Earlier this year Sport England selected Luton as one of 12 places across England for a pilot project to encourage more people to use their local swimming pools. Thanks to the National Lottery, Sport England awarded us with a grant of £292k for an intensive, one-year programme.
Active Luton has embarked on an awareness raising project and centre improvements under the brand ‘Your Pool’ to encourage the people of Luton to use its swimming pools more – particularly people deemed ‘at risk’ of poor health, older people, children and young people, disabled people, women and girls and the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community.
Although 87% of the local community (versus 69% nationally) had a positive perception of swimming in terms of health and wellbeing, only 47% were aware of the location and existence of Inspire: Luton Sports Village. Even fewer – only 25% knew about Lea Manor pool and only 26% about Lewsey Pool. It was time to get Luton swimming again! That’s where our Swim Champions come in.
Our Swim Champions are not Olympic medal winners, but heroes nevertheless! They are trained swim teachers or aqua fitness instructors working in community settings and at our pools across Luton to answer your questions about swimming sessions and other aquatic activities that we offer.
Sarah has been working at Active Luton in our Active Education & Active Communities team since 2009. She assists with centre activities such as the delivery of Me Time, as well as gym and trampoline coaching and her work in Schools – so you’ve probably seen her around. More recently Sarah has begun working as one of our Swim Champions and has even reported back to Sport England at a regional meeting about the Your Pool team’s work in Luton.
Sarah with fellow Swim Champion Cleo
How did you get into swimming? My mum taught me to swim when I was 3 years old and I’ve been swimming ever since. Now I have my son I go swimming once a week with him to Aqua Totz so that he is able to swim too.
How have you been able to help in your local community? A good example is a visit I made recently to the Luton Job Centre. I arrived for the staff group meeting and explained about the great free swim offer plus 5 for £5 vouchers available across our centres. I explained that you also get a Go4Less card so that after your five sessions for one pound you can carry on swimming at a reduced rate.
I then went round for conversations and provided information about swimming lessons, women only sessions and the general swimming classes and facilities Active Luton have to offer. The information is equally valuable for both staff and Job Centre customers.
How do you feel this helped them? A lot of people were unaware of the variety of classes we offer such as after-school Fun Time Splash sessions at Lea Manor or Inspire’s new Leisure swim with music. Not to mention the variety of swimming lessons for babies through to adults and those with disabilities. It’s really not all just about serious swimmers in hats doing lanes! Needless to say my free swim vouchers where snapped up in no time!
What advice would you give to someone who can’t swim or is afraid? If you want to get into the water but are not a competent swimmer then we offer AquaFit classes so that people are still able to get into the water without swimming! All our pools have a varied depth for each session and although Inspire’s Competition pool is 2m deep it does have a foot ledge all the way around which people are often not aware of. Most importantly don’t be afraid to come and speak to your Swim Champion, as our t-shirts say, we’re ‘here to help’ and can even give you some advice pool side to get you going. It might be that you’d like someone to meet you in reception or show you around the changing rooms, or you might like some advice on your stroke or even about getting into the pool via the steps. Whatever your concern – talk to us!
How can people contact you? Whether it’s for an individual or a community group we’re happy to come and speak to you about your local swim facilities at a time and place to suit you.
I’m at Inspire: Luton Sports Village every:
Tuesday 11:30 – 12:30pm
Wednesday 15:00 – 16:00pm
Thursday 09:00 – 12:00am