Shortage of swim coaches a big disability for promising athletes

Members of Galway Speeders who have been selected to represent Ireland at the IWAS International World Games in Athlone from June 30 to July 6. From left: Mark Henderson (Table Tennis), Caoimhe Folan (Table Tennis), Alicia Winter (Table Tennis), Sinead Keon (Athletics) and Shane Curran (Athletics). Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.
Members of Galway Speeders who have been selected to represent Ireland at the IWAS International World Games in Athlone from June 30 to July 6. From left: Mark Henderson (Table Tennis), Caoimhe Folan (Table Tennis), Alicia Winter (Table Tennis), Sinead Keon (Athletics) and Shane Curran (Athletics). Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

Five members of Galway Speeders, the group which promotes sports for children and young adults with a physical disability, will compete in the IWAS (International Wheelchair & Amputee Sports) World Games when they take place in Athlone next week.

Mark Henderson, Caoimhe Folan, Alicia Winter, Sinead Keon and Shane Curran will all be involved in the Games, which run from Saturday, June 30 to Friday, July 6. Their chosen sports are athletics and table tennis.

“There is a team of 20 representing Ireland at the Games,” outlines Galway Speeders Secretary, Delia Boyce, “and out of that 20, five come from Galway City and its surrounds and they are all involved in our club.”

Although Galway Speeders, a multi-sports club founded in 2011 to provide for children and teenagers, participate in an array of activities, these Games only cover a select few such as athletics, table tennis and swimming. “We would have had a team from Galway in the swimming but, unfortunately, we had no coach,” continues Boyce.

Well-known local swim coach, founder of Octopus Swimming Club and volunteer Mary Arrigan-Langan has generously facilitated the club many times, but what the club would love is to put a programme in place for those in Galway Speeders who would love to pursue the sport more vigorously.

“Until recently, we kind of started going once a week with Galway Swimming Club so we are hoping to develop that and get someone who will work with the children. That is all Galway Speeders can do. We need to move on now but, at the moment, we feel we are banging our head against the wall.

“So, we want to get [swim] coaches because we want them [members] in the water morning, noon and night if they choose to go along that path. So, we are pursuing it but it isn’t that easy as you can appreciate,” says Boyce, who notes she has seen the benefits of swimming first-hand through her own daughter and Galway Speeders member, Alicia.

“When she gets into the water, it’s the freedom. It benefits her because she is just coming back from surgery. Listen, they are not all going to be going to the Olympics, it is nothing like that, but you would like to give them the opportunity to be the best they can be.”

While the dearth of swim coaches may be an issue, they do boast of great coaches in the other disciplines. No more so than in table tennis where Rena McCarron Rooney, who represented Ireland at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London and later at the 2014 World Championships in Beijing, is one of the head coaches alongside her husband, Ronan.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.