‘Girls let’s swim’ aims to highlight and break down the barriers to swimming participation levels in girls, looking closely at why girls drop out post puberty, and inspiring them to swim and keep on swimming – right through to adulthood.
We’ve teamed up with Four-Time Olympic Medallist Becky Adlington, who knows a thing or two about swimming (and has the medals to prove it!).
“I remember the biggest thing for me growing up was putting a costume on, especially as a teenager. It’s not nice when you’re going through puberty and periods. I was also overweight as a child - my mum used to call it puppy fat, but swimming is a sport which bears all, and it can make you feel self-conscious.
“But on the flip side, these hang ups also made me more confident as I was good at something. I found something I loved and which gave me confidence. I learnt to look at my body in a completely different way rather than thinking ‘god I’m overweight’. Instead, I realised that it was powering me on and I thought about how I got quicker and faster. This helped through those years when you’re at your most insecure.”
Becky Adlington OBE
Plunging participation rates show 79% of girls are now swimming less.
53% of parents blame body changes and puberty for girls swimming less, with 32% saying a lack of confidence/self-belief and 21% being enthralled by more attractive or ‘cooler’ sports.
When it comes to factors which prevent parents from encouraging swimming more, 72% said they were too busy, 63% cited transport issues and 49% deemed it too competitive.
However, almost half of parents (46%) agree swimming is an important life-skill.
Swimming provides an array of benefits both physical and mental, as well as providing a platform for young girls to hone life skills and values, which help them to succeed in later life.
I started swimming age 3 as my mum didn’t want me to drown, but I absolutely fell in love with it! I went every week up until I was 11 and got put through to the swim squad, where I was the youngest by a mile.
I was a good swimmer and was in the same class as 13 and 14 year olds. Unfortunately this meant I couldn’t progress as I was too young for the next group (age 15/16) but couldn’t push myself and improve in the current group. I didn’t want to waste my parents money and it put me off a little.
My love for swimming never ceased though and I picked it back up again on and off a few years ago. Now, I’m a mother to a six month old girl, and will be starting lessons with her. I want her to have the opportunity to give swimming a go and be a water baby.
Swimming has been a huge force for good for me. My lovely Dad died last year from COVID, he had dementia and was in a care home.
I started wild swimming in local rivers and lakes to help deal with the stress and grief, and found that the open water really helped me.
I am now cold swimming over winter, and have founded a local group of the Blue Tits Chill Swimmers movement with a friend.
The cold water helps with so much – mental wellbeing, grief, stress, and it also helps me to cope with the physical symptoms of endometriosis and chronic fatigue, as well as anxiety and stress from… well, from 2020.
I used to swim for a local club when I was younger and swam for Lancashire county once too. I loved swimming and used to train at least once a week with the club and take part regularly in galas, competing for medals. But then as I got older, boys came in to play and I stopped going as much!
However, years later it’s now part of my routine again and I’ve picked it back up. I swim a mile or more each time I go and it is a great form of exercise that is low impact but still builds endurance and muscle strength while being great for your heart too. I have my own fitness business and it’s something that I’d recommend to clients as part of their weekly programme to help them achieve their goals.