Last week, an independent report into Swimming Australia affirmed what we already knew: that health and performance come in all shapes and sizes.
Specifically, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald the top recommendations issued by an independent panel to Swimming Australia included banning the use of objectifying language, eliminating skin-fold tests and introducing a quota for female coaches, (Baum 2022). Retiring words such as “physique” and “large thighs” and elevating non-objective language that promotes health and well-being will no doubt bring positive cultural changes to the swimming world.
The report noted that 60% of swimmers in Australia are female. A more body-inclusive coaching environment is likely to grow this number. Clinical and Health Psychologist and swimmer Dr Megan de Souza recommends swimming as an extremely beneficial activity for mental and physical health (Speedo 2022). Even better, it comes without the harsh impact on joints that can arise from other types of exercise. Swimming releases endorphins, alleviates stress, and improves happiness and well-being. The shock of cold water can improve sleep patterns and reduce depression and anxiety, when combined with professional treatment (BUPA UK 2022). Swimming also engages all senses, allowing us to escape the distraction of phones, computer screens, televisions, and instead become more present in the moment. These conditions can enhance problem solving and stimulate the creative thought process.
Although typically an individual sport, there are many ways to get involved, from the sea, to the pool to joining a squad of like-minded people. Charity swims also provide an opportunity to work towards a goal and get involved in the community, if suited to individual circumstances.
Double Olympic medallist Madeline Groves, who pulled out of Australia’s swimming trials in 2021, has long been an advocate for these changes; perhaps the key player in instigating this report (Hytner 2021). Swimming Australia has committed to addressing all 46 recommendations made, signalling a strong commitment towards positive progress in the sport (Baum 2022). A win for elite, experienced and new swimmers!
Baum, G, 2022. No skin-fold tests, the word ‘physique’ to go: swimming report released’, The Sydney Morning Herald, accessed January 22, 2022, https://www.smh.com.au/sport/swimming/no-skin-fold-tests-the-word-physique-to-go-swimming-report-released-20220121-p59q4h.html
BUPA UK, 2022. Six Ways Swimming Benefits your Mental Wellbeing. Viewed 22 January, 2022, https://www.bupa.co.uk/newsroom/ourviews/benefits-of-swimming.
Hytner, M, 2022. Star swimmer Maddie Groves withdraws from Olympics as lesson to ‘misogynistic perverts’, The Guardian, viewed 22 January 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jun/10/star-swimmer-maddie-groves-withdraws-from-olympics-as-lesson-to-misogynistic-perverts.
Speedo, 2022. Swimming For Mental Health Part 2. Viewed 22 January 2022, https://speedo.com.au/blog-article/?cid=blog-swimming-for-mental-health-pt-2.