks, wanted to run outside and scream out loud, ‘I’m gonna be Anya Francis, MBE. ”

She added, “I feel privileged to have such great family and friends around me which creates a community spirit and I have a keen interest in giving back and supporting others.

“As a swimmer, I had the opportunity when I was young to coach in the late 80’s for the Hetton Amateur Swim Club.

“While in college, I volunteered at a local soup kitchen, and then when I started my career in the public service, I volunteered for the Samaritans, with a group of my co-workers.

“Then, several years ago, I returned to my local swim club as a volunteer swim coach, bringing together and helping run a club of 100 swimmers ages eight to 18.

“The club aims to create an atmosphere where all members find swimming enjoyable and a sociable experience for forming new friendships, while promoting a healthy lifestyle and teamwork through competition.

“Being able to inspire swimmers and young coaches motivates me every day.

“Over the past few years, the club has grown stronger, I have seen young children grow up to be teens and adults, and I have seen children with disabilities achieve more than I or they could have. to imagine.

“Seeing their passion and enthusiasm excites me and instills a sense of pride that myself, the coaches and the club members support together.

“Please consider volunteering – it’s a wonderful experience. ”

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