A coach asked me recently how SFT got started and evolved. It has nearly been 20years which seems incredible so here is a little trip down memory lane. My sister was a swim teacher while I was working in video software in the late 90s but racing Tri after a long swim career at Milfield School then Ohio University spanning the 88 and 92 Olympic Trials.
I first entered the London Tri to raise £ for Macmillan in 1998 after we lost our father to cancer. A few people were asking how I swam the way I did as I was leading a few races out. My sister and I hired some lanes locally. I was racing for East London Tri and Golden Gate Tri in San Francisco where my previous job was based and doing ok so marketing was easy pre social media. Trips to World AG Champs followed in 2001 and 2002 then I stepped up to Ironman in 2003.
Momentum grew as we were quite pioneering offering underwater filming and videos on DVD back in 2002-3. We then invested in an Endless Pool sharing space with Greg at Tri and Run in Essex and again set it up with multi angle playback/large screen visible from the water etc which was quite simple due to my job. We bought the Endless Pool at the Sandown Tri show after it has been used all weekend where each swimmer who swam got a DVD of themselves swimming. We made hundreds. The pump broke as we attempted to dismantle the pool so had to empty 3000gallons by hand.
Fitness sessions developed as the quality of coaching at the local Tri clubs was average at best. The governing bodies were woeful regarding their coaching qualifications back then, I sat a few and the ASA had not heard of OW at this time so I developed most things myself from pool knowledge and qualifications along with my race experience.
Weekend workshops grew as a result of not many offering what we did at the time with people wanting us to go to Dublin, Galway, Manchester, Cardiff etc. These faded as Tri coaching improved at local clubs around the country. We wrote an OpenWater CPD for the ASA while I was doing my level 3 qualifications but I fell out out with them due to the lack of interest in helping me progress OW to poolbased coaches. 10 yrs later and the ASA finally have an OW qualification when we could have done so much more yrs ago.
Essex Lakes &HydePark OW started about 2005 as more triathletes wanted to take their improved fitness, tech and skills outside and wanted to continue training beyond the usual pool boundaries which grew further as the concept of a training holiday was conceived.
Training camps came about as people wanted to get away and have the opportunity to really focus on their swimming. We have tried many overseas destinations, S Africa, Cyprus, Tenerife, Italy and CLS in Lanza most recently where we helped them start OW swimming.
We have been particularly proud of the following new products while we have focused on the core activities of helping adults learn to swim, learn to swim faster and then gain the confidence to swim openwater. Our Tri Book with friend and mentor Steve Trew who runs the May Italy Training camp we attend was a breakthrough addition to our coaching advice.
Meeting designer Tom helped the plans become a reality and we have been overwhelmed with the success of ‘ #sessioninabottle
A lot of charity work has been undertaking with the ever popular Stubbers OW mini race and BBQ raising funds for Melanoma Research after we sadly lost one of our coaches and a dear friend Lou Parker. Volunteering with the London Disability Squad has been thoroughly enjoyable and a great new coaching challenge working alongside Michelle Weltman and we helped discover Eid recently. The refugee who nearly drowned on his travels and was determined to learn to swim.
Good partnerships with Powerbar and Speedo, Virgin Active <we wrote the award winning Hydro Class> and providing plans for the OSS, Henley Swims etc. We also used to write for 220, Triathlete Europe and more recently Training Peaks and Tri247. As Openwater advisors to Speedo for many years here we are at Photoshoot in Lanzarote preparing wetsuit pictures with Helen Jenkins and Hollie Avil
As to what is next for Keeley and I? watch this space. First up I need to teach my son