Swimming – “The Scottish Olympic and International Swimming & Training Committee”

The “Scottish Olympic Training Scheme” had been established to coach potential Olympians and by 1930, International competition had expanded and there was a need for a more permanent body to deal with all aspects of International swimming.
Consequently in 1932, the S.A.S.A. established a “Scottish Olympic and International Swimming and Training Committee”, which in addition to absorbing the coaching responsibilities of the “S.O.T.S.”, it was responsible for:

i) Arranging trials and selecting teams for the Empire Games and the Inter-Country Speed Swimming Contest.
ii) Establishing and promoting an Inter-District Contest on the lines of the Inter- Country Speed Swimming Contest.
iii) Raising funds to pay for its activities.

In the seven year period up to the outbreak of World War II, the Committee was quite innovative in its attempts to improve the standard of Scottish International swimming. One of its priorities was to give swimmers as much International experience as possible and although the Committee did not have enough money to arrange Scottish foreign tours, it did attract good International Competition to Scotland. In 1935 a team of Dutch swimmers and water polo players toured the country. The Dutchmen visited Falkirk, Glasgow, Airdrie, Alloa, Paisley and Edinburgh. R Cunningham, the Association’s Secretary, noted:
“this tour was, without doubt, the biggest thing ever attempted in Scottish swimming circles. We got an insight into Continental polo and swimming which, I am sure, has left its mark for the better.”

Another priority was to identify and encourage young swimming talent. In 1936, the Chief Coach organised a variety of “’inter-club nights” at which young swimmers from groups of neighbouring clubs were invited to compete in various races. At the same time, the Committee introduced an Award Scheme to encourage the most gifted youngsters to train regularly and swimmers who achieved the “standard times” could purchase an Olympic Badge.

The Olympic Badge Scheme was a great success and in the first two years, 233 swimmers gained Lapel or Costume Badges and at 1s. per award, it was also a useful source of income. The Scheme proved that there was a lot of talented swimmers around the country and to encourage them to train harder and raise their sights, the Committee published a “Swimmers’ Diary” in 1938. It contained; a table of Olympic Badge Standard Times; lists of Scottish Native, Scottish All-Comers and British Native Records; Tables of Scottish Championship Winners; dates and times of all forthcoming District and National Championships and an insightful message from the Chief Coach, Hugh Francis, who wrote:

“’The swimmer who desires to gain National and Individual success must train and train regularly. Playing about each time you visit the swimming pool is far from training and although you swim regularly, that does not keep you in form for contests of importance.”

R. K. Absolom (Govanhill), a member of the Water Polo Selection Committee, offered further advice:

“One aim for every swimmer and polo player should be Club Prestige – District Honour – Country’s Glory.”’

Only so much could be achieved by a single National Committee and so, in the mid-1930s, each District was asked to establish a local “Olympic and International Swimming and Training Committee”. The North District was particularly diligent. In 1936, it secured the use of a pool each Sunday and gathered together a group of coaches under the leadership of A. Strachan to train “’promising pupils”. The Scottish Chief Coach, Hugh Francis, was invited to some of the sessions and it also arranged special “’Olympic Lapel Badge Evenings”, at which youngsters were given the opportunity to race for the various Standard Times.
Between 1926-39 the S.O.T.S. and the S.O.I.S.T.C. had worked hard to improve International performances and they had helped Scottish swimmers to win 3 Gold, 8 Silver and 15 Bronze medals at the various Olympic, European and Empire Competitions, however their major achievements had been to raise the status of coaches and the importance of coaching and convince gifted swimmers of the need for regular, serious training.

By the outbreak of World War II, the sport had rid itself of quite a lot of its Victorian heritage of novelty, spectacle, entertainment and light heartedness.