Wicklow sports clubs are finding the road to recovery after the lockdowns a long one, and it has been particularly difficult for the Bray Swimming Club Titans.
u at the Shoreline Leisure Centre, Titans Swimming Club has found the reliable and stable treadmill of young swimmers joining to progress as competitive swimmers come to a halt. The time spent in the pool so that their members can train has a premium and an ever-increasing cost. With membership and volunteers dwindling, concerns about the future of the club are high, but the only bright spot is the continued success of the swimmers who remain.
President Santi Ibarz said: “We had some good success last year, winning medals at national championships, but swimming was one of the hardest hit sports with the lockdown. We only swam five months out of 18 months. Finding ways to entertain the kids, the coaches engaged, was the main challenge. We did a lot of Zoom physical training. When we could swim again, we had lane number restrictions to deal with. We got funding from Swim Ireland which was great and kept the club going.
Santi added: “There are no feeders (new swimmers) coming from younger ages as there were no swimming lessons (during lockdown). Swimmers come to us already able to swim and with the loss of swimming lessons for children during the darkest days of the pandemic, we now have a void in our workforce.
Titans SC is eight years old and has over 100 members. It is a competitive club governed by Swim Ireland which prides itself on being inclusive. Their members include competitive para-swimmers and Ukrainian refugees.
Swim Ireland club memberships run from 1st September to 31st August so are currently in the process of renewal and recruitment. Membership fees provide the funds that pay for their seven pool sessions per week and the three professional coaches and two assistant coaches who run them. A typical Titans competitive swimmer would also do two hours of gym training in addition to 12 hours of swimming per week.
These are all rising costs, and it’s unclear if the club can keep up.
Santi said: “We swim 10 months of the year from September to June and then our competitive swimmers swim in July at competitions. We pay Shoreline a fee per hour, per lane. We need to make sure we make the best use of our time.
“We expect costs to increase in January and there are rumors that the pools are suffering and may have to close, but we have no evidence of this, these are just rumors at this stage. We will good until the end of the year, but January can be a challenge.”
Santi added: “We are also hosting two competitive Ukrainian refugee swimmers and need to find ways to pay for their swimming needs.”
Shoreline Leisure Center is also dealing with rising costs and Santi was quick to praise his team for their efforts in maintaining the pool. Many facilities need to reduce pool temperatures as heating costs increase exponentially.
“I haven’t heard any complaints about the pool being too cold,” Santi said. “Pool is covered at night and Shoreline handles the situation well. As swimmers, we prefer a cooler pool than a hotel pool. It’s still better for swimmers.
The club also needs volunteers to manage it through a committee. In a children’s swim club, these volunteers are normally the parents of the swimmers. With fewer swimmers, the pool of potential volunteers is smaller and committee members also have a limited mandate.
“The club is run by a committee of volunteers who, under Swim Ireland rules, can serve for a maximum of four years before having to retire completely,” Santi explained. “The current committee will retire at the end of this season and we will have to find people to replace us. We are a small club unlike say a GAA club (to find volunteers), and it is an expensive sport.”
Santi concluded:We got a grant from Swim Ireland which kept us afloat during Covid and we are very grateful for that. We currently have a grant to train coaches and volunteers. But in terms of grants to help with membership, we don’t have anything for that.
“We need the children’s swimming lessons supply system to continue, it gives us new members. We would like financial sponsors to help run the club and in the case of our Ukrainian refugees, sponsorship would be of great help.
“They are very good swimmers and their fees last year were graciously paid for by donation, and now we need the fees for this year to be covered by a sponsor if possible. Titans Swim Club membership costs €90 per month to €200 per month – depends on pool time and training time The sport needs very technical training and that is an expense we need to cover.