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100 Days of COVID-19, Swim Wales Lessons Learned - June 2020

Swimming, Diving, Artistic Swimming , Water Polo, Education
National, Performance

The panic is largely over, but the pandemic is still with us. All of us are preparing for a world in which the Covid-19 virus and other pandemic diseases are a recurring feature. We have been reflecting on the last 100 days of lockdown, what we have been through as a sector, as an organisation and as individuals.

We wanted to share some of the things we have learned with you.

1.   Collaboration

Many people talk about ‘collaboration’ and what they really mean is ‘meetings’ or ‘catch ups’ and ‘chats’. This is all good stuff, but real or true collaboration is about individuals or organisations working together to a common purpose to achieve collective benefit. Collaboration has been evident over the past 12 weeks/Q1 across our Clubs, Coaches, Facility Operators, Sport Wales, Government, the other Home Countries and other partner organisations in our sector.

We have seen the difference first hand and have many examples up and down Wales of what that looks like. We count ourselves extremely lucky to have these strong relationships and we will treasure this new way of working moving forward.

2.   Answers & Knowledge

We know that a mature organisation (or individual) realises that they don’t have all of the answers. COVID-19 has really tested this concept, bringing a level of questioning and solution searching never seen before in our working careers/lifetime. At Swim Wales we have tried to identify the best source for the answer, and find a way of answering the question via ‘the best person’ ‘or better placed organisation’ and we have learned to do this quickly to support all of our partners.

It is a different way of working for a ‘traditional authority’ like an NGB, or even a CEO or a Senior Management Team.

3.   Communication

To quote someone I know who works in corporate communications ‘No one was prepared for the reactive communications scenario that we find ourselves in…’

Deciding what to write, how to write it (tone of voice) and when to say it has been absolutely critical over the past 12 weeks or so. In Q1 of this year we have learned (as a team) to write informed responses, to move quickly, to sense check statements against a very dynamic and fast moving ‘political backdrop’ and to try and answer the key questions succinctly. We have got it right most of the time, sometimes we haven’t.

We have learned not to fall into the trap of ‘communicating for communication sake’ and we have seen many examples recently around us where individuals or organisations feel compelled to ‘put something out’ in opposed to adding value.

 4.   Our value

Up to 16th March 2020 we were fairly sure of our role in life, our ‘modus operandi’ or our ‘raison d'être’. That week one of the main component parts in what we do was taken away….water. So we very quickly had to re-evaluate our role from that point on.

What does an NGB actually do?

By asking ourselves that question, and learning more about ourselves and the role we play in the world of Welsh sport & activity we have ‘drained the lake’ removed some of the non-essential aspects and the value we add as an organisation has become eminently clearer.

5.   Strength or fragility

Swim Wales are a limited company, we have staff to pay every month and a supply chain of 100+ individuals and organisations.

Only 38% of our income comes from Welsh Government & UK Lottery the rest is commercial/self-generated income which has completely dried up.

Over the last 4 years we have tried to make sure that our team, our plans and our board have answered the call of Sport Wales and Welsh Government and set a course for ‘financial autonomy’ and reduced reliance on public purse. This has hit us hard, we have had to increase this commerciality to survive the economic challenges that we face.

Sport in Wales has a long road back from this, and aquatics is no different. From baby and toddler swimming lessons through to club competitions and medals on the world stage we have been there for all 9 of our user groups, all 38 facility owners/operators and all 500,000 participants in Wales.

We have learned many things over the last few weeks and we will be better because of these learnings, to quote J.K. Rowling ‘Rock bottom will be the foundation on which to re build…’

I am very proud of everyone associated with Swim Wales, here’s to the next 3 months of adversity, continuous learning and improvement.

Cadw’n Ddiogel !

Fergus Feeney

CEO, Swim Wales

24th June 2020