High Performance Swim Academies Planned By Swimming South Africa For Swimming To Advance By Cheryl Roberts

29 Mar

michael houlie50
Q and A interview with Swimming South Africa President, Alan Fritz on the road ahead for swimming and aquatic sports in South Africa.

Q: We know we in the state of #coronavirus lockdowns and suspension of sport. What objectives did SSA have for 2020?
President, Alan SSA Fritz: Swimming South Africa had a full domestic, continental and international calendar mapped out. We managed to send our most promising junior talent to Botswana for the Cana Zone 4 Championship, with several of our black swimmers achieving personal best times. This really augurs well for our squad system in SSA. A national team also participated in the CANA Zone 3 championships in Nairobi and it once again confirmed that our young talent is in a good space, particularly women’s and girls swimming. We hosted the CANA Diving qualification event between SA and Egypt with both countries qualifying for Seniors and Juniors, respectively. After this event European Countries were hit by the COVID19 virus. We assembled a medical task team and competition and operational task team, to develop scenarios, should we face the pandemic and when. Soon thereafter the corona virus pandemic had SSA calling an extra-ordinary exco to put our plans in place to safe guard our athletes, coaches and administrators. The advice from our medical task team was to suspend all competition. At the same time, the RSA President announced measures on the 15th March, that impacted on sport. This resulted in the suspension of the prestigious Africa Senior Championship planned for April in Durban, as we felt inbound countries participating, could worsen the situation. The suspension of all junior level competitions, including Junior and Senior Nationals, occurred. This of course now created debate about qualification for the world showpiece in Tokyo. It was now clear that international events like World Short Course and the Olympics were going to be an uneven playing field. China, Japan, Korea and other countries had a massive corona virus challenge and soon after Europe became the new epicenter. We were lagging a month behind the European countries. The IOC and international federations got locked in discussion, paved the way for sanity, to prevail and then followed the cancellation of all events worldwide. SSA had key objectives for 2020, as our squad system planning for our juniors, junior elite, seniors and senior elite for Paris 2024 was already kicking in.

black girl diving

Q: Is competitive swimming in South Africa increasing in number participation? At both youth and senior levels?
SSA President, Alan Fritz: Our numbers in terms of elite swimming registered on our database, has been – give or take – stagnant over the last 10 years. We have seen marginal improvement, particularly in the non-traditional strong swimming areas. School swimming, water polo and diving have definitely had some excellent participation numbers. We know research indicates that swimming is the number 6 biggest code after football, rugby, cricket etc with about 6000 learn to swim schools, although they are not registered with SSA. Open water swimming is attracting bigger numbers at very event and our goal remains to promote school aquatics, support the Learn To Swim environment, set up 20 high performance academies at school and introduce league swimming at university level. This should see a substantial increase in our numbers. The most exiting discipline making major strides is water polo and I am very exited with the new direction.

Q: Swimming South Africa doesn’t have a corporate sponsor? Why is this happening?
SSA Presient, Alan Fritz: Corporate sponsorship has been dwindling since 2010. My own view is the over capitalisation on the 2010 Football World Cup has created an over valuing of some sports properties. Correcting the anomaly was just a matter of time and we have seen the banks, cell phone companies and others retreating from the sponsorship market. The emergence of the National Lotteries Commission has certainly played a positive role as the initial starting point of the Lotto was to fund sport. There is no doubt in my mind that poor governance in sport structures is a contributing factor. Corporate South Africa developed the King Code for companies there should have been a similar code for non-profit entities, like sport.

Q: Elite level swimming at senior level is still very much about white-dominated representative teams. When will swimming start being representative of South Africa’s people’s?
SSA President, Alan Fritz: As you know I have been around in the sport of swimming when black swimming from Soweto to Kwa Mashu to Kimberly has been very strong and swimming really competitive times. Swimming South Africa’s drive to maintain the momentum has been severely hamstrung by swimming pools closing in these traditional areas. Poor maintenance of facilities is our biggest enemy and hampering our drive, not only to produce elite swimming, but to esure every child in our country has the life skill of being able to swim. Notwithstanding all the challenges, we have made some excellent strides. Junior competitions has now more black swimmers coming through and at senior levels the likes of Michael Houlie, and the Basson twins are moving the bar rapidly in terms of qualifying for major international events. In diving, water polo, open water and artistic swimming the progress is notable and I am exited by he improvement.

Q: Is SSA planning for post-corona virus life? What could happen for the sport in the second half of the year should corona virus threats have been eliminated?
SSA President, Alan Fritz: Our planning is in place for post the Corona Virus pandemic with the Africa Seniors possibly taking place after October, senior nationals still being in the pipeline for June/July. It is a Short Course World championship year, so our national short championships is a qualifier. We are looking if we can fit all our national level competitions in, possibly in October and so the planning schedule is being redesigned post COVID19. National Schools Competitions, Provincial Champs etc are very much key events.

Q: The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed by a year. Your views on this postponement for the sport and elite swimmers?
SSA president, Alan Fritz: This is no doubt in my mind the right decision taken by the IOC; to give every elite swimmer the best possible chance to compete on an equal footing. Athlete preparation in a conducive and suitable environment is fundamental to elite sport. The planning at SASCOC level for our Olympic hopefuls is now more than ever required to sharpen its pencils and expedite funding for athletes to prepare, coach support and stakeholder management participation in the process implemented.

Tatjana Schoenmaker

Q: You have indicated you are available to be elected President of Sascoc. Tell us more about your nomination and motivation to lead Sascoc.
SSA president, Alan Fritz: As you know I have been in sport for a very long time. I fully understand sport from grassroots level to the highest pinnacle of being involved in Fina, our international federation. I have been a corporate executive most of my life and understand building high performing organisation. Swimming is a classic example. In 2000, after the Sydney Olympics, my contribution to sport was to build strategy and capability and to make SSA a world class federation. No federation has won Federation of the year more than SSA. The SASCOC dilemma is one of poor governance and I am a stickler for doing things the right way and account for once actions. Notwithstanding the above, I had no interest to run for SASCOC President or a board member but more than 10 national federations had approached me to make myself available, including my own federation. I am ready to contribute to rebuilding, re-energising and build a stakeholder engagement strategy as SASCOC belongs to the nation representing our athletes, which are the national assets of our country. My philosophy is athlete first, supporting the coach and our energies will be channeled in the right direction.

Q: What would you still want to achieve for the sport of swimming in SA?
SSA President, Alan Fritz: For us in Swimming South Africa our goals are a moving target. The most important social target is to have swimming included in our education/school curriculum, build swimming facilities in the ocean, dams, rivers and competition pools, implement a three tier high performance programme integrating SASCOC’s Opex wich is Top 8, Top 16 and Junior Elite. This will ensure a consistent supply of talent in our country. Schools swimming is the cradle of our sport. The plan is to have 20 High Performance Academies in place. We have already implemented in Gauteng, and have three more to go there. Then we off to the Western Cape with three facilities identified, Eastern Cape already has two earmarked, KZN has three, Free State has two, North West also has two and Mpumalanga and Limpopo have one each.

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