During the first two weeks of August, Talbot Heath school’s Head of Swimming, Barry Alldrick, was in action for Team England at the Commonwealth Youth Games.
The event attracted athletes across multiple sports from 71 nations with sporting events hosted between the Caribbean Islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Team England being represented in Netball, Volleyball, Swimming and Athletics.
Working through the Swim England Pathway and Youth Performance Squad, Barry had come to know most of the 13 swimmers that would be in action. Barry was jointly leading the coaching with Rachel Aldington from Millfield, with Head of Swimming England Talent, Richard Blackshaw as the Team Leader.
The team of athletes and coaches quickly gelled and aligned expectations with superb resilience and an ethos of just dealing with whatever was thrown at them. Indeed, Barry described one of the most enjoyable elements of the trips as turning what other nations would see as challenges into opportunities for Team England upon which the team thrived.
With the support of Team England staff, a holding camp at Gatwick led by diving star Leon Taylor inspired the young athletes across all sports and was enjoyed by all. (The following day was spent travelling.) On arrival to Trinidad, the swim team trained once or twice a day in the pool, leading into the meet, working through self-management and team-building activities within the hotel complex.
Over the 4 days of competition, the team brilliantly flowed with the Island style, having fun interacting with the local officials and beaming with pride on the podium alongside other nations and ‘Moko Jumbi’ dancers on 10-foot stilts, synonymous with the Island, representing the ghost and spirits of West African healers.
Following the meet, the swimmers and coaches had the opportunity to work with a local athletics team on a joint project passing on skills, knowledge and equipment to Trinidad’s young aspiring athletes which all found rewarding and endearing.
Barry commented: “Coaching at this level requires you to build a quick rapport and relationship with athletes and their home programme coaches. You have to listen to the athletes, adapt to what each individual needs and provide direction and advice in the simplest terms. I felt privileged that athletes were comfortable enough to open up and share their experiences, vulnerabilities and strengths. I was proud of the level of performances, where emblazing the British Lion across the chest the swimmers found strength and improved times from heats in 35 of the 39 finals. The team camaraderie and the spirit of the locals will provide me with fond lifetime memories.”
The England swim team concluded the meet atop of the medal table earning 9 Gold amongst 23 medals.