Farewell to Janet, the Queen of Swim

June 02 2014

SHE’S taught thousands of children to swim, but the time has finally come for Janet Hanney to hang up her towel.

 Janet Hanney

SHE’S taught thousands of children to swim, but the time has finally come for Janet Hanney to hang up her towel.

The 73-year-old has been a volunteer teacher at Soundwell Swimming Club, based at Kingswood Leisure Centre, for the past 34 years.

Her final session took place on Friday May 30 where club members, mums, dads, coaches and teachers said their tearful farewells.

Janet said she became involved in teaching after taking her son Martin and daughter Jo to swimming lessons at the club when they were young.

Janet, who lives in Oldland Common with husband Dave, said: “The coach at the time said as I would be sitting at the pool watching for long periods of time, would I be interested in taking a swimming teachers’ course.

 “Other coaches and teachers had given my children a lot of time for nothing and I felt now it was my turn to give my time for nothing.

“I took the exams and started running the Learn to Swim sessions.”

At first Janet spent four nights a week teaching but gradually scaled this down over the years.

For the past 16 years, Janet has worked alongside daughter Jo and together they ensured the young members could swim using the correct techniques so they were ready to advance through the various sections of the club.

Janet said: “When the children I teach do their first five metres, I feel as though they’ve come first in the Olympics! I still get as excited now as I did in the beginning and I’m going to miss the children, the parents and the young teachers. 

“It’s time for someone else to take over and get as much pleasure as I have out of it.” 

One of Janet’s greatest achievements is teaching her four grandchildren to swim at the club. Ryan, 16, Lara, 15, Lewis, 12, and eight-year-old Hettie are all competent swimmers.

“Ryan and Lewis do Taekwondo and are both in a band and Lara does musical drama but little Hettie loves to swim. She went in for her first gala in May and came first – that’s a nice note for me to finish on.”

Club chairman Julian Lewis, 44, said: “Janet’s taught thousands of kids to swim but unfortunately for us she’s decided to call it a day.

“We think the world of her and it’s really sad she’s going. The club is a non-profitable club so we have to raise funds to keep going ourselves so without people like Janet there wouldn’t be a Soundwell Swimming Club. It takes a lot of determination and commitment to do what she does.

“We have over 200 members in our club who enjoy swimming – they’re not wandering round the streets and are doing something productive. Without people like Janet this wouldn’t happen.

“She’s one of life’s beautiful people and always walks around with a smile of her face. She’s a lovely, lovely lady.”

Jo, who works as a swimming teacher at Longwell Green Leisure Centre, said she was extremely proud of her mum. 

She said: “We call her the Queen of Swim. It’s amazing she’s volunteered for so long. She’s just great.”