“We need to do something that’s going to make us feel better tomorrow”

By Caitlin Rundle

“WHO’D have thought a year ago, we’d be in this now,” remarked Brian Sweeney, Head Coach of Templeogue Swimming Club.

Despite facing the huge challenges of lockdowns and restrictions for the past year, the club has made an incredible effort to stay connected with members.

Templeogue Swimming Club Coach Brian Sweeney and top swimmer Ellen Walshe 1

Templeogue Swimming Club Coach Brian Sweeney and the club’s record-breaking swimmer Ellen Walshe

In the spirit of a brighter tomorrow, Sweeney has adopted the phrase “Focus on the Future” as a motivator for himself, his coaching staff and his members.

“Everything they’re trying to do now, whether they’re trying to get stronger, fitter or just staying mentally awake, have a plan,” Sweeney explained.

He said that he also liked the phrase “Focusing on the Future” because each member could manipulate it to form their own personal goals.

In the first lockdown, the coaching staff started hosting events using their alternative skill sets.

From physical training, to art, to acting, to cooking classes and makeup tutorials, Sweeney has tried to find activities that will keep members physically and mentally sharp.

“Nobody knew at that time how long this was going to take or last, so we kind of just kept a rolling volume of a mix of physical activities,” Sweeney said. “Numbers were great. We actually grew our numbers in the club as a whole into September.”

With his members now back in school virtually, he’s tried to find new ways to get them to interact while still using Zoom.

“We have a slightly less number of activities in the week for the team as a whole, but we’ve combined groups, so the numbers attending them are a little bit better,” Sweeney said.

“It’s basically between three and five activities a week that are physical, two early in the week to get them up out of bed.

“They’ve got to do that so it gives some structure for the week.

“We're trying to say to them, no matter what you do, if it's a good decision, I exercised, I ate properly, I went to bed on time, I got my homework nailed, I did a bit of study, it's building blocks for the future.

“We need to do something that’s going to make us feel better tomorrow or in the future.”

Along with promoting consistent routines, Sweeney has increased his efforts to stay in touch with his members and show them that they are not alone.

“We’d use the polls after a Zoom call to rate how hard they thought the class was, but also we’ve put in some questions like ‘Am I feeling like a rockstar?’, ‘I’ve got a great plan but haven’t put it into practice’, ‘I’ve no plan and I’m sleeping way too much,’” Sweeney said.

“They realise there’s a handful of people feeling like a rockstar, there’s a handful of people feeling like crap and there’s a lot of them in the middle.”

Sweeney’s older swimmers use arm bands that connect to an app used to track things like heart rate, sleep patterns and exercise habits.

Sweeney said that he will check on participants’ results to see if their numbers are staying consistent and healthy.

“It’s more the behaviors around that, that when they change you might know somebody is struggling a bit more and sometimes it's just a catch up conversation,” Sweeney said.

“It’s not an arse-kicking exercise, that's not what anybody needs.

“Listen, between breakups and trouble at school and just feeling overwhelmed by stuff or everybody's busy at home and just don't get to do the same things or whatever, you'd be surprised at some of the feedback you get.

“Most of what we’re trying to do is keep the kids connected and structured. We provide a balance of physical education and being social on the weekend.

“They’re all enthusiastic to come back, whenever that may be. We’ve got to be thankful for what we have” he insisted.

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