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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) receives her South West swimmer of the Year award from Paul Robbins, President 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 is working 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.

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.

Swim Sessions

City of Bristol para squad numbers are growing (18 in June 2018) and the 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.

Do you want to be part of Bristol's only 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

then please get in touch with Louise Johnson (07947296466 / paraswimming@cobaquatics.club) who would love to hear from you and can arrange a free trial.


Introducing Para-swimming


Taking part in competitions

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 has caused a backlog for classification, as all classifiers needed to be upskilled. This is also having, 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 will be held 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)
  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).