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Para Swimming

Steph Millward, Southwest swimmer of the year, with Paul Robbins, Swim England SW President


Photo: Stephanie Millward (Team Bath AS). who was inducted into University of Bath's Hall of Fame for Sport in October 2019, is a previous South West swimmer of the Year and pictured receiving that award from Paul Robbins during his Presidency of Swim England South West.

Para-Swimming is co-ordinated throughout Somerset to provide support and information to young people, adults, swimmers, parents and clubs about various aspects of the sport so they can participate, improve and compete in order to achieve their full potential.

Somerset ASA works in partnership with Swim England Para-Swimming and Local Sports Partners to promote disability and Para-Swimming at all levels throughout the County and to deliver a programme of training days and competitions.

Kay Willcox liaises with the Regional Para-Swimming Committee and will be contacting all Somerset clubs to gain more information on numbers of para swimmers, whether Clubs are actively promoting that they are inclusive and to ascertain if there any training needs for club coaches / teachers.

Following the October / November 2017 restructure within the Swim England Para Swimming department, the Para Pathway Officer roles were reduced from 3 to 2 posts. This role is now called Para Swimming Coach with a different remit. Martin Lees manages these two roles as the Para Swimming Development Manager and started in March 2018. The Para Swimming Coaches are Carl Cooper and Tom McManus. Carl is the Regional Link for the South West and covers the South West, South East, London and the East. Their priority is around Development of Talent in Para Swimming. They will also be looking at Coach Development and how Swimmer ID days can be delivered in a more sustainable model.

Disability Forum

The Disability Forum has been launched within the South West and is looking to create a full picture of disability / para swimming activity within the region. A Development Plan was discussed at its Aug 2018 meeting with the following targets highlighted:

  1. ID / Taster Sessions/ Regional Training (see below re 26 Jan 2019 event)
  2. Classification
  3. Training and Development Needs in the South West.

If your club is delivering activity or planning to do so, please can you advive the regional team.

Inclusive Activity Programme Workshop

10 November 2019 (9:30-12:30) at Shaftesbury Park, Frenchay Park Road Winterbourne, Bristol BS16 1LG

The Inclusive Activity Programme will equip you with the skills to engage disabled people and people with long-term health conditions more effectively in activities. The support package will enable you to continually develop your coaching skills and confidence to tailor delivery to a variety of different audiences. Book now.


Swim Sessions

A.N.T. Swimming operates from six pools, encompassing both short course and long course training, to cater for athletes with a disability. The Club is registered with Parasport and delivers bespoke sessions for deaf athletes and athletes with partial hearing as well as para-swimmers. 

City of Bristol para squad was set up in 2015 and numbers are growing (18 in June 2018). Tthe club offers swim skills based sessions every Sunday from 5pm to 6pm at Hengrove Leisure Centre. These also provide an opportunity for teachers and coaches to experience working with swimmers with a wide range of impairments.

You can be part of Bristol's Swim England  para club if you

  • can swim a minimum of 25m
  • are confident in deep water
  • are aged 8+
  • have knowledge and ability in all 4 swimming strokes
  • have an interest in finding out what para swimming is
  • want to have some fun, meet new people

Please email paraswimming@cobaquatics.club to arrange a free trial.


Introducing Para-swimming


Taking part in competitions

We publicised details of a Swift Inclusive Sport Swimming Gala - a fun, FREE event for juniors aged 8 to 17 and adults - held on 19 Oct 2019 at Horfield Leisure Centre, Bristol. All abilities were welcome.

View details of Inclusive Swimming Festival held on 15 Jun 2019 (15:00 - 18:00) at Goldenstones Leisure Centre, Brunswick Street, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 1QZ which was open to do all disabilities aged 12 and upwards.

Seek advice on what to look for in a club before joining and the benefits of training with both main stream and disability clubs. Coaching is aimed and revolved around a swimmer not their disability. Talk to athletes and coaches on how they prefer train.

Ask / read how to get classified as it sets up a pathway for future athletes. Find out what young swimmers think about competing for their clubs and how it has improved their self esteem.


*There are current issues surrounding classification and the changes that have been implemented by the IPC. This caused a backlog for classification as all classifiers needed to be upskilled. This also had, in some cases, a significant impact on elite athletes. It is hoped that the process could be streamlined. It is an issue across all Para Sport, not just swimming. 


The Pathway To Paralympic Gold

Athletes can progress from club, county and regional levels into world class with training and support schemes to gain as much success as possible at future Paralympics.


Steph Millward of Team Bath AS is one of the most experienced Para-Swimmers on the British team having won a total of 10 Paralympic medals including two gold. At the beginning of her career, she was on the fringes of the British international able-bodied team before being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 17 years old - and fought back to make the Paralympic finals in Beijing, London and Rio.

We all want our dreams to come true, but we don't all have the tenacity, courage and perseverance that Stephanie had to show to make her dream a reality.


Talent Identification

Four Development days were planned within the South West in the following format:

  1. Oxley LC, Sherborne, Dorset – 18 Nov 2018
    1. 9am to Noon: Coaching Para-Swimmers into a Mainstream Coaching Environment CPD for coaches.
    2. 1pm to 3pm: split pool into two: free Regional training / Talent ID session for swimmers
  2. Plymouth Life Centre – 26 Jan 2019 (view news item)
    1. 9am to Noon: for coaches: Para Swimming - Land Training RMAP explained
    2. 1pm to 3pm: free Regional training / Talent ID session for swimmers and an additional training opportunity for coach observers.
  3. City of Bristol / Hengrove – Apr 2019
  4.  Malborough College – Jun 2019

Join the race to Tokyo 2020 and beyond at a para-swimming talent ID day - contact Stephanie Gadd at the regional office (from 7 Jan 2019) and cc paraswimming@swimming.org for more information on the above dates and venues.


Recreational Swimming

Talk to your local pool about how you can get involved in swimming if you have a disability, the benefits of learning this life skill and how it can progress further into clubs. Hear what parents think of their children learning to swim with a disability and the support swimming teachers can offer.

We hold information about clubs and groups within the County who provide opportunities for disabled people to learn to swim within a sheltered swimming session.  It is hoped that through these clubs they will be encouraged to make swimming a regular part of their weekly routine.


Guidance Information



Links &Training


For further information why not contact the Regional Para-Swimming Pathway Officer via Swim England South West.




Video* shows an eventful day in the life of a volunteer through their own eyes. They wake up. Have toast, Drive. Sign in at the pool. Time disability swimming races. Meet people. Have fun and finally give out a medal.

* First Light inspires young filmmaking talent and is funded by the British Film Institute (BFI).