Wednesday, September 2 was an exciting and long-anticipated morning for the Enniskillen Lakelanders Swimming Club as they arrived to the Lakeland Forum for their first wet training session since lockdown was imposed five months ago.

The Lakelanders volunteer committee liaised closely with Swim Ireland/Swim Ulster and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council to negotiate return-to-water plans, initiating new guidelines and protocols to ensure a safe training environment could be delivered for more than 100 club members.

Everyone was keen to get back to the sport they love, and one to which many of them have committed so much time and effort to develop.

Innovation has indeed been the keyword throughout the many months of remote meetings and online training sessions where volunteer committee members had to acquire knowledge and skills they never imagined would be needed for the sport of swimming.

Alternatives to pool sessions had to be found, and the club are forever grateful to athlete development trainers Ryan Mccluskey and Cathal Beacom, from the local Focus gym, who stepped up to help maintain members’ fitness and condition during their isolation.

‘Fishes out of water’

Club Chair Sara Lannon hailed the work of the committee, saying: “Fishes out of water could not have been more for true for the members of the Enniskillen lakelanders for the five months we were confined to dry land.

“I’m so proud of all the committee who stepped up to the plate, and each played their part in keeping this club together so we could arrive to today’s training session.

“Committee members are volunteers who have all had to learn new skills whilst also facing the same work and home challenges that lockdown has brought to every family across the country.

“Online land training, quizzes, challenges and Zoom [meeting] catch-ups have help us to stay engaged with our members, and to stay motivated.

“Now we are here at our first pool training session. All the hard work has been worth it – not least to see the smiles as our swimmers finally got back to the sport they love so much.”

‘The new normal’ means the club now has a dedicated Covid Lead Officer, Aideen Speer, whose job is to ensure rules developed with Swim Ireland are implemented.

Now all volunteer parents need to have completed special Covid Awareness training online before they can help to supervise training sessions.

Club Secretary Frances Rolsten-Bruce praised the staff at Lakeland Forum for their efforts in accommodating the return to training, saying: “They could not have been any more helpful, and we would not have got to this stage without them.”

Whilst the swimmers are very delighted to be back in the water, parents too are overjoyed to see their kids getting back to their chosen sport, with a stream of messages coming into the club on social media.

They included: “The dedication of the Lakelanders management is great, and pls pass on my appreciation”, “Great to see everyone back in the pool – thanks for all the hard work in the background to get us here – pool looks great too!”, “ Brilliant job Sara, Frances, Aideen and Aaron. Delighted to get the kids back swimming.”

Lakelanders Head Coach Aaron Rickhuss reserved special praise for club members. He said: “Our swimmers have been incredible in how they’ve kept themselves fit during lockdown, and now in adapting to all the new procedures.

“The best thing today is seeing everyone’s smiling faces again and how their positive energy and team spirit remains undiminished. This is a great club to be involved with.”