Swim star’s the main attraction

It has been a great start to 2007 for The Comet s newly crowned Club of the Year – and the awards keep coming. Stevenage Swimming Club won the coveted title of Club of the Year at the recent Comet Sports Awards. Their other recent achievement is the culmi

It has been a great start to 2007 for The Comet's newly crowned Club of the Year - and the awards keep coming.

Stevenage Swimming Club won the coveted title of Club of the Year at the recent Comet Sports Awards.

Their other recent achievement is the culmination of eight months' hard work by the committee.

Stevenage have gained the prestigious Swim 21 and Sport England Clubmark endorsement.


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A famous guest turned up to celebrate this award on Friday night.

Former Commonwealth and European swimming champion and World record holder Mark Foster was at the pool to run a coaching session.

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Swim 21 is the ASA's (Amateur Swimming Association) model for club development.

The award ensures that clubs provide appropriate opportunities for their swimmers so that they achieve their full potential in a safe and structured environment.

It has all meant a successful beginning to the tenure of new club chairman Kevin Dunnicliffe.

He was elected at the club's annual meeting in October to replace Phillip George who had held the role for nearly a decade.

Dunnicliffe said: "The first three months have been an enormous reaping of success that other people have contributed to.

"The Swim 21 award is a quality mark and means we provide a level of teaching that is well structured and appropriate for the swimmers that we have. It was an enormous amount of work for everyone involved.

"It simply means to the public that we are a well-run club with the correct development paths for children of different ages.

"Children are in a safe and stable environment with the correct procedures in place when they come to the club. Parents can feel confident that they will be well looked after."

It is a far cry from the dark days of a few years ago when the club struggled as the pool was closed for 18 months due to refurbishment.

Dunnicliffe continued: "In 2002, we put together a five-year plan to save the club.

"We now have a new five-year plan that will take us forward."

This includes the installation of an electronic scoreboard which will display all the times and placings, as well as the next level of the Swim 21 accreditation.

Dunnicliffe hopes this boost to the club will attract potential sponsors with benefits including being advertised on club merchandise.

"We are a successful club and people will get the benefits of that," he added.

Stevenage is the fastest growing swimming club in Hertfordshire with around 250 members and boasts one of the leading junior sections in the county.

It caters for five and six-year-olds in its Learn to Swim programme, with the swimming club having youngsters aged seven and upwards.

Greg Lasenby and Faye Cowen, both 21, are the club's longest serving members having been involved for more than a decade.

The pair are both now teachers as well as active participants.

Stevenage team manager Mark Dempsey said: "The Swim 21 award is a benchmark for the club and just the first step for us.

"It's a good draw to attract swimmers from around the area.

"We're limited to our pool time here but there's not a lot we can do about that for the time being."

Head coach John Lowe added: "We've got a lot of really talented kids here.

"Swimming can be an expensive sport so any additional sponsorship that this can bring to the club as well as any increase in its membership has got to be a really positive thing.

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