Maccabi In The Swim

January 10, 2011 Agencies
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Maccabi has restructured its swimming program to meet contemporary needs.

Jeff Sher

During the last Maccabiah Games in Israel, masters swimmers considered the standard, level of interest and participation rates of young athletes in the Maccabi swimming programs and the limited success Australia has had at previous Maccabiah Games. The problem stems from a number of structural problems in the way the sport is managed in Australia.  Given the structure of swimming in Australia, many of the elite swimmers join clubs that have the level of professional coaches, facilities and programs that enable them to achieve their goals. Maccabi swimming cannot provide this level of support or elite training programs.  However, the sentiment was that something needed to be done to develop Jewish swimming – it was at this time that Jeff Sher – a Masters swimmer himself, decided that a new approach was required and he formed the National swimming committee.

This committee is made up of the Presidents of each of the swimming clubs around the country, some knowledgeable swimming administrators and people who are keen to see the sport develop. The committee has been able to set aside state parochialism and establish a common set of goals, principles and objectives.

The committee has been functioning for almost a year now and under the chairmanship of Clive Aaron (another Masters swimmer) and has achieved some outstanding success. This illustrated by the fact that there is now an annual development program in place – Junior swimmers under the age of 14 are invited to attend at least 4 sessions a year at which they get the opportunity to meet other aspiring swimmers. At these sessions elite coaches and speakers are invited to help the kids with their swimming but also establish a development pathway for them – the goal being the 2013 Maccabiah. These programs are already underway in NSW and VIC and are being managed by the Rifkin brothers – both of whom are on the Maccabi young leader program. As important as it was for Sher to develop a unified body to build swimming, his aspirations were also to ensure that there was a succession plan and young leaders were being developed.

The swimmers that attend these programs will be shortlisted for the international events that Maccabi has to offer, being the JCC Games, PanAM games and the Maccabiah.  Critically important is that this initiative has long term goals and will be used to develop the sport, no longer will swimmers just be able to put up their hand up 6-9 months out from the Maccabiah and express an interest in going, they will need to have shown interest in and participated in the development programs as well as participate in the Jewish Champs held in both Victoria and NSW.

This new approach to Jewish sport has had other important consequences, in that all of the swimming clubs around the country now support one brand, one uniform and one mission.  As a result they have been able to leverage resources, this has meant access to cheaper sporting equipment, a unified approach to sponsors and the avoidance of duplication of effort.

The greatest testimony to the success of the National Committee was the recent MAIG’s competition – In June of this year, it became apparent that the number of overseas participants for the swimming competition was going to be dramatically down on 2006 and the swimming program was in fear of being cancelled. The National swimming committee was asked to pull together a National Jewish Championships at late notice. With the will to succeed and under the leadership of Clive Aaron and Jeff Sher the impossible was achieved – some 95 swimmers enrolled in the pool and ocean swim program which was conducted over a three day period – the feedback was so positive that the event is now being planned for every 2 years and will become the selection platform for those wishing to go to Maccabiah.

The model created by the National swimming committee is one that should be admired and respected as it has taken the management of Jewish sport to another level and has provided a development pathway for young swimmers, a leadership succession plan for the next generation and has given impetus to a sport that was in decline.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the swimming program, the objectives of the National committee and/or just to enroll as a junior, open or masters swimmer in one of the many events on offer – please contact either Jeff Sher on 0412 000 299 or Clive Aaron on 0411 710 965

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