North Multi Region Synchronised Swimming Camp 2008
The North multi regional training camp was held at the British High Performance Centre in Aldershot on
Wednesday 23 to Friday 25th July.
Swimmers: April Rice, Eliza Rice, Tejal Patel, Emma Bowes, Emily Hodkinson, Beth Patrick (Trafford
synchro), Abi Williams (Stockport Metro), Megan Knight (Leeds), Megan Brennan (Pudsey Pearls), Rosie
Barrington (Halifax), Demi Baristow (Borough of Kirklees), Alix Wombell, Ashleigh Rowland, Ashleigh
Coaches: Joanne Bean, Sara Dixon, Jackie Beddows, Pat Payne, Sarah Clarke (Trafford), Fiona Blackstone
(Leeds), Jeanne Ainsley (Pudsey Pearls)
Team manager: Kath Howard (Trafford) & Charlotte Bean (mascot & general mischief maker)
After a long journey down on the Tuesday evening the swimmers and coaches were up bright and early on
the Wednesday to join in with the senior GB dry land warm-up at 7am. The enthusiasm of the senior GB
athletes was catching! Jenna took the Northern swimmers under her wing and got them to copy as she
performed numerous stretches and strength exercises in order to prepare her body for the long pool session
At 8am it was time for an hour speed/stamina training with Ben the senior synchro GB speed coach. This
session clearly illustrated to the swimmers just how fit they need to be to become successful synchro
swimmers. Several pink faces later the 11-15 year old swimmers performed their compulsory figures in
front of our Northern judges. Each swimmer received written feedback on their figures which helped
highlight the areas they needed to focus on over the next few days.
At the same time the NW junior swimmers (who had come down to Aldershot for a day to watch the
Olympic display and learn from the senior GB athletes) split into two groups to observe the GB
combination team and the Olympic duet as they prepared for the Olympic send off display. These
swimmers reported their findings to the rest of the North squad later in the day. Both groups were
impressed with the intensity of the training and the focus of the GB swimmers. In addition both groups
commented on the coaches’ attention to detail and the huge repetition of tiny portions of each routine that
the GB swimmers performed again and again.
The Olympic send off display was a fabulous opportunity for the centralised GB athletes to demonstrate
just how much they have improved over the last 10 months. It was also a really great start to the training
camp for the North squad and provided the perfect inspiration and motivation that the swimmers needed to
get them through the next three ‘tough’ days.
Following the display the swimmers worked on their goal setting and visualisation with Katie Hooper (ex
GB/Commonwealth Games swimmer). It was a bit of a revelation for some swimmers to have to articulate
why they did synchro and where they wanted to get to. Katie’s top tips for coping with nerves were a big
success and I’m sure will be used by all in the forthcoming competition period.
The next session was land with Helen Carpenter from UKFA. During the two hours the swimmers
performed a ballet warm-up including demi and full plies, tendu and soubresauts (jumps). Helen explained
just how important ballet is for posture, showmanship, strength and extension which are all vital for an elite
synchronised swimmer. Accordingly the ballet warm-up was repeated each day.
Following the warm-up the swimmers completed a CV work out including shuttle runs and plyometric
exercises. This was only moderate in difficulty but the majority of swimmers found this exceptionally hard
highlighting this as an area they need to focus on for the next half year. The session finished with advanced
flexibility including Helen’s ‘tricks’ for getting into flat splits. The swimmers were delighted to see that
using these methods they were all able to improve by a couple of cm just within just one session.
Back at the hotel the swimmers put their judging skills to the test whilst watching some of the routines from
the Spanish Open, Olympic trials and Junior European competitions. Finally the swimmers completed mind
maps in their logbooks to help them remember the key points from the day and the training practices and
corrections that they wanted to take back their clubs.
Everyone was up bright and early for the second day (although a bit sore in some cases). We began with an
hour dry land warm-up. The swimmers completed numerous dynamic exercises which had been introduced
by Biz Price (NPD) earlier in the year at the national clinic. These exercises were excellent for the
swimmers to engage their minds and bodies before the morning stamina/speed session.
Following the stamina session the swimmers split into groups to play synchro charades. Each group had to
pick a film or book and make up a routine for the coaches to guess which film/book they had chosen. The
swimmers really enjoyed the opportunity to use their creative skills and produced some innovative routines.
The judges had a 100 percent success rate in guessing all the films.
The next session was body position and awareness in the water with Loli Montico (senior GB assistant
coach) and the senior GB athletes. This was my personal favourite of the sessions and I think was the
session that both the swimmers and the coaches learnt the most from. Loli took the swimmers back to
basics first demonstrating the correct body position for vertical on the side and then moving on to back
layout, front layout, pike, vertical, bent knee and crane in the water against the wall. The swimmers were
each allocated a senior GB athlete who worked with them one to one demonstrating each drill and offering
corrections. The focus throughout the session was core and tightness with Loli emphasising that the
swimmers must first teach their bodies to perform the figures/body positions and only when this was
achieved to add the sculling.
After the body position session the swimmers were treated to a demonstration of the team lifts from the
senior GB athletes. This was a great opportunity for the swimmers to see how the lifts should be set
underwater and just how much effort and how hard each swimmer has to work to inject the wow factor into
each lift. The morning pool work ended with the swimmers being given time to ask the senior GB athletes
questions about life as an elite athlete and their training at the High Performance Centre.
After lunch it was back in the pool for a synchro stamina session followed by a diving lesson. During the
diving the swimmers learnt more about the importance of their core control and spatial awareness.
The afternoon land session with Helen involved more work on core strength. Following the ballet warm-up
the swimmers completed numerous exercises using Swiss balls to improve their core muscles and overall
upper body strength. Again the swimmers found these hard but were keen to learn the new training
practices/exercises being demonstrated.
Back at the hotel the swimmers had a sports science session on confidence. Each swimming completed a
personal building block wall of success with all the positive and successful things they had achieved within
synchro. The purpose of the walls is for the swimmers to take them to competitions to read when they are
feeling nervous or insecure. Additionally, each swimmer wrote positive things about their room mates
down on pieces of paper. These were collected in and handed to the swimmers as they left for home on the
last day. Again the day ended with more video analysis and the completion of individual logbooks.
The third day began with a dry land warm-up and stamina session in the pool. Afterwards the swimmers
were all given to opportunity to watch part of Jenna and Olivia’s (GB Olympic duet) last training session in
the UK before they left for the Olympics. Most of swimmers felt that they learnt a lot about the accuracy of
movement required for elite synchro from this session and all were inspired to continue to train hard and to
try to achieve elite status themselves.
The pool session ended with a repeat of the figures from the first day with the Northern swimmers trying to
incorporate all they had learnt about core, spatial awareness, tightness and accuracy of movement. The
improvement in everyone was clear and the swimmers were very pleased with themselves.
After lunch the swimmers were back in the water for synchro stamina. This was followed by a clapping and
beating rhythm choreography session, after which the swimmers learnt several of the team figures from the
senior GB combination team.
In the sports hall the swimmers again completed their ballet warm-up. The improvement in everyone from
the first day was great to see. After some advanced stretching which involved several swimmers (and a
certain coach) getting flat in right/left or box splits who had never been flat before, the final land session of
the camp was a dance routine to ‘Singing in the Rain’ complete with umbrellas.
Overall the camp was hard work but was also an exceptionally worth while opportunity from which both
the swimmers and coaches learnt a lot. I’m looking forward to the National Age Groups in December and
seeing the improvements the swimmers make as they incorporate everything they have learnt into their
weekly training schedules. Well done everyone!! Joanne Bean (Head Coach)