Keri-anne Payne hosts first global open water coaches conference on Zoom

Former open water swimming world champion and Olympic medallist Keri-anne Payne hosted a Zoom conference for open water swimming coaches from around the world on Sunday 12 July.

Since retiring from elite sport, Keri-anne has devoted her energies to coaching and to the development of open water coaching through Straight Line Swimming. She took a lead role in the development of the STA Open Water Coaching Qualification and now (among other things) runs courses for aspiring coaches. Many of her alumni joined the conference.

The day kicked off with a key-note speech from Keri-anne where she highlighted her vision of empowering the world to swim outdoors. He enthusiasm for what she does is obvious and infectious. This was followed by a presentation by Dave Candler, CEO of STA, and Simon Griffiths, founder and publisher at Outdoor Swimmer, on trends in open water swimming and how the activity has been impacted by Covid-19. In brief, open water swimming is growing in popularity despite a background decline in general swimming, and the pandemic has induced many people to try open water for the first time, with the STA seeing a big rise in enquiries about becoming coaches.

After a short break, Elaine Briggs, Director of Training, Education & Innovation at Future Fit Training, reviewed the latest government guidance on provided practical information to coaches on how to work safely in the current climate. Social media expert Charlie Eastabrook and Jonathan Cowie, editor at Outdoor Swimmer, then shared their expertise on how coaches can market their services, reviewed the pros and cons of various social media channels and introduced Outdoor Swimmer’s coaches directory.

The afternoon session started with a presentation from Olympic swimmer and business coach David Carry (and Keri-anne’s husband) and Laurel Bailey, Head Coach at Warrender Bath Club, who reviewed the latest thinking in neuroscience, how it relates to performance and the importance of finding an optimum level of stress to boost performance (creating a challenge state) but not too much stress (creating a threat state) as that is detrimental to performance.

A highlight of the day was the presentation from British international swimmer and Olympic hopeful Alice Dearing and Peigh Asante, founder of Swim Dem Crew, about the barriers, misconceptions and prejudices black people face when learning to swim, with some ideas on what coaches can do to make swimming more inclusive.

The day concluded with a presentation from Dr Heather Massey, Senior Lecturer in Sport, Exercise and Health, University of Portsmouth, and an expert in the impact of cold water on swimmers. The theme for this talk was about extending the open water coaching season into autumn, as the assumption is that pool capacity will remain limited for some time, and how coaches can keep swimmers safe in cooler water.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.