SwimScape: Swimming makes a big splash at the Community Sports Awards

12 August 2023
Parra City Swim Club
Written by: Swimming NSW

Allan and Margaret Gregson stood among eminent company as they accepted their Distinguished Long Service Awards at the 2023 Sports Foyer NSW Community Sports Awards in June.

Held at CommBank Stadium on 29 June, the Awards honoured 35 volunteers across 12 award categories and nine different sports for their dedication and contributions to community sport.

While they were unsuccessful on the night, the Parramatta City Swim Club and Isaak Wilson from Wollongong Swim Club were named finalists in the Community Club of the Year and Young Official of the Year award categories, respectively. Their achievements in reaching the shortlist are equally worthy of celebration and recognition.

Let’s dive into their stories…

Allan + Margaret Gregson

Allan and Margaret Gregson – Recipients, Distinguished Long Service Award

We can think of no more deserving recipients of the Sport NSW Distinguished Long Service Award than our own Allan and Margaret Gregson. From volunteering at their local swimming club and school swimming to assisting with managing teams for state, national and international events, the Gregsons have been a familiar fixture in our sport for over 50 years.

After their son Stephen was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at a young age, Allan and Margaret moved from the regional town where they lived to Sydney to provide more opportunities for their children. As soon as they arrived in Sydney, they joined a local sporting association for children with disability and began helping out - Allan was a volunteer learn to swim instructor and coach, while Margaret volunteered in other roles.

In 1986, they helped to form Cerebral Palsy Sports & Recreation NSW to offer sport and recreational opportunities to people of all ages with Cerebral Palsy. Over the years, Allan and Margaret have been heavily involved with this organisation. They have held executive positions, helped with activities ranging from state championships for various sports, Sunday morning clubs, and camps at Narrabeen, and travelled with teams both domestically and internationally. In 1990, when Cerebral Palsy Australian Sports & Recreation Federation was formed, their son Stephen was selected for the inaugural Australian team.

In that same year, Australia held its first seminar for multi-class classifiers. Allan attended and has been classifying swimmers ever since. In fact, it’s fair to say that nearly every NSW multi-class swimmer over the past 33 years has been classified by Allan at some point, and had their classification organised by Margaret. The duo has attended almost all Swimming NSW-hosted multi-class swimming events, assisting with the running of the meets, talking to swimmers and parents, conducting classifications, and submitting the paperwork to the relevant organisations.

They have also both been involved with school swimming since events for swimmers with a disability were introduced some 30 years ago, travelling as managers of the team to the School Sport Australia and Pacific School Games for over 20 years.

In 2005, Allan and Margaret received Order of Australia Medals for their service to people with disabilities, particularly to athletes as a coach and administrator. And, in 2022, the pair received Swimming NSW Service Excellence Awards.

While the sport has provided the couple with many special moments, their success with gaining jobs on the pool deck at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney remains their most memorable and treasured experience.

When asked what they have gained by being volunteers and what keeps them coming back, year after year, they pointed to the fulfilment volunteering provides them and the enduring friendships they’ve formed.

“We have made so many friends, wonderful parents and children. We have also loved being part of travelling with teams, teaching children to swim, coaching them, seeing them compete to higher levels – some representing their country. Swimmers that we taught to swim and Allan coached are now grandparents and still keep in touch with us,” explained Margaret.

“We keep coming back because it is a very big part of our life. We love working, especially with the children and with all various Associations we have been involved with over the years. While we can, we will continue to volunteer.”

This summary of their service to our sport doesn’t do justice to the impact that Allan and Margaret Gregson have had on so many children’s lives. They have worked tirelessly over decades to break down barriers and create opportunities for swimmers with a disability and have helped untold numbers of swimmers to achieve their dreams of representing Australia at various World Championships, Commonwealth and Paralympic Games.

Parramatta City Swim Club – Finalist, Community Club of the Year

Parra City Swim Club

With a focus on measuring the ‘happiness’ of club members and participants, it’s easy to see why Parramatta City Swim Club stands out for its success in serving the needs of members and the community.

Formed in 1951, Parramatta City Swim Club is a family-centred club based on inclusiveness, volunteerism, friendliness and affordability. With over 300 active members, the club’s primary focus is on participation rather than performance, measuring success by its ability to attract and retain members of all abilities and the willingness of members to volunteer. That said, the club has produced some significant result over the past year, including six members qualifying for State age championships, two swimmers being awarded area age champion at the Sydney Metro North West District competition and six swimmers selected to represent the district in NSW Speedo Finals.

The club is situated in one of the most ethnically diverse and disadvantaged communities in Australia where for many, Australia is a second home and English is a second language. The club’s commitment to inclusion and diversity is evident in the many ways it has sought to overcome the language and financial barriers to participating in the sport. This includes being able to view the club website in the languages commonly used in the local community, providing printed information in these languages, using existing members to facilitate two-way information flow to others of the same ethnic background, and keeping member costs to a minimum.

The club helps to reduce the financial barriers to participation by devoting a significant portion of its annual budget to qualification fees for new and existing instructors and relying heavily on the strength of its culture of volunteerism to support its many free or low-cost programs.

Parramatta City Swim Club Race Registrar, Chief Instructor and Life Member, Bruce Horlyck says keeping financial costs within the financial capacity of the community and fostering a strong culture of volunteerism are the primary drivers of success for the club.

“The Club has always aimed to keep the costs for members to a minimum, ensuring that all Club activities are within financial capacity of our community. This means that the funds required for training of instructors, purchasing equipment, and subsidising activities must be found from sources other than Club members. Thanks to the willingness of our membership to volunteer their time, much of these costs have been covered by undertaking a range of fundraising activities, such as Bunnings BBQs, and successfully securing various grants,” said Bruce.

“Volunteering is ingrained into the cultural of the club. Members who have benefited from the from the voluntary work of others show their appreciation by themselves taking on volunteer roles. These members or their children may have learnt to swim in the club’s free learn to swim lessons, trained in the club’s free squad, participated in numerous free events, including parties or presentations, or attended subsided Youth Group functions – all while paying minimal fees.

“The club fosters this culture of volunteering from a young age by involving its younger teenagers as “buddies” in its annual “Learner Carnival”. This event designed to be fun for both the younger participants and teenagers, with the goal of inspiring the teens to join the trainee instructors’ program for the free learn to swim program when they are old enough.

“Many of these trainees are from CALD (culturally and linguistic diverse) backgrounds and, in these trainee positions, provide support and demonstrate leadership in the club’s CALD community.”

Over the past twelve months, Parramatta City Swim Club memberships have nearly trebled. The club’s growth has been seen across all areas of participation, including a doubling of the number of competitive swimmers, while the club has also recently expanded it range of activities to include lifesaving where it has already been awarded this year’s Royal Life “Excellence in Swimming” Award.

Isaak Wilson

Isaak Wilson – Finalist, Young Official of the Year

We recently called out Isaak’s commitment as a volunteer as part of our 2023 National Volunteer Week promotions. Isaak is an accredited technical official and referee, assisting with club nights, area meets and the summer and winter area championships. He is also Wollongong Swim Club’s Registrar.

As a former swimmer at the club, volunteering is a great way for Isaak to maintain his connection with the swimming community and to share his passion for the sport with future generations of swimmers. He loves being able to give back to the sport that gave him so much as a swimmer and witnessing swimmers achieving their goals and enjoying their swimming. He also enjoys being able to tailor memberships to meet the diverse needs of swimmers and their families to ensure they have positive experiences and remain in the sport.

“I enjoy volunteering as I have established such great friendships from all over the state and country. By travelling far and wide, I continue to develop new and existing friendships within the sport. This continues to be just one of the reasons why I enjoy volunteering as it further establishes a positive environment and culture within the sport.

 “Outside of swimming, I enjoy coaching the surf club athletes, triathletes and marathon swimmers which are a part of the squad that I am surrounded by during the week. Despite the early mornings and late evenings, it is a rewarding job where I can impart the knowledge that I learnt from being in the sport for over 10 years. This is not to mention the Learn to Swim classes where I teach the foundational skills for survival and competitive swimming. Away from the pool, I enjoy watching all types of sport, catching up with family and friends, cooking and most of all, travelling and visiting places in Australia and around the world.”

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